Monday, April 30, 2007

Trial Notes, 4-30-07

I get out the door quite late this morning, despite the fact I set my alarm for 6 am. My husband was cleaning out his work van over the weekend, and needed my help backing out of our very narrow (built in 1941) driveway so he could get to work. There are literally inches between the van and the house and the fence on the other side with the big mirrors pulled in. So it does take a bit of maneuvering to back it out of the driveway.

As I ride the Red Line this morning, I take some notes to tell you about the different stations. Each one is slightly different in the materials used for the floor, column dressings, and seating. The most colorful station is the one just north of the Cahuenga Pass at Universal City. The entire station is done in vibrant mexican style tiles. Some tiles are huge. They are images of historical people, and they tell a story. Along the track in the Hollywood and Vine station, the poured concrete walls have molded into their design, a continuous old style sprocketed film strip, painted a muted azure blue. At the Hollywood and Western station, the support columns are covered in maze of multicolored six inch square tiles. Even the designs and patterns in the floors using various materials are different at each stop. The North Hollywood station has the most interesting displays of local history done in tile on the walls of the kiosk area, such as this tile mural of Amelia Earhart. However, to me the station is spoiled by huge, floor to ceiling McDonald’s advertising. surrounding the columns in the shape of huge carpenters biscuits.

As I pass through the Court of Flags plaza today, I take the time to count how many flags are there. There are 19 poles, but one flag is missing. The Liberty Tree Flag from 1775. As I approach the rear of the court building, I can tell I am very late because there are no cameramen waiting on the railing. As I pass through the 9th floor security and round the corner, virtually no one is in the hallway. Everyone is inside already. It’s now that I realize that court must start at 9:30 am instead of 10 like I had assumed. The prosecution’s male clerk leaves the courtroom and I ask him if there are any public seats left. He doesn’t know. When I try the door it is locked, but the deputy just inside opens it. There is a suited woman beside me, being somewhat forceful with the deputy claiming to be a defense attorney and wanting to “just look inside” the courtroom. As he’s deciding how to respond to her, I politely ask the deputy if there are any public seats left. He says there is one seat left. My hope is rising. The deputy lets me inside, pointing to the seat I can take.

The Judge is already on the bench speaking to the jury. The courtroom is packed today with almost a third more media/public than there was last Thursday. Lots of new faces that I had never seen before. The Judge is talking to the jury about the 48 Hours show that aired on Saturday, and that the prosecutor in that case (about the execution style killing of Mickey Thompson and his wife) was Alan Jackson.

Judge: Did anyone happen to see it?

There’s no response from the jury.

Judge: Well, so much for their ratings.

Small amount of laughter erupts from the courtroom. The judge then instructs the jury that they are in recess until Wednesday, explaining again that court would be closed tomorrow due to the demonstrations that would be occurring in downtown LA. I’m trying to find out what’s wrong. Why no testimony today? The jury exits the courtroom, filing back into the jury room.

One of the massive bodyguards in the row of seats against the wall behind me sees that I have a note pad and motions and points to my pad, asking for a sheet of paper. I’m thinking I better give him one. He hands it to the slender man beside him who starts to write something down.

There is a matter before the court. It has to do with two defense witnesses who appear to have spoken with the media about this case. The two witnesses are Dr. Wecht and Dr. Lee. In Dr. Lee’s case, there is some question as to whether or not he did, but in Wecht’s case, there is no question that he did. The Judge says, “I’m ordering all parties to notify their witnesses not to discuss the case.” And the Judge goes onto talk about sanctions by the court if they don’t comply.

Mr. Jackson then brings up a motion (motions?) that he is filing under seal, (from the public) and it appears the defense either has an objection to that or some other concern about it, or maybe their own motion filings and can they file under seal. The Judge indicated that it can be filed under seal, but he will make the final determination as to whether or not it remains under seal. It will stay under seal until he reviews it.

I finally dawns on me why there’s no testimony. At the defense table, there’s no Bruce Cutler. Why is he missing? Is it like the Blake case, and there was a family emergency or death? Is this some sort of tactic that mob lawyers usually pull? The sheriff’s call out for everyone in the gallery to remain seated, and the jury emerges from the jury room, and files past everyone for the front door to exit the courtroom. I hear some mumbling that Wednesday may also be a no court day also, if Cutler is still out. After the jury leaves, and the judge finally leaves the bench, everyone starts gathering their things and filing out. Since I’m standing right at the door, waiting for those beside me to get up so I can exit also, Dominick Dunne walks by. He sees me and gives me a smile and a hello.

Outside the courtroom, I finally get a full on look at Alan Jackson up close when he emerges from the courtroom. Many of the poster’s comments here are accurate. He is handsome. As he passes, a reporter asks him if the public liaisons office will know if court might be delayed again on Wednesday. Alan tells him that he doesn't know. Check with the court. The reporters are all waiting outside for the rest of Spector’s defense team to emerge, because they're hoping they will find out what’s wrong with Cutler. Several of the reporters speculate. One wonders if he got tennis elbow at the polo lounge. Steven is advising a new reporter on the restaurants close by where he can get a decent lunch, and is also trying to remember if Cutler ever mentioned (in his book I’m assuming) a health issue. Nothing is coming to his mind except possibly high blood pressure. As he heads for the elevators I imagine he will be doing a lot of research trying to see if he can find something out. Spector emerges from the courtroom. He is wearing another one of those calf length long coats, with his hands clasped in front of him. He is supported at the elbow on his left by his wife, Rachelle Short and on the other by a bodyguard who tells us to “watch out” so that they can pass, clearing the way. As he is led, Spector stares, zombie like, straight ahead.

I see several reporters exchange business cards. It’s now that I finally see Dawna, sitting on a bench. But I don’t recognize her. Russ tells me that court starts at 9:30 am, and they should have known something was up because they let them into the courtroom earlier that usual. Rosen emerges from the courtroom, and he says to the mass of reporters, “He has an appointment with a doctor today.” And that’s all he will say. Rosen and the AP reporter exchange smiles and pleasantries, and he leans in to give her a kiss on the cheek. One reporter fires questions at him one after another. Was he in the hospital? etc. Rosen appears to get a bit irritated with this and fires back in a loud voice, “Frankly, it’s none of my business and it’s none of your business.” Then he has a big smile on his face and it’s clear that’s all he’s going to say. I overhear the AP reporter kind of whisper low to another reporter, “I think I can find out.”

The reporters are shuffling about, almost like all the air has been let out of their balloons. Everyone is looking at everyone else, and I can visualize everyone wondering, what story am I going to be forced to work on today? (For me, it will be laundry and gardening.) I listen while the AP reporter and a handsome reporter I’ve never seen before, talk about the “lesser included” charges. (I later find out this is Joe Dominick.) Could the jury settle on one of those? From something that I read here on the forum, I was under the impression that the Judge had already ruled that the state was limited to second degree murder. So, I say, “No.” But at the same time, the AP reporter is nodding her head saying yes. I shut up. I’m thinking I probably don’t know what I’m talking about. The handsome reporter wonders if it could actually be involuntary manslaughter, and the AP reporter says, that there are several attorney’s around town that believe that should be the charge.

As I head toward the exit, Dawna says hello to me, and it’s then that I recognize her. Over the weekend she got virtually all her hair cut off and is sporting a very new look. She looks so different with a short, almost pixie type haircut. I repeat to Dawna what I overheard the AP reporter say, and my thought that the only charge allowed was the second degree charge. Didn’t the Judge rule on that? Dawna says, “Today?” I reply, “No. In earlier rulings.” She’s puzzled, because she doesn’t think the Judge made a ruling like I think he did. She seemed to think though, that the AP reporter would really know the case.

Dawna points out to me the famous writer Joe Dominick, who wrote that great piece in Los Angeles Magazine, and we ride down on the elevator with him. Dawna and I tell Joe about how limited the Court TV coverage is, (they often repeat the same scene, over and over) and there’s actually more on Court TV Extra, available online. But even that coverave isn't everything that goes on at trial. When we reach the first floor, we say our good-byes until Wednesday.

I finally take the time to use the stairs down to the Red Line. Consequently, I miss a train by about 5 seconds and have to wait about 15 minutes for the next one.

I hope you enjoyed my trial notes for today. Please understand that my notes should not be used in place of a more exact transcript of the trial. Although I tried to be as accurate as possible when I was quoting someone, I’m sure you will find some statements that do not exactly match Court TV’s Extra coverage.