Monday, December 14, 2015

Lonnie Franklin, Jr., Case Update

Lonnie Franklin, Jr., 2/6/15
Photo Credit: Nick Ut, AP

December 14, 2015
Note From Sprocket
I apologize to T&T readers that I haven't been able to update you on what's been happening in the Franklin case. Other responsibilities have keep me from devoting any time to writing a detailed synopsis of all the hearings for the past month. A lot has been going on. I do have some of my notes transcribed and I hope to write about all the hearings soon.

However, this is the busiest time of year for my sewing business. Every moment I haven't been in court I've been up until 2 am or later working at my sewing machine.

Franklin Case Update
We are on the eve of the start of the Lonnie Franklin, Jr., trial and the defense still does not have a second chair appointed. And yet the initial stages of jury selection is starting tomorrow.

Back on November 16, original counsel Louisa Pensanti was disbarred by the State of California. You can read a synopsis of what happened HERE. She can no longer step into the well of a courtroom and represent a client. During all the past hearings defense attorney Seymour Amster didn't appear to be phased by the possibility that Pensanti would be disbarred. It's almost like he didn't blink an eye even after it happened.

Mr. Amster informed the court several hearings ago that he was in talks with defense attorney Norm Kallen to step in as second chair. [Kallen was co-defense on the second Michael Hughes aka The Southside Slayer trial, and up against DDA Silverman before.] At one of those hearings, Kallen was in the well, but not sitting at the defense table.

At that time, Amster informed the court that the defense would not split the defense work up in the traditional manner, between guilt and penalty phase, but that he would take on the entire defense involving the DNA and ballistics and the second chair [potentially Kallen] would handle a much smaller portion of the entire case. It was on November 16 that Amster informed the court the co-chair would only need about two months to get ready for trial.

Judge Kennedy has taken Amster at his word on this issue.

On December 9, Amster told Judge Kennedy that financing for the second co-chair was still pending with the 987.9 Judge. Defendants who are indigent, get a free criminal defense. That defense is paid for by the state.  All financial decisions involving that defense, [the hiring of expert witnesses, defense investigators, testing evidence, etc.], must be approved by a different court/judge, that the one trying the case. For Franklin, I believe that court is Department 123. 

Today, Amster informed the court that, "My proposed second counsel has declined the court's invitation." Sources indicated to me that it could be that the court declined to pay the fee Mr. Kallen was requesting.

Amster is in communication with a second and third choice. Amster told the court he "feels comfortable" someone will be in place by the end of the week. The only other thing that Amster asked the court was that voir dire start on January 27. [This date was later changed to Jan 25.]

DDA Silverman raised concerns that they won't have someone by then. Judge Kennedy tells the people that, "To save this case, I have to go with that" [meaning, what Mr. Amster is telling the court].

Because Amster has not asked for a continuance to prepare a second counsel, the court and the parties are barreling full steam ahead. Everyone appears on the record that things are going to go forward even though the defendant, facing the death penalty and about to start trial, doesn't have a second counsel.

Once the funding is approved for a second chair, it's entirely possible that the appointed attorney will come before Judge Kennedy and state that they need to file a continuance to be properly prepared for trial. But until that actually happens, the trial is moving forward.

The rest of the court time was outlining for counsel, the sequence of events for each of the four panels of 75 jurors each, starting on December 15 and continuing through December 18. The first order will be to excuse jurors for hardship. The trial is expected to take three months, once voir dire is started January 25. The jurors who are not excused, will fill out the [approximately 38 page] jury questionnaire inside Dept. 109. The jurors will not be allowed to have help filling out their questionnaire. They cannot call someone or ask more information about a specific question. They will then turn in their questionnaires and will come back on January 25. The next panel will come on December 16 and return on January 26, and so on.

Once voir dire starts on January 25, the court states that the first order of business is to get those jurors who are death qualified. Once they have a sufficient number of death qualified jurors, then the voir dire will be opened up to counsel to delve deeper.

There were some issues regarding defense witnesses who had received a subpoena but had not been called yet. Mr. Amster stated that Ms. Kristen Gozawa and two others were working on that, returning calls. I was wondering whether Gozawa was still on the case or not, since she has not been to court for several hearings now.

And that was about it. Judge Kennedy asked all counsel to be here by 9 am, even though they will not start the elimination process until later.

Judge Kennedy's bailiff made it clear that when these jury panels of 75 jurors are first called, there is not a single extra seat in the courtroom for family or press. Besides, this isn't the start of voir dire, so nothing trial related is discussed on the record. I will not be there tomorrow for this initial jury selection process. There is a hearing in the Michael Gargiulo case, down the hall in Dept. 108 that I don't want to miss.

Before the hearing started today, Arlene from the Public Information Office stopped by to drop off entry badges for the trial. The trial court has limited the press to 12 seats. I expect those will be distributed by the PIO's office when the trial starts. The victims family is limited to 25 seats. The DA's office received those badges today and will take custody of handing those out to family members. The defense will get a number of badges for Franklin's family members. Both the prosecution and defense will get a number of badges for their support staff.

The packed days of this trial will be opening statements, closing arguments and the reading of any verdicts. The bailiff does not expect all 12 press seats to be filled each day for the three months or more of trial.

After the hearing was over, Judge Kennedy's bailiff chatted with DDA's Silverman and Rizzo about jury seating, how the jurors will be numbered/called and how Judge Kennedy numbers her seats in her jury box. It was a pleasant conversation and I saw Judge Kennedy's bailiff crack a rare smile. He's always so serious, with the no nonsense stern voice when he's getting the gallery to shape up and turn all cell phones off before Judge Kennedy takes the bench. There are many new laminated black and red signs attached to the backs of the bench row seating, stating, NO cell phones or photography inside the court.

There was another surprise in Dept. 109 today. Judge Perry's clerk from the Lazarus trial wass sitting in  for Judge Kennedy's clerk. She is such a delightful person. I was happy to see her and called out a hello. She motioned me over for a chat. I have not been inside the well of Dept. 109 since the Kelly Soo Park case. I asked Judge Perry's clerk if she was going to be here for the entire case. She said she was just filling in this week. Judge Kennedy's regular clerk will be back the following week.

The next post on this case can be found HERE.


Camarillo Lady said...

Whew. Glad you are O.K. A bit concerned about you and the Mr after a month of no posts. Please don't take that as a critisism just a missed interest in you and yours. Happy holidays to you and good luck with all of your other activities and commitments and a very prosperous and healthy New Year.

NancyB said...

I see you have been beyond busy! Thanks for these updates and I'm so glad you will be at Gargiulo's hearing tomorrow. We all have waited a long time for his upcoming trial. Many thanks for all of your hard work.

Sprocket said...


Thank you Nancy.

Gargiulo's hearing was yesterday and I did attend the hearing. As soon as I can take a break from sewing, I will post an update.

A quick note on Gargiulo. Not much has changed from the last pretrial hearing.

David In TN said...

I remember back in 2010 when Louisa Pensanti was in an article that said she was Lonnie Franklin's attorney. It seemed Pensanti didn't have much of a record as an attorney and didn't look qualified for a death penalty case.

Despite this, Franklin supposedly insisted he wanted her as his attorney.