Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Trial Notes, 5-23-07

It’s almost 9:15 am. There is not one recognizable soul in the hallway. So, I'm wondering if they started early. Inside the courtroom, I only see Court TV reporters Harriet Ryan and another whose name I don't know. The defense attorneys are here, but not the prosecution. Another case is having a hearing in Fidler’s court. Slowly, some reporters start to show up. Steve Dunleavy, Steven from LA Weekly, and David K. Li. Russ arrives with Alan P. from the court’s public relations office. It’s 9:20, and the courtroom is virtually empty. Lana’s mother, sister and attorney arrive. Plourd, Rosen and Linda Kenney Baden are here. Everyone is waiting to see if Robert Shapiro shows up today and will be put on the stand. David K. Li asks if Linda Kenney Baden’s name is written with a hyphen or without a hyphen. Alan says, “I’m the Public Information Officer. I can provide that.” It’s determined there is no hyphen in her last name.

Brunon arrives. I’m wondering if the prosecutors are still with Shapiro. Everyone is expecting him. Steve Dunleavy, the famous New York Post reporter is admiring the shine on David K. Li’s shoes. “That’s one hell-of-a shine,” he says. “I can see my face in it.” Patrick Dixon finally enters the courtroom. The LA Times reporter Peter Y. Hong arrives as well as the prosecutor’s clerk who controls all their photo and document exhibits on the Elmo.

9:30 am.
No Alan Jackson. No Judge. Sara Caplan arrives. The tall black haired attorney for Lana’s family arrives. Linda Deutch finally slips into the courtroom. Russ, Steve Dunleavy, Steve Mikulan and another reporter all kvetch a bit. Rosen and LKB are in deep conversation. A gentleman I’ve seen before chats with the attorneys on both sides and now is chatting with LKB.

The prosecutions case file (it’s transported into court each day on a rolling cart, usually by Ed) finally gets here, and Ed goes through a few items. Sara Caplan and Linda Deutch chat a bit now. Cutler arrives along with the young bald Asian prosecutor we saw a few days ago. Ah, the gray suited man with stark white hair is Sara Caplan’s attorney. The judge is finally on the bench.

The defense is trying to get some sort of discovery issues. They are stating that the prosecution has stuff they’ve not received. Now I have some notes that I am having a hard time deciphering.

After discussing how we should do this, asked his boss Doyle to speak with Captain Kyle Jackson; to the Robbery Homicide Division and what they needed and how to proceed. Maybe I can figure this out later.

The defense is now asking for anything the prosecution has from Bill Pavelic. Something about an e-mail from Pavelic to an “E. Wiley.” And that’s it.

The defense makes a motion to object to the entire proceedings. The Judge responds that his role is to safeguard the process, to ensure that nothing improper occurs. The judge cites a case to support his ruling. Jackson gets Caplan kicked from the courtroom for a moment. The judge reads the ruling. “That’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m taking action.

Sara Caplan takes the stand again. Her attorney sits in the jury box, and Rosen is asking the questions. She states she had worked on cases with Dr. Lee before. From what she recalls, about three or four times. “It didn’t look like what was in those vials.” Now, with the way Rosen is asking the questions, he’s implying that the white particles on the floor... trying to imply that the white particles might be the falling down ceiling.

Now Alan Jackson asks her a question.

A: The object I saw on the ground was not cotton swabs.

Then the judge says he has some questions for Ms. Caplan. The judge is looking over a transcript of her prior testimony and reads it back to her.

Q: Why are you changing your testimony? Did you see Henry Lee pick something up and put it in a vial?

A: Yes.

I think there is one more question or two and then Alan Jackson gets up to present arguments to their position. One of his most memorable statements is, “Is Dr. Lee lying or is he incompetent? Which is it?”

When Alan Jackson finishes, Chris Plourd gets up to argue the defense position. Plourd argues about the number of criminalist at the crime scene. That “piece” definitely not there when those criminalists were there. It was not Sara Caplan’s responsibility to observe or supervise Dr. Lee. “There’s no evidence that Sara Caplan watched Dr. Lee’s testimony on TV. They (the prosecution) clearly lost something. There’s no evidence that the defense lost anything.” Plourd keeps using the phrase over and over again, “Dr. Lee testified to....” He tried to say there’s no clear evidence something was picked up. Then Brunon gets up to speak. “From a legal point of view, the whole issue has been speculative,” he says. “Mr. Jackson says his case is damaged. We ask, in what way?” Brunon says, “Suppose Dr. Lee did pick something up and do lose it. Again, how does that specifically hurt their case?

Patrick Dixon jumps up, and he appears really upset in his tone. “It goes right to the heart of this case your honor!”

The judge is ready to rule. The complete transcript of that ruling can be found here. And for those who missed it, Judge Fidler ruled that Dr. Henry Lee was not credible, and that Sara Caplan's testimony was the most credible. He also states that the people can call any witnesses who testified at this hearing to impeach the testimony of Dr. Lee.

It’s 1:05 pm. Lunch is almost over. Spector and his wife and bodyguards arrive and go into the courtroom. They immediately exit the courtroom, and head down towards the other end of the hallway. I’ve heard that the court has given them a room that they can gather in to conference. There is a group of six new trial watchers waiting together in the hall. At first, I thought they were here for another trial, but after seeing them speak to one of the court public liaison's staff, I’m pretty sure it’s a good bet these individuals are part of some sort of production company. I can just tell by the way they look and are interacting with each other. Besides, why would a group of people coming down to court, contact the court’s public liaison office? Cutler arrives and enters the courtroom.

There’s a mass of people waiting butt not so many that I won’t get in. My thought is more about getting my same bench seat. A deputy approaches who is packing double heat. Steven says, “Two guns! Boy! Is he ready for trial!”

1:28 pm. Everyone is almost here, waiting to get into court. A woman with a juror badge is looking for Eric Leonard, and was asking some of the other reporters if he’s around. She’s a fan, and wanted to try to see him. One of the Court TV cameramen explains gives the woman a description of what Eric looks like, and that Eric is probably in the media room on the 12th floor. Linda Deutch arrives, and Dominick Dunne is here.

1:35 pm. The Judge finally takes the bench. A new witness takes the stand, and I notice that Patrick Dixon is chewing gum. Steven whispers to me, “In his twenty five hundred dollar suit.”

The next witness is David Ridgs, and he’s a paramedic-firefighter for the Alhambra Fire Department. Alan Jackson conducts the direct examination. The witness talks about his training and explains that an EMT paramedic has more training than an EMT1, 2, or 3. When it comes to declaring death, the witness testifies that the pronouncement can only come from an MD. However, a paramedic can make a determination of death, and that happens through an assessment of the four basic life functions.

Ridgs testifies that they are on shift for 24 hours, and that he started at 8 am the prior day. Ridgs and his partner got the call out and stopped at the staging area. Staging areas are usually used in regards to crew safety. They staged at Grandview and Norwood, and that it wasn’t “out of the ordinary” to stage at a death scene.

1:45 pm Beth Karas comes into the courtroom. This is around the time she usually comes in for the afternoon session, after she’s finished giving on air commentaries. The jury is alert and watching the witness. The witness says they arrived at the staging scene around 6:05 to 6:10 am. The paramedics initially met with police officers at the gate and then at the north side of the address. The witnesses understanding of the initial call was that there were shots fired and there may be a shooting victim. In his career, the witness testified that he made maybe twenty or more death determinations.

I see Alan Jackson lean into Lana’s mother and whisper to her. This is something that I see a lot in the days ahead. Mr. Jackson will let Lana’s mother know when photo’s of her daughter’s body are up on the screen, so she can avert her eyes. There’s a close up of Lana’s face on the Elmo. Her head is slumped to her left. There are close up photos now of Lana’s right side, and the witness is asked about blood on Lana's left side.

A: No significant amount of blood on (Lana’s) left side.

Q: Did there appear to be any more on her right?

A: Yes. (snip) The majority of blood was on the patient’s right side even though she was leaning to the left.

Q: Did you notice the blood on her chest?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you check for vital signs?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you check the carotid?

A: Yes. (snip) If I recall, I checked the carotid pulse on the right; the exposed side.

The witness testifies that he manipulated the victims head to check her airway. Lana’s mother has a tissue to her face. She’s looking down. She doesn’t look up. She now hold the tissue in her hands, looking down. Something comes over me, watching Lana’s mother. It’s an overwhelming sense of sadness I feel for her.

The witness testifies that he looked for a gun shot wound, but the officer at the scene asked him to keep the (movement of her body) to a minimum. The coroner would determine cause of death, once he got there. Using a heart monitor, the witness attached patches to determine if he could see a heart rhythm. He couldn’t find one. Lana had been dead enough time for a determination at 6:25 am.

Direct testimony ends, and Linda Kenney Baden will conduct the cross.

The witness is asked who he saw in the foyer area. He saw six people.

Q: Were you ever asked to diagram the area?

A: No.

Q: Did yo know any of the six people? (I think there might have been a photo up on the Elmo that the witness was asked to look at; not sure.)

A: No.

Q: Did yo you see any of these (six people) wearing gloves?

A: I can’t remember.

Q: Even though you told the police off they could preserve the scene, they could do (that) without you?

A: That’s correct.

Q: There is going to be some disturbance of the scene? (Regarding his handling of the body to determine if the victim is dead.)

A: That’s correct. (snip) We were advised by our captain that shots were fired.

More detailed questions are asked.

Q: You could not find a gun shot wound?

A: That’s correct.

Q: Why did you make these notes?

A: My captain, Mark Lingle, said this might be a crime scene.

LKB is now crossing the witness with his interview with detectives. Images of the lower steps are put up on the Elmo. The step! I can see the wood of the first step! There isn’t any “gouge” in it like Dr. Lee claims. At least, from this angle of the photo, I’m not seeing a “gouge.” My back is killing me! These court benches with be what eventually wrecks my body. My low back is aching terribly, and I try to stretch it out while I am sitting.

More photos of Lana dead in the chair she was sitting in.

Q: Who asked you to leave those patches there?

A: A police officer who was photographing (the scene).

The witness now reviews a report. Now, with these next rapid fire questions, LKB is trying to say that in his exam, he moved her head to where it was in the photographs, and it was his manipulation that smeared the blood. In the images, I’m noticing, one of the patches to the the heard has a blood smear from where the patch was.

The witness says that he’s not experienced in microscopic blood flow.

Q: Did you ever see any of the foyer officers again?

A: I could have. I don’t remember.

LKB asks if he saw the tazer leads, and the witness replies that he only remembers seeing the leads themselves.

Q: Did anyone explain to you (what happened) before you arrived?

A: No.

Q: Did anyone explain to you that there had been an altercation?

A: No.

Q: Did you have any other interviews besides the one in March, 2007?

A: Not that I recall.

Redirect of the witness. The prosecutor gets the witness to say that the images of Lana up on the screen are exactly how he found her when she first arrived. Mr. Jackson gets the witness to make it clear, that at the time of his interview with detectives, he didn’t have access to those photographs to refresh his memory.

Recross of the witness. There are more questions regarding the prior statement that Lana’s chin was resting in the “center of the chest,” and if he had ever seen a tazer lead under a shoe at the crime scene before.

The judge finally calls the afternoon break. The famous law professor, Stan Goldman, is in the courtromm talking to Beth Karas, Harriet Ryan and other Court TV people in the room. I listen in as best I can and scribble some notes. They are discussing the legality of the Dr. Henry Lee debacle, entering into another trial in the future. The professor can’t conceive of a situation where that could come in. It’s now that Beth talks to me about what I had observed/overheard between Cutler & Rosen days ago. She tells me, that as long as I am not purposefully trying to invade a private room that the defense is meeting in, anything that I observed or overhear here in the courtroom I can write about. That’s what I had thought.

Spector sits at the defense table. The chair is turned around 180 degrees from the defense table, and he appears to be staring at the floor. His wife is on the first bench, attending to some items in her purse. Spector yawns. His hands are clasped, and they’re shaking slightly. It appears to be a blank stare on his face, and then he yawns again.

3:10 pm Break is over. I overheard Steve Dunleavy recounting the story where Spector attacked him. Dunleavy repeats Spector’s statement to him, “I’ll kill you!” with the ‘karate’ type movements directed towards him, and the threatening message Spector left on his answering machine days later. Spector had purposefully shoved into Dunleavy with his shoulder, and in response to that, Dunleavy punched him in the nose!

The next witness is called. Peneda Rodrigeuz? Do I have that right? Esther is her first name. Peneda is her married name, Rodriguez was her maiden name I think. I do not note who does the direct examination of this witness, but I think it's Patrick Dixon. She was a detective and assigned a regular type car, not a black and white. She heard the radio traffic and telephoned the watch commander that she was in route.

Q: This was a serious crime in your city and you needed to be involved.

A: That’s correct.

She identifies the residence via images up on the overhead screen. She notified her supervisor after arriving at the scene. Sergeant Santana (sp?) authorized that a GSR kit should be utilized at the scene. She performed the GSR test kit on Adriano DeSouza, and then drove DeSouza to the police station. The officer explains the training she received for performing the GSR test. (Now my notes are not clear as to whether or not she performed the GSR test on DeSouza at the scene, or at the police station.) She then describes her procedures for performing the test, then booked the test into evidence.

The direct examination is done, and Linda Kenney Baden will cross the witness. The witness testifies that yes, she filed a report regarding everything she did.

Q: In fact, you made an assumption it was a crime scene.

A: That’s correct.

Q: In the reports you drafted on February 3rd and February 7th, you called the address a crime scene?

A: Yes.

Linda Kenney Baden paces a bit. LKB asks if she did anything else at the scene. She spoke to DeSouza at the scene, and was making inquiries about the scene with the other officers present. There are a few more questions, asking the witness if she spoke with the EMT, etc.

Cross is finished, and redirect begins.

The witness is asked why she thought it was a crime scene, and she explains. Redirect is finished, and LKB recrosses the witness again.

Q: Was that the only reason? Because you had talked to DeSouza, is that correct?

A: That’s correct.

And this witness is excused for the time being.

I don’t have any more notes in my book, but I do specifically remember out on the street, as I was waiting for the light to cross, I turned to one of the group of six people who I thought were from a production crew, and asked why did they decide to come to court today. The man replied, “Just thought we’d come down and watch the trial.” Steven was walking with me, because I remember saying, “Well, there’s more to that story....” and we both had a chuckle.