Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Michael Connelly's Murder Book Podcast


UPDATE 1/25: Edited for spelling. Sprocket.
On January 28, best selling author Michael Connelly launches his true crime podcast, Murder Book, highlighting murders the mainstream media mostly ignored. The podcast is free. The first podcast will be ten episodes and is about the 30-year investigation into the June 29, 1987 murder of 21 year old Jade Clark. Retired Detective Rick Jackson first investigated the case when he was a homicide detective at LAPD's Hollywood Station.

Rick Jackson
I first heard about Rick Jackson back in 2008, when then Deputy DA Alan Jackson was assigned the Kazuyoshi Miura case. Miura had been reapprehended in Saipan on February 22, 2008. Detective Jackson was assigned to bring Miura back to the US. I remember seeing images of Det. Jackson and Miura getting off the plane at LAX. T&T covered the case until Miura committed suicide in LASD custody. By this time, Jackson was working in the LAPD's Cold Case Unit and I had heard stories about the legendary detective.

It wasn't until I became friends with author Matthew McGough during the Stephanie Lazarus trial that I got to meet Rick in person. Matthew had gotten to know Rick when he interviewed him as part of his article on the LAPD's Cold Case Unit, and they became friends. I met Rick on March 24, 2012, just weeks after Lazarus was convicted of first degree murder. Matthew was speaking at the Pasadena library about his first book, Batboy. Rick, being a friend and big baseball fan, attended the event. I remember that Rick didn't have any business cards on him, but he did write out his email and contact numbers for me. 

I was lucky to be invited to Rick's retirement dinner on October 23, 2013. I wrote a detailed post about that memorable event.

Michael Connelly

I met author Michael Connelly in 2013, again through Matthew. Connelly and fellow author Miles Corwin did an event at the downtown Los Angeles Public Library on December 5, that year. Coincidentally, during the Robert Blake murder trial, years before I started T&T, I was in the courtroom when Miles Corwin took the stand and testified in that case. After the event, Matthew introduced me to Connelly.

Connelly decided on a career in journalism while in college at the University of Florida. (Coincidentally, around the time that Connelly was growing up in Florida, I lived in Pompano Beach.) Michael worked for newspapers in Daytona Beach and Ft. Lauderdale before landing a job covering crime at the LA Times, which is how he came to know and later befriend some of the detectives I've met covering murder trials. He is a crime novelist with 32 books under his belt. His works include the Harry Bosch and Lincoln Lawyer series, and one non-fiction anthology, Crime Beat: A Decade of Covering Cops and Killers. Many of Connelly's stories and characters are drawn from real life cases and detectives he's encountered. With the Murder Book Podcast, Connelly returns to his roots, journalism.

Murder Book
I actually know the case that Connelly's 10 episode podcast is about. I attended a critical pretrial hearing in the case back on February 22, 2013. A suspect, Pierre Romain, had been arrested years earlier in 2003. It was the first time I was back in Judge Fidler's courtroom after the second Phil Spector trial. Deputy DA John Lewin prosecuted the case. 

Rick Jackson on "Murder Book"
This is what Rick Jackson has to say about the new Michael Connelly true crime podcast series, “Murder Book” - “It’s a ten-episode dissection of a murder investigation that lasted thirty years, never stopping through a myriad of twists and turns.  The case didn’t make big headlines and few people heard about it.  However, when I told Michael Connelly about it in 2017, he knew he wanted to make the case his first podcast.  And, Michael Connelly adds, “This story is a deep exploration of our justice system, flaws and all.”  

Subscribe now for “Murder Book,” on your Podcast app or by Google searching “Murder Book Podcast.”  Debuting in January 28, 2019.  The FREE subscription will provide notifications as the air date approaches and allow you to listen to a two-minute trailer.  Again, listening to this podcast is free!

I can't wait to listen.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Monica Sementilli & Robert Louis Baker, Pretrial Hearing 8

The previous hearing on this case can be found HERE.

LAPD Booking Photos

January 17, 2018
It's been a very wet week in LA County. We've been hit by a heavy rainstorm for four days, threatening the hillsides from the devastating fires and even areas that did not get burned. Mudslides overtaking homes are always a big concern during a storm. The rains drench the unstable hills and home foundations can move.

Hopefully the rain will let up by this afternoon and we will have a dry weekend. I've been in my new home a little over two weeks but I haven't even started painting yet. I'm still adjusting to tin can living. I'm starting to doubt my memory at times and have been very forgetful about things. Friends tell me I'm just overwhelmed by all the change in such a short period of time. My purse was stolen about a month ago at a bus stop. I was taking the bus for a couple days while my car was in the shop. With my stolen bag, I lost my backup hard drive that had my work and photos going back 20 years. All gone, unrecoverable. A few days ago, I left my phone in a Target restroom that fortunately, someone turned in. I didn't lose that, thankfully. And today, I believe I left my umbrella on a bench in the North Hollywood subway train station. When I got downtown, luckily, there was only a light rain and I didn't get too wet on my walk from the station to the Clara Shortridge-Foltz Criminal Justice Center.

The 9th Floor
I make it to the 9th floor right around 8:30am.

I don't see anyone from the prosecution team and only one person from the defense team, the tall, slender man I believe is a data expert. A few minutes later DDA's Beth Silverman and Melissa Opper arrive with one of their clerk interns. Beth and Melissa are both wearing all black outfits, with Beth complementing hers with a black and white scarf. It's my understanding that a few interns that have clerked for Beth in the past have been hired by the DA's office as DDA's once they've passed the bar. Minutes later, the DA's victim advocate arrives.

Inside Dept. 101

The gray haired gentleman I believe is a defense investigator is at the clerks desk chatting with Judge Coen, who is not wearing his robe.

8:37am
Baker's defense attorney Michael Simmrin arrives. I hear DDA Sliverman address him with the question/statement, "Good news?" Simmrin responds, "Good news." DDA Silverman responds, "Let me guess. You're hiring a prosecutor to work in the office with you?" I have no idea what they are talking about but it's obviously something within the Public Defender's Office or Alternate Public Defender's Office. DDA Silverman and Simmrin appear to chat about more departmental news. Simmrin is also carrying a unique umbrella that he is showing Beth and Melissa. It looks like it might be this BetterBreta umbrella.  More news is being bantered about. The burly deputy sheriff I often saw around the courthouse and in cases I attended, Sargent Westphal has been promoted. He's a lieutenant now.

Judge Coen is now on the bench and asks the parties if they are ready to do this and to bring the defendant's out. But I don't see Blair Berk. She did not come today. It's only then that I see defense attorney Leonard Levine. He must have just arrived, since I did not see him come in.

While they are waiting for the deputies to get the defendants, Judge Coen and Levine chat off the record about a trial date. Then Judge Coen addresses Simmrin. The court says something to the effect of (I don't have this exactly correct), I hear we are waiting on [a motion?]. Simmirin tells the court that they are waiting, yes.  It's something about a motion Simmrin will be filing on behalf of his client. From what I heard, I gather Simmrin is still working on the motion. Baker is brought out. 

Judge Coen then asks Simmrin, "Did you tell anyone else?" Simmirn informs the court, "Yes."

I believe I hear Levine tell the court, "[Obviously?] I was informed."

Levine and Judge Coen continue to discuss the trial date that is still on the court's calendar. Judge Coen comments to Levine on the discovery, "...when you reach [over] 100,000 pages ..."

I take the court to be implying that going to trial this quickly with all the discovery being turned over is not practical.

Monica Sementilli is brought out. She is in an orange jumpsuit this time. That's different.  I also notice a blue barrette in her hair.

The parties tell the court that they have agreed to a February 21st return date. The April 29 trial start date will remain on the calendar for the time being. Judge Coen mentions a concern about that date. From what I'm hearing it's pretty much a given that date will be vacated soon.

DDA Silverman tells the court there is a new batch of discovery to pass onto Mr. Simmrin. They have been waiting for Simmrin to give them a hard drive. Mr. Levine has already received this batch that will also be passed on to Baker's defense.

DDA Silverman also informs the court that just this morning, the LAPD has provided her office with another hard drive of discovery. Her office will need more drives from the defense to pass on this latest batch. DDA Silverman informs Levine that there is [another] "...search warrant out there..."

I took this to mean the search warrant was related to the latest information the DA's office just received from the LAPD, but I could be wrong about that.

And that's it. The hearing was over in minutes. That's often how these things go.

The next pretrial hearing in the case is February 21.