Thursday, April 19, 2018

Monica Sementilli & Robert Baker, Pretrial Hearing 1

Fabio Sementilli, murdered 1/23/2017.

April 19, 2018
I had not planned on going into downtown Los Angeles today. I was mentally gearing up for the Gargiulo hearing on Friday. On top of that, I still have lots of packing to do for an eventual move and a new life, not to mention sewing orders to get out. I was searching for something to lull me to sleep. I belatedly watched CBS 48 Hours show on the Fabio Sementilli murder case. Sementilli was an internationally known, award winning hairdresser and beauty executive who was stabbed to death in his home January 23, 2017. My courtroom friend Greg Fisher was one of the producers. It originally aired over a month ago on 3/10/2018. I never realized the murder happened in Woodland Hills, the western section of the San Fernando Valley, just a few miles from where I live.

Sementill's wife Monica and her lover Robert Louis Baker were charged with the murder in June 2017.

Booking photos, June 2017.

According to a summary of the case by Monder Criminal Law Group, LE believes Monica was the mastermind behind the murder plot and the motive was the 1.6 million life insurance policy on Fabio's life. After watching the 48 Hours episode I did a little digging. Checking the LASD inmate locator page, I saw the defendant's next court hearing was today. It was downtown on the 9th floor in Judge Ronald Coen's courtroom and the Deputy DA was Beth Silverman. The case being on the 9th floor piqued my interest but what cinched the deal was DDA Beth Silverman prosecuting.

I've not been shy about the admiration I have for DDA Silverman. I've been impressed with her from the very first time saw her in a courtroom in Van Nuys, at a pretrial hearing back in 2008. I've followed her cases and heard about the high praise she's received from other reporters and attorneys. When she's on a case, she has every fact at her fingertips. And it doesn't hurt that she's got a great wardrobe either. Some people would choose going to a concert or a movie. I would choose listening to DDA Silverman argue motions in front of a judge any day of the week. She's just that sharp.

From what I've gathered from news reports, the case was transferred to Judge Coen's courtroom within the past month or two. This means it's a "long cause" case lasting at least a month or more.

I was already on the freeway when I realized I had forgotten to put a notebook in my handbag. I was running late and I had absentmindedly transferred all my purse contents to a new handbag. I only had a tiny notebook in my purse, not the steno-type books I usually take to court. Rather than turn around to go home and possibly be late for court, I was hoping Judge Coen would let me use my laptop for note taking purposes only.

I've only been inside Judge Coen's courtroom a few times. He's an amazing jurist, one of the most senior and experienced judges in LA County. The Suge Knight murder case is being tried in his court. He has these long, black file boxes on his bench that (I've been told) hold all the appellate decisions for California Supreme Court and SCOTUS. When Coen is ruling, he has the appropriate index cards pulled out and reads from the original ruling to support his decisions. (That's what happened today.)

The 9th Floor
I arrive on the 9th floor about 8:25 am and it's virtually a dead zone. Practically no one is here so I made it just in time. I was afraid Judge Coen was one of those jurists who start at 8:00 am like Judge Perry does.

It doesn't look like there will be a lot of other media showing up. Several gentlemen show up on the 9th floor who are obviously detectives. Not long after, DDA Silverman arrives by herself. Beth is wearing a black and white patterned jacket with large pleats that flair out at the hip, paired with a black skirt. Although this case has been in other courtrooms since June, I won't know who the defense attorneys are and will have to piece things together as I go along.

I follow Beth into Department 101. In the ante chamber, the large, burly Deputy Sargent who was a larger than life presence at the Lonnie Franklin, Jr. trial is with the detectives who were in the hallway. Beth gives the deputy a big hug. Beth starts to talk to the detectives. She stops, looks at me and that's when I smile and say, "I need to leave." I head on into the courtroom. 

Inside Dept 101, the courtroom has a small scattering of people. The second row is empty and that's where I take a seat. I don't recognize the young female reporter in row three off to my right. I recognize the older male reporter who took a seat directly behind me but I I'm sorry. I can't for the life of me remember his name.

I approach the bailiff and ask if I can use my laptop for note taking only. Judge Coen is out of his robes and standing beside his male clerk at the clerk's desk. I thought I heard and understood Judge Coen. I thought he said it was approved to use my laptop.

The defense attorneys arrive and set up. DDA Silverman's co-counsel DDA Melissa Opper arrives. (After the hearing, DDA Silverman was kind enough to give me the correct spelling of several of the parties names.)

I could be wrong, but Leonard Levine appears to be lead attorney for Sementilli and his co-counsel is [I believe] Blair Berk that After Party identified as a top celebrity attorney. Baker is represented by Public Defender Michael Simmrin. Simmrin has been a defense attorney for about 14 years.

8:38 AM
Judge Coen asks the parties if they are ready yet. The defense asks for a moment more. The defense starts setting up their papers and getting situated at the defense side of the table. Contrary to what you often see in TV shows, the defense and prosecution tables are not separated by any big spaces. These courtrooms are small and the well of the court is a very compact area. There is one long continuous table that serves both parties. The prosecution always is on the side of the long table closest to the jury box.  The defense is always on the side of the room with the bailiff's desk and the door to the custody area.

From the well, Beth signals to her two Robbery Homicide Detectives, Chris Gable and Barry Telis to leave the gallery and come sit in the extra chairs behind the prosecution's table.

Judge Coen tells the parties that as soon as Mr. Simmrin gets here, they will start. There are two Asian looking men in the gallery that I believe are LAPD detectives. They are sitting in the front row directly behind DDA Silverman. She turns around to greet the men and shakes their hands. The big barrel chested deputy sargent is in the gallery. There are two deputes in the well by the bailiff's desk.

The court reporter at her desk in front of the witness box has an eerie resemblance to alleged murderer Kelly Soo Park that my eyes keep being drawn back to her.

When defense attorney Simmrin arrives, DDA Silverman is telling him there are another (700?) "gigs" of data coming. I believe a young female in the gallery is a clerk for the DA's office. There is a wiry, tall dark haired man sitting in the back of the gallery. He appears to be support staff for one of the defense attorneys.

Judge Coen takes the bench. Monica Sementilli is brought out first. She's wearing a blue jumpsuit. She looks like a tiny woman to me. The LASD inmate website has her at 5 feet 4 inches and 125 pounds. Her roots have grown out about 9-10 inches during her time in custody. You don't get hair color while waiting in the LA County jail. She takes a seat at the defense table. Her two counsel are on her right. Baker's attorney is on her left.

Baker is brought out next. At 5 feet 7 inches, 170 pounds and wearing an orange jumpsuit, he looks much more presentable than his booking photo. His hair is cut very short, almost a buzz cut, but not quite. He's also clean shaven.

Judge Coen goes on the record. They are here to argue various defense motions [by Sementilli]. The first motion is to keep the grand jury transcript sealed. The second is to seal the defense reply motion to the prosecution. The sealing of these documents will depend on the court's ruling.

Judge Coen tells the parties he has read the motions as well as the complete grand jury transcript over several days. He asks Baker's counsel if he joins in the Sementilli motion. He joins.

Levine argues the motion.
It's a rather unique case. The majority of the evidence against her is circumstantial. A great portion of that relates to the relations she had with the co-defendant ... while the issue whether they had a relation[ship?], the extent of which was explored in the grand jury testimony, the sexual nature of it, the specific acts engaged in; whether it was enjoyable or not. ... The volume of testimony that was admitted before the grand jury, those spoke to Mr. Baker and not [our] defendant. The testimony described numerous acts and things they engaged in. It was character evidence. Good character evidence as well as bad character evidence. It's not relevant to the issues of guilt or innocence.

So you had a grand jury transcript with no cross examination permitted. And most [would not] be permissible at trial. And it relates to the character of our client. That would not be at issue.

Other points. Levine argues that the testimony presented in the grand jury would not meet the standard required at trial. Releasing the grand jury testimony would jeopardize her ability to get a fair trial, if the grand jury testimony is released in it's entirety.

We are living in an age where they get reviewed in the local press. In the days of social media, everything becomes inflammatory. Everything becomes relevant in the press, whether it's Twitter or Facebook [there is] dissemination [of this ] information to the press. I see no evidence, ... this type of case, for this to occur in this case, and our client would not get a fair trial.

Levine argues, "The court is the only individual that can protect our client at that time." Both sides have been very circumspect in not speaking to the press and not commenting on the evidence in any way. The only way the press is getting this information is the complaint and the overt acts which are numerous. [The court] can't suppress the complaint and the overt acts. If this [grand jury transcript] is released then we are afraid and properly so that this will turn into the presentation of a salacious nature, via the conduct of the two [defendants?] which we feel [none of it?] has any relevance [or that] she participated in any acts that resulted in the murder of her husband.

Levine in closing is asking the court that the public should not get all of this unfettered and unredacted [testimony] ... our client's right to a fair trial ... and sensationalize it with the kind of detail in the grand jury [testimony] that we feel is irrelevant.

Judge Coen asks, "Mr. Simmrin?"

Simmrin adds a few statements.  This case is just ot supplement what Mr. Levine has argued. This case has garnered more than average press for an average case. National news stories on it. Full on 20/20. ... 1/2 [hour?] exploration of the facts of the case ... Not something that's gotten a little presse and I'm sure the court is aware of that ... given that [?] as well a particular danger. So Simmrin joins Levine's arguments.

The prosecution's argument comes up next. I believe Judge Coen asks, "Ms. Silverman?"

DDA Melissa Opper delivers the people's rebuttal argument. And right off, I have a hard time hearing her. The evidence under seal is circumstantial evidence ... [which is] involved in almost every case. This isn't character evidence but rather circumstantial evidence that goes to the [heart of?] the case. During the gran jury, opening statements by Ms. Silverman, that's not evidence. They [the g.j] were aware that it is not evidence. There is no overriding evidence that specifically, as we indicated in our moving papers, that a single homicide does not support the sealing of grand jury transcripts.

I am having trouble hearing DDA Opper and then he bailiff tells me I'm not supposed to be using my laptop. I'm mortified. I evidently misunderstood what the instruction was. I'll have to apologize to the court. I put my laptop down and dig into my bag for the little 4 inch by 5 inch notebook to try to take some written notes.

I don't have any hand notes on the rest of the people's argument. Levine then gets up to present his rebuttal argument. He mentions the CBS 48 Hours show. He mentions that there were not facts from either side and they were not accurate. He mentions something about whether Monica was a good mother or bad mother, or whether the victim was a good husband. Things presented in [in the grand jury] were not relevant to motive. Much of it was sexual in nature and overkill. Much of the proposed evidence. If the court doesn't seal everything, then seal those parts that are not relevant to guilt. The court has great discretion.

Judge Coen lays out his arguments for his ruling. The transcripts are open to the public unless there are [compelling?] arguments that it should be sealed. There's not a lengthy amount of case law [on this issue].

The court then reads from several of his large index cards the applicable case law that addresses this issue. He speaks so fast I am really missing my laptop because I cannot write fast enough to get the case law he references and reads from.

Judge Coen adds, "In reading the transcript, it does not appear this is as salacious as counsel points out. ... A case is sensational and then surpasses by the next salacious case, and on and on."

Judge Coen does not find that releasing the transcript [would be a hindrance?] to Sementilli receiving a fair trial. "The transcript in total is to be unsealed." Judge Coen then addresses Levine's motion to seal his rebuttal argument/motion. The reply will be unsealed.

There is one last issue that the defense is asking for and it has to do with how the people have searched or performed a data search of [I believe] Sementill's cell phone. Levine is requesting the people perform a specific type of search. Both parties have their cell phone experts in court. DDA Silverman explains to the court that the people did the type of search that is most recommended to LE. Judge Coen reads from the law. "The people do not have a duty to do the defense work for them." DDA Silverman adds, "As I mentioned, the defense is not allowed to go around LE and make demands for discovery. ... If his expert wants to take the stand ..." Judge Coen adds, "They [defense] have a right to examine the cell phone." DDA Silverman counters the courts statement. "No. It's the people's evidence. ... [The program Telebright?] allows two types of extraction. Number one gives the most data. Number two gives limited data. What's generally accepted in the community is number one, which is what was done in this case."

Judge Coen reads case law. In light of what the court just read, DDA Silverman tells the court that the people will perform the number two type of extraction. "We'll do the extraction ourselves and provide the limited data set." Method #2 is limited extraction of data.  It appears the defense is complaining about the way the people have analyzed the data.  DDA Silverman reaffirms to the court that they will provide the extraction of the data. The defense counters that "all the boxes were not checked" when they did the extraction.

The last item to address is the sealed search warrant. There is some back and forth between Judge Coen and Mr. Levine. Judge Coen states he is treating this as a discovery issue and not as a "Hobbs" issue. Having examined the warrant, Judge Coen is ordering a partial unsealing of the search warrant, except for the following: Judge Coen reads the list of paragraphs that will be redacted. Page 5, full second paragraph. Page 8, full second paragraph. Page 13, fourth full paragraph. Page 18, second full paragraph. Page 32, last paragraph, redacted. "What's left, [is] what is known to all parties."

Judge Coen then asks if there is anything further at this time. They are looking for a new date to return. Levine mentions that there is a lot of new discovery. At first, May 10 is selected and everyone agrees. DDA Silverman almost forgot that one of their search warrants came back and it is with the court. It's documents from Sunlight Insurance. The people are asking to receive the documents open them and make copies. The court approves. Then, Levine changes his mind and wants May 9th as the next court date.

May 9th it is. And that's it.  Like I mentioned earlier, out in the hallway DDA Silverman gives me the correct spelling of her co-counsel's name, Baker's attorney's last name and the names of the two Robbery Homicide detectives. I then leave the criminal court building behind. I'm headed over to the Stanley Mosk Courthouse to drop in on the court's Public Information Office, (PIO) to see if I can clear up and/or get an apology to Judge Coen's court about my laptop misunderstanding. As I'm crossing the street, I see City News reporter Terri Keith. I adore Terri. She has always been most helpful and kind to me. I follow her back to her office and update her on the hearing this morning. I then head over to the PIO and put in an apology to the court and to see if I can use my laptop for future pretrial hearings. PIO Elizabeth gets back to me later in the day about using my laptop. I'm to just ask the bailiff at each pretrial hearing and they will ask the judge.

NOTE: I hope to have a Quick Links page on this case up within a week as well as copies of the motions argued, the indictment and the complaint. Sprocket

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Sherri Rae Rasmussen 2/7/1957 - 2/24/1986

Sherri at home, December 1985.

This entry was first published on February 24, 2016. Republished last year on her death anniversary and today on her birthday. Sherri would have been 61 today. Sprocket.


Matthew McGough is writing a book about Sherri's life and murder.

Sherri Rasmussen was an exceptional person.

Over the last several years I have interviewed many of Sherri’s family members, friends, and colleagues. Thirty years after Sherri’s tragic death, her absence continues to reverberate in their lives.

Sherri’s life was remarkable for how much she accomplished in her twenty-nine years, and for how humble she was. Sherri was a high achiever from the time she was a little girl. Sherri graduated from high school at age sixteen, college at twenty, and became a nurse the same year. At twenty-three, she earned her master’s degree in nursing from UCLA.

Despite being younger than many of her nursing colleagues, first at UCLA Medical Center and later at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, Sherri’s personal nature commanded trust and respect. Those who worked with Sherri remember her as an extremely competent nurse, always calm under pressure, and a natural leader. Sherri cared deeply about her patients and about the profession of nursing, to which she dedicated her adult life.

Sherri loved her family and friends and was beloved by them. Many people have told me about the profound impact Sherri had on their lives, how she encouraged them to do their best, and how her example continues to inspire them, even all these years later.

Jackie Robinson once said, “A life is not important, except in the impact it has on other lives.” By this measure, it makes perfect sense that Sherri is remembered so fondly by so many.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Michael Thomas Gargiulo Case, Pretrial Hearing 40

Previous post on this case can be found HERE.

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, booking photo, 2008.

UPDATE: edited for clarity
February 2, 2018
I arrive in downtown LA around 8am. That's plenty of time to get on the 9th floor before 8:30am, when Dept. 106, Judge Fidler's court opens.

For those who don't know, the civic center area of downtown Los Angeles has several hills, some steep and some not so steep. My walk from the church parking to the court on Temple Street is an easy block and a half and downhill. The Clara Shortridge-Foltz criminal court building takes up the entire block on Temple between Broadway and N. Spring Street. As I cross Broadway, Temple takes a sharper dip to the front entrance of the court. Unfortunately, as I get closer to the door, I see that the security station at the front entrance is closed, just like it was yesterday.

Clara Shortridge-Foltz, Criminal Justice Center.
Southeast corner of Temple St. and Broadway Ave.
My photo archive.

I have two choices. Continue downhill on Temple to the corner of N. Spring, turn right and take a tall, almost two story set of stairs to the upper balcony and back entrance. Or, I can walk back up the incline to Broadway, turn left and go slightly downhill on Broadway towards the level access walkway at the back of the building. I reverse course, deciding to take the incline verses the stairs.

When I realized the front entrance was closed, a woman stopped me on the sidewalk and asked which way to go to get into the court building. I told her to follow me. She asked me if I was going to jury duty. I told her "No." She immediately turned around to go East on Temple to N. Spring. "Mam!" I called after her, "This way is easier into the building." She then turned back around and rushed passed me up Temple.

As I'm walking west on Temple, CBS 48 Hours producer Greg Fisher is coming towards me and asked where I was going. I explain to him the front entrance is closed and we have to go to the back entrance. Greg is half a foot taller than me, in much better shape and with much longer legs. I'm not moving fast enough for him. My bag is heavy with my laptop and I struggle to keep up.

As we reach the door, the woman whom I just directed is in front of me at the security scanner. But she's standing there, not moving at all, acting like she doesn't know what to do. The security station is much like those found in airports. It consists of a walk through scanner for people, and an x-ray type device where you put your belongings on the table with the moving belt. Your personal items then move through the device so the security personnel can see through your belongings to make sure you're not bringing anything into a court building that's illegal. It's not like security scanners were just invented yesterday. They've been around for a long time.

Full disclosure. I admit that I get impatient with people at the security stations who don't know how to put their belongings on the moving belt. They are often confused about the security officer's instructions to take everything out of their pockets and put them in the round trays before they walk through the scanner. Impatient at the court scanners? Guilty as charged. I do need to work on having more patience. The rest of the morning, Greg doesn't let me forget that I went past the woman in front of me.

When we reach the 9th floor, the CBS 48 Hours camera crew is already there waiting for the security station to open. History lesson. This is the only security station on a courtroom floor. It was built before the start of the O.J. Simpson trial. Greg introduces me to the CBS camera crew. Apparently, Judge Fidler approved filming today's hearing. 48 Hours wants to get video of any family members who make statements to the court under Marsy's Law

A few minutes later defense investigator Chris Nicely arrives. He's wearing a really nice blue suit. Chris is quite tall and very easy on the eyes. While we wait, it's clear the sheriff's deputies are having difficulty turning the scanner machine on. One of the camera guys points out to the deputies that there appears to be a plug that's unplugged under the machine.  The cord gets plugged in and the sheriffs test the scanner. I had put myself in front of the camera equipment so I could get to the ladies restroom quickly. Greg, who likes to razz me, doesn't let me forget that either.

When I exit the restroom, the 9th floor hallway is mostly empty except for a group gathered in the center. It's CBS 48 Hours host Maureen Maher standing with the two cameramen I met at the security station. With her is another 48 Hours producer Doug Longhini. I walk toward the group and wait for a moment to introduce myself.  Maureen beats me to it and introduces herself first. Maureen is petite and just as pretty in person as she is on camera. She's wearing a sleeveless A-line black dress with a matching jacket. The cameramen are miking her up for interviews later.

Retired LAPD Hollywood Homicide Detective Tom Small and his wife Laurie (sp?) are also with the group. Detective Small investigated victim Ashley Ellerin's murder. His wife Laurie is a court reporter in Dept. 109, Judge Kennedy's court. Detective Small is in a complicated brace that is holding his right arm in a fixed position out from his body. With all that Mr. Sprocket has gone through, I'm guessing it's a good bet Detective Small had surgery to repair an injury on his right shoulder. I'm asked if I know Detective Small. I know him from several court appearances in this case and one other. I remember being in the elevator with him well over a year ago when he announced to a companion that he was retiring from the LAPD that day. After a few minutes I step away to sit down on a bench seat near Dept. 106 and jot down some notes.

8:30 AM
A bailiff opens Dept. 106 and Greg gets their approved filming order into the court. Across the hall from Dept. 106, Judge Lomeli's court clerk opens his courtroom, Dept 107. He stands with the door open for a minute, watching the group in the center of the hall. It looks like defense attorney Daniel Nardoni has arrived and joins the center hallway group. Other people headed for other courtrooms stop by to say hello to Maureen and the group.

Inside Dept. 106

When the courtroom opens, the camera crew gets right to work setting up their equipment in the jury box. Wendy, Judge Fidler's court clerk is telling the cameramen which podium to get in the back corner and where to place it in the well.

Like I noted in my post yesterday, Judge Fidler is in the middle of a death penalty trial with two separate juries. I can see the second jury's notebooks on the benches in the first and second rows of the gallery. There is a sign on the third bench row, not to sit there. This is to have some space between these jurors and members of the public. Since there are no jurors here today, I ask Wendy if it's okay to sit in the third row. She says that's fine today. A trick I learned from the late Dominick Dunne, I always try to sit directly in line with the witness box, or in this case, as close to the podium where the victims family members will stand. The camera crew quickly gets to work setting up wireless microphones at the bench, counsel tables and the podium.

Maureen enters the courtroom with Detective Small. Small takes a seat near the bailiff sitting on a chair in the well and Maureen sits with the other CBS crew in the far last row of the gallery.  Small's wife joins him a bit later. Defense attorney Nardoni arrives in the courtroom.

8:35 AM
There are several conversations going on at once all around the gallery. Detective Small and seated the bailiff chat. Another bailiff comes out of the custody area and calls out for Gargiulo's counsel. Mr. Nardoni asks, "Is he back [there]?" The deputy answers, "Yes." Nardoni goes back to see his client in the custody area.

8:37 AM
Retired Detective Mark Lillienfeld arrives. I believe Detective Lillienfeld investigated the murder of Maria Bruno and attempted murder of Michelle Murphy. I give him a smile and he is kind enough to sit beside me and say hello. We chat about what retirement is like from a long career as a detective. The bailiff who is chatting with Detective Small gets up from his seat to come over and shake Detective Lillienfeld's hand.

DDA Garrett Dameron enters Dept. 106 and checks in with the court clerk. There is a tall slender man with him I don't recognize. Nardoni, out of the custody area, leaves the courtroom with his investigator Nicely to chat. Det. Lillienfeld leaves me and joins the group chatting with Det. Small. Greg and Maureen are chatting in the far corner of the last gallery row.

Tracy, the DA's victim support staff who works with the Major Crimes Division arrives and checks in with the bailiff. She wants to be sure which path the deputy wants the victim's family to take when they approach the podium. She then exits the courtroom.

8:48 AM
DDA Daniel Akemon arrives. He's chatting with Mr. Nardoni just outside the courtroom in the ante chamber. On Judge Fidler's bench, there are several reference books in a desktop book-holder to the right and a huge reference book directly in the center of his bench. On the wall behind the bench to the left, is a large TV screen. To the right of the bench is the clerks desk and counter area. Directly in front of the clerks walled-off counter area, there are several file boxes stacked up, three or four high. I'm guessing these files relate to the death penalty case.

A pretty petite woman from the DA's office I've seen in other cases arrives. I think she's with the DA's JSID unit (Justice System Integrity Division). There are handshakes all around with the group over by Detective Small.  I look behind me to the chairs near the door where Chris Nicely usually sits. He's concentrating on his notepad, taking notes.

I'm wondering what the hold-up is. Maybe we are waiting for lead defense attorney Dale Rubin.  Detective Lillienfeld joins Greg and Maureen in the back left corner of the gallery. There are conversations still going on in several groups around me. Nardoni and Nicely go back into the custody area to speak with Gargiulo.

New York Magazine Editor and author Carolyn Murnick arrives with a male friend. She immediately recognized me but again, I didn't recognize her at first. I'm starting to wonder if I'm developing face blindness, or it's my age. Carolyn takes a seat to my left to chat and say hello. Carolyn then reaches into her bag and signs for me a copy of her book, The Hot One, about her childhood friend and murder victim Ashley Ellerin. I'm touched. Due to my husband's health, I wasn't able to make it to her book signings in Los Angeles, so this is a nice surprise.

9:00 AM
The family of victim Tricia Pacaccio arrive along with the DA's victim support staff.  DDA Akemon is conferring with Mrs. Pacaccio and her sons. Detective Small introduces himself to the Pacaccio family. Carolyn and I scoot down to make room for Mrs. Pacaccio and her sons, Douglas and Thomas at the far left end of our row.

The court clerk asks if counsel are ready. Dale Rubin is still not here.

9:06 AM
People Magazine reporter Christine Pelisek arrives. She greets Detective Lillienfeld and takes a seat in the back row.

9:08 AM
The court clerk calls for counsel over at her counter. Wendy also asks for one of the cameramen. 48 Hours producer Doug comes over to the other cameraman in the jury box to chat. Lots of conversations going on at once. The camera was taken down. There will be no video taping today, just audio of the impact statements. (After the hearing I learn that the Pacaccio family did not wish to be filmed so the court reversed the filming order but let 48 Hours record the audio.)

The court clerk tells the bailiff. "I think we're ready now."

9:14 AM
Gargiulo is brought out. Since defense counsel Dale Rubin is not here, Gargiulo doesn't sit at the end of the table where everyone can see his face. He sits directly beside Nardoni so his back is to the gallery. When he entered, he looks exactly the same as the January hearing. He's wearing the orange jumpsuit with the white long-johns type shirt underneath. His head is completely bald except for his eyebrows and mustache. It's clear Gargiulo looks about 10 years older than his booking photo at the top of this post. His face is much leaner, thinner.

9:15 AM
Judge Fidler takes the bench. DDA Akemon tells the court they have the Picaccio family from Illinois. He introduces Tricia Pacaccio's mother, Diane (sp?). Tricia was murdered in Illinois in 1993. Her case is pending in that state. Mrs. Picaccio reads a prepared statement. One of her sons stands beside her at the podium. She speaks so fast, I get very few complete sentences of her statement. As she starts to talk about her daughter, her voice breaks and I feel her pain. The anguish in her voice at the loss of her daughter affects me. My friend Matthew McGough is always telling me I need to maintain a distant professionalism, but I still struggle with that. I've silently wiped tears many times in the gallery, listening to a family member sob during testimony or give an impact statement.

Mrs. Pacaccio thanks the court. "We ask that ... why this had to happen to our wonderful loving Tricia. .. Twenty-four years later ... hard time suffering ... cannot understand ... [We are] fundamentally different people down to our soul since this happened.  ... When someone who is indispensable to your happiness is gone ..." Mrs. Pacaccio weeps as she speaks to the court. Toward the end of her statement she's crying and my eyes start to well up.

I believe it's Douglas, Tricia's other brother who reads a letter from his father. Mr. Pacaccio was unable to travel due to health issues. "I am here to represent my daughter's rights and the right for a speedy trial. The defendant needs to be brought to trial in the murder of Tricia. ... If you give one thought ... [we?] who have been waiting 25 years. ... We are very angry, disgusted and surprised ... the delays and extensions."

Douglas speaks fast and I'm having trouble keeping up. "Please do not delay this case any longer. ... Know that we will have another long case, once it gets to Chicago, Illinois."

Judge Fidler addresses the victim's family. "I do hear you. I've been doing this for 35 years. ... I have to be general. I can't speak to prior delays, because I don't know what happened."

Judge Fidler then speaks to them hypothetically, as to what happens after a California case that receives a death penalty verdict. It is first reviewed by the California Supreme Court. After California, it goes to the Federal system. "If they [California Supreme Court] affirm, then 12-15 years, it goes to the Federal side. ... Then habeas corpus." Judge Fidler says something about the Federal system [here in the west] taking a dim view of the death penalty, so California death penalty cases lose.

Judge Fidler goes onto explain that they can't have any mistakes in a death penalty case. When he tries a case, he tries to make no mistakes.  "We had a new plea. That will delay [the case] as a matter of law. ... I promise both sides that I will move this case as expeditiously ... and still follow the law. ... Because of the new plea, there are going to be delays. ... I will keep you in mind. You're not nameless to me. ... You didn't come out here [for nothing]. "

DDA Akemon addresses the court. They have picked a name from the court's approved list for a doctor to evaluate Gargiulo for the people. Dr. Robert Schug. DDA Akmon states, "He is ready to start his evaluation almost immediately. ... He is asking for face to face meetings and an ability to bring a laptop [into the jail]."

Judge Fidler rules, "If you give me an order I will sign it." 

DDA Akemon tells the court they have the next pretrial date in mind, April 20, 2018. By that time, they may have a good status on where they are.  Judge Fidler sets the case calendar at zero of 90 on April 20th. Defense attorney Nardoni tells the court they have given discovery to the DA. Their hope is to start the case this summer.

And that's it. Judge Fidler is off the bench and Gargiulo is taken back into the custody area. Out in the hallway I learn that lead defense attorney Dale Rubin is under the weather, so that's why he wasn't in court today.

I was really hoping that 48 Hours was going to get images of Gargiulo today. I have been unable to find any photos taken of Gargiulo beyond his various booking photos. It doesn't appear that Gargiulo has been photographed during any court proceeding since he was arrested in 2008.