Thursday, July 5, 2007

Trial Notes, 6-18-07

I catch a 7:55 am Orange Line bus. As I wait, I'm hoping I can just make the 8:19 Red Line train. That would put me on the 9th floor right before 9:00 am, and I won't miss the start of today's proceedings. They are starting early to continue with the Sara Caplan issue again. Even getting out of bed at 6:00 am, there doesn't seem to be enough time to feed the kitties, take a shower, do my morning chores, get my clothes ready for court and finally, fix breakfast and pack a lunch. Normally my husband is the cook for most meals, but today he was running late, and I had to add that to my to do list.

I make the 8:19 am train. There's another bicyclist in my car. This time, it's a gray haired man with a moustache and a red helmet that matches his bike. It's very stuffy in this car, and I wonder if the air conditioning is working properly or not.

Many have been upset that it has taken so long for Spector to go to trial and attribute it to him having money and switching attorneys. That is only part of the answer. I recently found out that defendants who are incarcerated are on a faster track to trial. That's just the priority they get. Since Spector has been out on bond, his trial has been on a slower track. Spector is charged with second degree murder, and he was granted bail. Supposedly, he did have to put up one million bond to keep out of jail. I notice a man on the trian. Mike Nifong has been in the news quite a bit lately since he was disbarred, and this man could pass for his brother, if not Nifong himself.

I get to court just in time for the proceedings. Ciran and Steven and Mr. Dunne and I all sit in the same place. A new face, a man, is sitting with the family in between Ms. Clarkson and her daughter. We all wonder if this is a family member, or another one of the legal team. The reporter Michelle is finally back from having to literally sit in the women's jail and wait for Paris Hilton news. Mr. Dunne is quite happy to see her and they catch up. Linda Deutsch comes over to talk to Dominick about a cocktail party he went to for Paris Hilton's father. Since I am sitting in between them, I ask them if they would like me to move while they talk, but they both indicate that it's fine, just stay.

A motion is presented by the defense to squash a new search warrant of Spector's castle, (it's supposedly to just take measurements of the foyer) but I believe it fails. I don't have it in my notes what happens. Mr. Dunne whispers to me what he thinks of Linda Kenney Badens hair. Rosen asks if they can all approach the bench. Linda Deutsch asks Dominick if there's any truth to Barbra Walters possibly hiring Paris Hilton for her ABC show, The View. Supposedly, in some circles this is being speculated. According to Mr. Dunne (who spoke to Ms. Walters at this party), Barbra will interview her, but that's all. I see Spector and Cutler talk, like they do every morning before court starts. I ask Michelle about her wrists. She says they are a bit better because she didn't have much writing to do sitting down at the jail. The chatter in the gallery gets pretty loud and the Judge yells out and admonishes all of us that the court reporter can't hear (what's being discussed at the bench).

Over the weekend, Beth Karas took Mr. Dunne to see Lana's house. Brunon is sitting at the end of the defense table, looking like (to me) he has nothing to do. Linda Kenney Baden and Rosen are still at the bench with Jackson and Dixon. Plourd is sitting off by himself, set back behind the defense table at a chair in front of the bailiff. A slew of very young looking, professionally dressed people enter. It looks like these are more interns with the DA's office. From what I can see of his face, Cutler appears to be very empathetic in his conversation with Spector.

Now all the attorneys proceed into chambers. Rosen, Brunon, Jackson, Dixon, and Caplan's two attorneys Nassiter and Weberman. It's 9:25 am, and Mr. Dunne thinks they came to an agreeent about Ms. Caplan testifying. I observe Spector being quite a bit animated talking to Cutler. Mr. Dunne shares with me his thoughts on why he thinks Cutler is still at the defense table. Ron and Richard are here today, and they ask me who I write for. I tell them I am just a public person like them attending the trial, and writing about my court room experiences on the Internet. They ask for the web address of this blog. Mr. Dunne then asks me to write down the url address for him, too, and I write it in his little book for him.

A woman with stark white hair comes into court accompanied by a woman with short blond hair. Richard and Ron tell us this is the Asian transsexual, an occasional guest on the Court TV shows who used to be a man. Mr. Dunne says he's been on television with her, but doesn't know her name. Richard and Ron said they've seen her try a case when she was a man. The blonde who is sitting with the Asian transsexual comes over and shakes hands with Richard and Ron.

Plourd and Weberman come back in. Rosen, Brunon and Plourd chat. From what I can make of my notes, there was an informal discussion to see if a stipulation regarding Sara Caplan could be agreed to. The offer was not accepted by the defense, so the Judge says that we will proceed with the contempt hearing at 1:30 pm. Oh my gosh! No agreement. Ms. Caplan will be held in contempt! Mr. Dunne wants to leave the courtroom quickly to phone his editor, but he's afraid that he won't be let back into the courtroom. So, he stays.

James Carroll, the prosecution's firearms expert, is back on cross by Linda Kenney Baden. Ms. Baden asks if the shotgun found in the residence is a "riot gun," and Mr. Carroll says he would have to check his notes.

A: It's a name stamped on the gun by the manufacturer.

A juror in the front row takes notes. Richard passes a note to Mr. Dunne about the Asian woman. The defense attorney on the Wodman Trial about ten years ago used to be a man.

Q: You did not test the gun for pressure curve?

A: I don't have the capability to do that.

A juror in the front row has their arms crossed, and the juror right next to them is picking their nails. One juror in the back row is looking down, and the juror next to them is watching the witness then the attorney; back and forth. Another juror in the top row is doing the same thing, watching the witness, then back to the attorney. Another juror in the back row looks out over at the gallery. Another juror appears a bit jittery, moving about in their chair.

Mr. Carroll testifies that, "I would consider it dangerous to put your finger on the trigger unless, you're intending to fire."

The same juror with crossed arms still has them crossed. The juror next to them is taking lots of notes. A juror in the back row has their hand on their face, while another juror rubs their face. Another juror yawns and readjusts themselves in their seat. After seeing the juror yawn, I yawn too, by reflex. Earlier, Mr. Dunne asked me what I was observing in the courtroom, and I pointed out that a young child was sitting in the back row with the prosecution's clerk, Ed, and I was wondering who it was. One of the reporters says, "Hey kid!" And the rest of us stifle our laughter.

There are more questions about sound tests and how they were performed. I shake my head. All this detail about the number of shots with other ammunition, and where the witness was standing in relation to the back door when he test fired a similar weapon. Now they are going over which detectives were at the scene when the witness did his tests. Linda Kenney Baden paces at the podium.

Q: What was the forensic question you were trying to answer?

A: Where was the firearm in relation to Ms. Clarkson.

Linda Kenney Baden was trying to get the witness to say that Dr. Herold influenced his conclusions and he won't say that.

Q: How did the powder wound get on Lana Clarkson's face?

A: That was the question. How did particles get inside her face because there were no stippling marks.

A very child like drawing or diagram is up on the Elmo, which is part or this witnesses' notes. The witness explains that this was just his attempt at working through the questions he was trying to answer. The jurors appear a bit restless. One juror is leaning forward with their hand on their chin, then quickly takes a note. Another juror in the back row takes a note. A juror in the front row yawns. Another juror in the back row is resting their hand on their face. A juror in the front row has their arms crossed in front of their chest, and one of the alternates removes their glasses and rubs their face. Mr. Dunne and Michelle exchange a note.

The witness refers to his notes to try to answer a question about discussing with Dr. Sherry about the bullet splitting into fragments. From my notes it's not really clear, but I believe the criminalist was trying to determine if the gun was in alignment.

Two jurors are leaning back in the chairs in the back row. An alternate scratches their head while another alternate yawns. More interns from (I think) the DA's office enter the courtroom after the last batch left. Two jurors in the back row take notes. I finally get a peek at the face of juror #2. From where I've been sitting before, I could barely see him. The Asian attorney and her friend leave the courtroom.

Since I find the cross of this witness exceptionally boring, I watch the jurors and take notes. A juror picks at their nails, and another has their arms crossed. The juror next to arms crossed takes several notes. Two alternates are leaning forward in their seats. Linda Kenney Baden is asking detail after detail question about the witnesses notes for testing the thumb lock. She's really hammering him now about something in his notes. It's something that's in his notes. He finally finds what she's looking for. "Frantically trying to leave." The witness explains that the note is a question posted to him and not his thought. The witness states that he couldn't determine anything from the thumb latch because he didn't have the shaft. Linda Kenny Baden in her questions and her tone, is trying to make that a big deal. Now Ms. Baden is going over in detail, anything that he didn't write down in his notes when he casually spoke with Dr. Herold about the gun gasses and pressure (inside the mouth).

A juror in the back row is rocking in their chair back and forth. Cross is finished, and Alan Jackson conducts the redirect of this witness. The "plane of the face" is reclarified by Mr. Jackson. "It's not the back of the throat. The target is from the lips." (I'm not really understanding my note that I wrote, but there it is.) A juror in the front row takes a note. Jackson reverifies that the tests performed inside the house were for sound only and not to recreate the shooting event.

Q: Did any of the discussions you had with any of the other people you discussed the case with, Dr. Herold or anyone else, change your opinion?

A: No.

The witness is not at all concerned if his opinion is liked or not. He applies scientific principles to perform tests and come to a conclusion. The witness testifies about the recoil of the gun and that it is a backward and upward physics reaction. The recoil and muzzle flip caused the contact with Ms. Clarkson's teeth. Mr. Jackson is getting the witness to agree that when Ms. Baden talked about muzzle pressure and other pressures, it was inaccurate. The 17,000 psi is for chamber pressure for 38 special ammunition. Mr. Jackson goes over "the law of motion" and the gas pressure at different points in the barrel. About the bullet the witness replies, "Once it leaves the barrel, it is not like a jet. It is no longer propelled. It's under flight. (snip) Once the bullet left the barrel of the gun, everything is different."

Now Mr. Jackson is going over the thumb latch again.

Q: You're also a tool mark expert?

A: Yes. (I'm a) Member of the Association of Fire Arms and Tool Mark Analysts.

Q: You were asked two different disparate possibilities and whether or not there were any marks that determined that one way or another. There didn't appear to be anything wrong with the set screw?

A: No.

Q: Did there appear to be anything wrong with the the thumb lock?

A: No, there did not.

Redirect ends and Ms. Baden's recross begins.

Q: Do you know how old the lock was?

A: No, I do not.

Q: Do you know if it had been loose from normal wear and tear?

A: No, I don't know the history of this thumb lock.

His ultimate conclusion is, the gun was in the mouth. The Judge even leans forward with a puzzled expression on his face when Linda Kenney Baden asks about the "heats" of the gun, and she spells it for the witness.

Judge: Heats of the gun?

The Judge has his hands clasped in front of his face.

Recross ends and Mr. Jackson's redirect begins.

Q: And those forces, they're happening inside the gun, correct?

A: Yes. The gun and the barrel.

I don't have it in my notes, but it appears that they are finished with this witness, the break is called. The attorneys are going over the rant by Bill Pavelic that's on his blog. The Judge says he's never received a copy of this "open letter" directly from Mr. Pavelic. "Pavelic's allegations are unsworn and unsupported and his memo is an unsworn statement. If you want a hearing on it, the Judge says."

At the break, I try to peer into the jury box to see which jurors have more than one notebook. It appeared to me that #7 was on their fourth notebook. There were also notebooks on the floor between jurors #1 and #2, but I couldn't see which juror they belonged to. Michelle and Mr. Dunne discuss Bill Pavelic and his role in the O.J. Simpson case. From what I'm understanding of the conversation, Pavelic may have disposed of a tape recording.

The next witness on the stand is Steve Dowell, and Mr. Dixon will perform the direct examination. I've seen Steve Dowell testify before in the Robert Blake case. Mr. Dowell is a criminalist with the coroner's office, and he testifies to his credentials. He's reviewed over 7,000 cases for gunshot residue (GSR). He also holds a specialty in tool marks and biological materials. Mr. Dowell states that he knew Dr. Herold from her ten years at the coroner's office. She made a lateral move and now she's at the Sheriff's Office.

Q: You were one of the few who did not go to the crime scene.

A: That's correct. I did not go to the scene.

Mr. Dowell has been with the coroner's office for 27 years. He looked at and analyzed the GSR test (from Ms. Clarkson's hands). GSR is a family of particles: lead, barium, antimony. Dowell goes on to explain the difference between "highly specific" particles (those that contain all three elements) and particles "consistent with" GSR (those that contain one or even two of the elements combined). Lead can come from GSR or it can come from a hobby. Mr. Dowell explains how the GSR test is performed using a demo kit for the jury. The GSR kit that was used to collect GSR from Ms. Clarkson was kit# B6305. Anything having to do with the body, the coroner's office will do the investigation. The kit from Ms. Clarkson's test is marked into evidence.

Q: What did you do with it (the kit)?

A: Since the particles are microscopic, an electron microscope is used in conjunction with a scanning micrometer. An automated search is set up. The machine looks on the sample and then looks for the particles on the test kit. (snip) The decedent either fired a gun or had her hands in the general area. She either fired a weapon or had her hands near one.

Q: There's no scientific way to tell?

A: There is not. (snip) On live individuals, you have an opportunity to remove particles. Any activity on the hands has the ability to remove particles.

Mr. Dowell attended a portion of the autopsy. He entered sometime after the autopsy started. It was Dr. Pena who asked him to come down to receive tissue to analyze for GSR. His principle responsibility is to analyze material to help understand the case. A juror in the back row is really leaning forward and watching Mr. Dixon and the witness. Mr. Dowell used a new GSR kit (#B6797) to test a section of the tongue (the left side) where he found many consistent particles of GSR. He tried to test another area for a control, an outer part of the tongue, and he came up with the same result; many consistent particles.

Dixon turns to Lana's mother to warn her of upcoming photographs. There are four images up on the Elmo now, all of Ms. Clarkson's tongue. The images show the stelate wound and areas of damage that the witness states is consistent with gun powder. Lana's sister stares straight ahead. My notes are not clear, but it appears direct is finished soon after this and Linda Kenney Baden gets up to cross this witness.

A few initial questions are asked of the witness, and I watch a juror take a note right as the stelate wound on the tongue is being discussed. Right after that, the noon recess is called. You can read a short entry about my lunch with Mr. Dunne and what happened at Ms. Caplan's hearing outside the presence of the jury in this prior entry.

After lunch, waiting in the hallway for court to resume, Mr. Dunne reads a paper and I go over my notes. Mr. Dunne sees there is an article about Sheriff Baca, where it mentions that he's a Scientologist. My opinion of Scientology is, how can you respect a religion that was thought up on a whim by a science fiction writer? The hallway is full of potential jurors for the other courtrooms at this end of the hall. I see an older gentleman in the hallway who I spoke to several times at the Robert Blake trial. He's come to this trial several times already and I make a point to say hello.

As Sara Caplan's attorney Mr. Nassier walks by, I think it was Ron who asks him, "Did you tell her to hit the road?" Nassiter replies, "Yes! That's exactly what I did!" Mr. Nassiter laughs, and then says, "Are you tape recording this?" Mr. Dunne, Ron, Richard and I all laugh. Mr. Dunne says, "That was funny," and then everyone talks about the attorney with the sex change who stopped by to watch some of the trial. I'm wondering if she was here because she was interviewed on Court TV for a legal opinion about the trial.

1:28pm, we are finally let back into the courtroom. The little girl is back in the courtroom. I note that Rachelle is wearing glasses today. Beth Karas has on this simply adorable lilac jacket. I read on another blog that she knits and makes her own matching necklaces. I find out over a week later that it's her friend who makes the jewelry for her. Sara Caplan has changed clothes. She's replaced the very unflattering peach color suit for a black suit. I almost forget to shut off my phone. It makes a ton of noise shutting down, and Mr. Dunne, the prankster, points his finger at me laughing saying, "It's her! It's her!" Trying to get the attention of the bailiff. There is a man with a mass of white hair dressed very casually who is sitting beside Rachelle. He was here for the morning session also. The Judge makes a citation according to a different case on how this is to proceed. Mr. Nassiter makes on last bid to not have Ms. Caplan held in contempt of court. Spector is leaning forward, intently watching Sara Caplan. During the whole process, the courtroom is very quiet, and Ms. Caplan is on the verge of breaking down. She's about to cry. Now she's crying. She's sobbing on the stand.

When the whole process is over, Beth Karas tells us the little girl is the daughter of Rick Campo, one of the ADA's. At first, I thought this little girl was Caplan's daughter, and the family attorney turned and said something to the effect that, that would have been terrible to have had her daughter here, for this contempt hearing. Michelle remember's Ms. Caplan being pregnant after the O.J. Simpson case, so her daughter would be about 11 years old, and a bit older than the child who was in court today.

The reporters think that after the appeal hearing Judge Fidler will put her in jail. Apparently, under the California Civil code, Judge Fidler can hold her for up to eighteen months on a contempt charge.

2:05 pm, the jury is called back into the court room. The cross of Steve Dowell continues by Linda Kenney Baden. Ms. Baden goes over the stelate wound on the tongue again, and that there was some "gun material" on the tissue of the soft pallete that was consistent with gun powder. More testimony on the GSR tests and the witness testifies that he looked at each one as separate samples. The jury is intently watching Mr. Dowell explain where GSR escapes from the gun. Rosen hands Ms. Baden a note.

Q: How do the particles get propelled fourteen feet outwawrd?

Objection! Beyond scope.

Judge: Sustained!

To me, the questions Ms. Baden is asking are geared to get an "I don't know" or an, "I can't answer that" response. The jury appears to be alert. Maybe it is due to the extra long lunch they got today. One of the reporters is of the opinion that an order of contempt is like a black mark on an attorney's record. Another person comment's that they better brush off Paris Hilton's jail cell. Someone else says, "This clown of a defense team called her (Sara) to the stand." I note that, when Ms. Baden raises her voice, she gets very shrill and accusatory in tone.

A juror in the front row has their arms crossed and a juror in the back row watches something in the gallery for a second. Another juror in the back row rubs their neck.

Now Baden is going over the broken vial with the dental material in it.

Q: Even at that meeting, no one admitted to breaking that vial, correct? Because of that, item #10 being missing, we don't have that item, is that correct?

There might have been an objection here, but I don't have it in my notes. I did note that the Judge interputed cross to mention that "both sides" were "repeating and repeating answers. The witness did testify. I head it; the jury heard it." The Judge then admonishes both sides for continuing to repeat questions. Ms. Baden asks the witness about GSR and handwashing. Steve Dowell has done a lot of testing in that area. Regarding highly specific particles, Ms. Baden asks if they possibly exist in break linings.

A: Yes, but also there's a great amount of lead (in those particles).

Q: There are different standardars for finding a test positive (for GSR) correct?

A: There are differences in that the number of particles must come to a certain level, before it can be considered, yes.

Q: The FBI after 2003, doesn't test live persons (do they)?

A: It's not because they don't respect the test. The do not do the analysis for other reasons.

Baden's questions are aimed at the fact that Spector had GSR on him, and going into all the specific ways Spector could have picked up the GSR found on his hands. She keeps trying to insert words into Steve Dowelle's mouth: "easily happen," "regularly transfer." The witness doesn't take the bait and doesn't agree to her leading questions. Each time Ms. Baden uses the words "easily transfer," the prosecution keeps objecting. There it is again, that word "easily." Then the criminalist misspeaks, and uses the word easily himself. Dowell states that the procedure for testing hands is not the same for testing clothing. There isn't a procedure for collecting GSR off of clothing. Cutler is nervously swivelling his chair in a slow back and forth motion. Rachelle is slumped down on the court bench, her arms crossed. Lately, she's adopted this pose for most of her time at court. I note the hair clip that Ms. Baden is using to hold back her hair. It's a plastic clip I would expect to see used in a salon, and not court.

Q: Some agencies have a higher level of particles required (for a positive GSR test). There is no standard in the US, correct?

A: That's correct.

No more questions! The witness is finally finished. The wihte haired man sitting next to Rachelle hugs and kisses Phil Spector. I see Rachelle brushing at Spectors jacket with her hands. When she is finished, she puts her hands back inside her designer suit pants pockets. I have never seen them hold hands at court once. When Spector is led into or out of the court room, she is beside him, holding onto him at his elbow, their arms intertwined. His hands are usually clasped together, with Rachelle on one side, and a bodyguard on the other, almost like they are holding him up. The afternoon break is called and I'm done for this day. I have a chiropractic appointment all the way up in La Crescenta, and I need the extra time to get there. The cushion helped a lot today. As I wait for a train at the Civic Center station, I skim through my notes.