Michael Thomas Gargiulo, in custodyJuly 14, 2015
I'm on the 9th floor. The floor is somewhat busy. Lots of seats are taken. A mix of general public and attorneys. I don’t see any jurors at this end of the hallway.
Judge Ohta’s name is still on the door. But I know he’s not on the bench today.
I see private investigator Chris Nicey at the center of the hall. Hes talking with an attorney and a group of people that look like family.
Lots of counsel greeting each other and discussing cases. A slender blond woman wearing a badge I don’t recognize approaches another attorney with a big smile and a hug. “Hello John!" she says. "Nice to see you.”
DDA Akemon’s young intern is here but I haven’t seen anyone from the prosecution or the defense teams. A cameraman shows up at this end of the hall, looking almost lost. I ask him what department is he looking for. He replies, 107. I point to the right door.
Another young DA clerk arrives. She looks like she’s barely out of high school. The court clerk for Dept. 108 opens the door. Now Dept. 107 opens and the hallway empties as parties go into Dept. 108 and 107. I’m betting the Gargiulo hearing will not be first on today’s calendar.
DDA Joshua Ritter comes down the hallway at a fast pace, pulling a leather case on wheels. He goes into Dept. 108. Men in suits and women in professional attire come and go from the courtrooms at a fast pace.
A DDA exits Dept. 108 and starts chatting with a detective who was sitting with DDA Akemon’s intern. It’s Detective Small who worked the Ashely Elerin case. [I resist the urge to introduce myself to Detective Small, even thought I feel I know him ever since I've read his preliminary hearing testimony.] The young woman with the DDA is his daughter, who is interning. The DDA, his daughter and Detective Small catch up on family news.
The hallway is mostly empty now. We are waiting for defense counsel and DDA Akemon to arrive.
Looking down at the other end of the hall, I see DDA Akemon chatting with two other people. He must have just arrived.
DDA Akemon rushes down to this end of the hallway. He greets Detective Small, then Investigator Nicely. He then goes into Dept. 108 to check in with the court clerk.
Now I'm inside Dept. 108. I take my favorite place, in the second bench row. DDA Joshua Ritter is in trial. Judge Ohta's name plate is removed and there is no new name plate to find out who is sitting in for Judge Ohta until September.
There are a group of four DDA interns chatting away in the row behind me.
DDA's Ritter and Akemon are chatting away at the clerk's desk. There is a new court reporter at the reporter's desk and, there's a new bailiff.
DDA Garrett Dameron arrives. He greets Detective Small and the other [Detective?] with him. They all chat. DDA Dameron then goes over to chat with DDA's Akemon and Ritter. Another defense counsel arrives.
DDA's Akemon and Dameron leave Dept. 108. DDA's Akemon and Dameron could be having a discussion with investigator Chris Nicely in the hallway.
We are still waiting. There is the case that is in trial and another case that has a pretrial hearing. The counsel for the case in trial are set up at the counsel tables. I see the replacement judge come out.
Surprisingly, I recognize him. It's his Honor Douglas Sortino, whose regular court is Department 124. Judge Sortino, back when he was a DDA, was assigned the Spector case from 2002-2005 and conducted the Phil Spector grand jury. In 2008, during the second Phil Spector trial, Judge Sortino was called by the defense as a court witness to testify on a discovery issue outside the presence of the jury.
In September 2012, Judge Sortino was one the four justices on the California Courts of Appeal, Division II, when Nels and Loretta Rasmussen, parents of murder victim Sherri Rae Rasmussen, were appealing a lower courts decision about the right to sue the LAPD.
In DDA Ritter's case, the two defendant's are brought out. The defendant's are in street clothes. One defendant has two interpreters. Two interpreters are assigned to give each other breaks. In Ritter's case, the court and counsel are going over modifications to jury instructions.
There is a commotion at the inner courtroom doors. It's Gargiulo's defense attorney, Charles Lindner. The doors open, and then Lindner quickly exits back into the ante chamber.
In the case in trial, DDA Ritter is arguing to admit 1101(b) evidence for a specific circumstance. Judge Sortino, brings in his experience with 1101(b) by referring to the Phil Spector case. It's interesting to me that DDA Ritter, when he was still a clerk assigned to the Major Crimes Division, also worked the Spector case. Judge Sortino asks, "Do you disagree with me on [my?] analysis?" DDA Ritter explains that his motion is "identity" and he has no disagreements with Judge Sortino on his analysis.
Judge Sortino continues explaining about uncharged offenses and more analysis of the crimes and how that relates to his ruling.
LA County Sheriff's Detective Mark Lillienfeld peeks his head into Dept. 108. Detective Lillienfeld and DDA Dameron leave the courtroom. It's common in LA County courtrooms where it's a hurry up and wait situation, for your case to be called.
People's investigative reporter Christine Pelisek arrives. She sits in the back row and chats with Detective Lillienfeld. The case in trial is waiting on a juror or two to arrive.
All of the counsel in the Gargiulo case enter the well. Lindner brings Judge Sortino up to speed on the status of the case. Lindner tells the court that his last filing was on June 15, a 1050 motion. Today, the case is 29 of 60. Judge Sortino reads the defense 1050 motion. Gargiulo is brought out and they go on the record. Counsel states their appearances for the record.
Judge Sortino asks, "Were are we at getting this ready for trial?" The court is informed that defense attorney Dale Rubin asked to be relieved from the case. He is currently appointed as second chair for penalty phase. Lindner tells the court that Mr. Rubin is in the same position as himself. 29,000 pages of discovery. The people have provided [through documentation?], many unproved violent crimes [for] in the penalty phase. Lindner continues, "Both guilt and penalty investigators need to go to Chicago. .... The people intend to introduce the [Glenview] Illinois, Tricia Pacaccio murder.... The people's theory is murder ... in that case, multiple stab wounds ... so ... [unique... consistent?] signature in that case. "
Lindner continues to explain the two victims in our case had multiple stabbings. "In Glenview, Illinois, ... detectives ... [are] no match for us ... [the] investigation [was] sloppy." On top of that, there is DNA regarding victims Murphy and Bruno, and how that relates to the Pacaccio murder. The defense doesn't have a [DNA] lab appointed yet but they do have an expert.
Next, Lindner explains the motion that he will file to separate out the Ashley Ellerin murder; that there's no scientific evidence, [or circumstantial] evidence to link the murder [back to Gargiulo]. The people are relying on modus operandi. Lindner tells the court he's filed his 995 motion and the people are in the process of filing their 995 response. The case also as a Perkin's issue.
[The court?] The case would have fourth and fifth amendment issues, based on the Perkin's Operation.
There are also fifth amendment issues. Lindner makes a comment relating going to trial in 60 days as being at the Indianapolis Speedway [without the proper tires or equipment].
I believe it's the court who comments that Lindner's 1050 is the most detailed 1050 motion ever received. Judge Sortino states, "I think he's established good cause." DDA Akemon states that the people, "Share the courts concern. ... We have a duty to do [that?] .... We are ready [for trial] ... We respect they have a lot of work to do."
DDA Akemon has a concern that the court hear from Mr. Rubin before ruling. Akemon would be much more comfortable if Mr. Rubin were here. It's explained to the court that Mr. Rubin's position is secondary. The court asks, "If you would like to set this for another week ... to get Mr. Rubin in here...." Judge Sortino goes onto explain to the parties that after next week, there will be a different judge in Dept. 108. [From conversations in open court, it's my understanding that Judge Sortino is going on vacation.]
Lindner tells the court that they "could be ready" around Thanksgiving, however, this is a high publicity case. Lindner mentions Ashton Kutcher would be testifying on the Ellerin death, and that will draw a large crowd.
After a bit more back and forth, the court decides, "Let's set a date next week. ... Get Mr. Rubin in here, and see to put the case over to a realistic date."
So return on July 23. No time waver at this point.
Judge Sortino then speaks to Gargiulo directly about the no time waiver and [Gargiulo's?] own personal interest stand point. The court tells Gargiulo not to answer now, but to think about what
Lindner tells the court that Gargiulo has been complaining about "pressure in his head" and "splitting headaches." His client was "shot [quickly] through the infirmary." The court tells Lindner to submit a medical order and the court will require that the medical treatment [reports?] be reviewed by the court.
DDA Akemon informs the court that the next date is 38 of 60. The court rules that the last day is August 14 and will remain so.
And that was it for this hearing.