Monday, July 2, 2007

Trial Notes, 6-5-07

On the bus and train, I try to go over my notes from yesterday to fill in the blanks and make remembering easier. At the Wilshire Vermont Station, a man gets on the train with a basket hung from a strap around his neck. He's selling peanuts. "One dollah!" Two stops later, he exits the train.

At 9:20am, I'm on the 9th floor of the criminal court building. Spector and his entourage approach. Spector has changed his look. Along with the tan suit, pinstripe pants, Spector is wearing a tie! Mrs. Clarkson has an unhappy, almost mad expression on her face. Ed from the DA's office shakes her hand and says, "Nice to see you again." I find out today that the reason the photographer changes every day is because the selection is from a pool. Makes total sense now.

Steven Mikulan from the LA Weekly brings his editor, Kate to court today. Kate is more interested in the music aspect of the trial. The attorney's who represent Sara Caplan and Robert Shapiro are before the court. The lousy reporter that I am, I totally miss catching their names when they tell the court. Brunon gets up to speak, saying something to the effect (and I paraphrase), The current defense team is very concerned that firm boundaries are not set. (The defense would want) boundaries to establish ground rules.

Dixon: There's a lot of lawyers over there.

Judge: I'm not intimidated.

It appears Caplan and Shapiro are trying to get out of testifying.

Something else is said by one of the attorneys, and then the Judge says:

Judge: I view this as a potential to breach privilege. We can go in camera.

Right after that, the defense team goes into chambers with the legal counsel for Sara Caplan and Robert Shapiro. It's 10 am. Donna Clarkson chats with her attorneys, and I see her have a rare smile on her face. Steven, Kate and I chat about genius, madness and bipolar disorder. (Kate eventually wrote an article for the LA Weekly about her trial experience.) At 10:10 am, the prosecutors are called into the in camera hearing. Mr. Dunne is still struggling with a deep cough. Once everyone emerges from the Judge's chambers, there is a further delay because the court reporter's computer is not working. Kate gets up to take a quick trip to the restroom. Mr. Dunne motions to me that he would like me to take her seat, and sit by him. I know this will be fine with Kate because she appeared uncomfortable with the coughing.

Earlier, before court started, Ciaran, Dominick and I we discuss how Spector must have treated the witness DeSouza. We talk about how everyone we meet in life, we have to be open to the message that we may receive from someone, no matter how fleeting our crossed paths may be.

Back in the courtroom while we wait for the court reporter to get things working again, Linda Deutsch and Sara Caplan's attorney smile and shake hands. Jackson and Dixon are off to the side in front of the jury box in deep conversation. At 10:25 am, the jury is finally called into the courtroom.

The next witness, #24, is Mark Lillienfeld, and Dixon is on direct examination. He is a detective for the Los Angeles County Sheriff. This is is 27th year working there, and his 16th year as a homicide detective.

Q: How many crime scenes had you visited?

A: Prior to that date I would guess between 300-500.

Detective Lillienfeld went to the scene. He arrived around 2 pm in the afternoon. He was directed to go there by his supervising lieutenant. Sargent Steve Katz his partner, arrived with him. Lillienfeld was assigned to be the lead detective and in charge of the evidence. His responsibilities were to supervise and direct all the people called in to collect evidence.

Photographs are put up on the Elmo of different views of the front entrance. The search for evidence was via a search warrant. There was a camera monitor at the front gate, but it doesn't record anything. It's just hooked up to a TV monitor so the front gate can be viewed from inside the house. This was the only surveillance camera of that type. Lillienfeld was at the scene almost 30 hours total. Now up on the monitor is a diagram of the floor plan of the house. This is the first time that I've seen this. I immediately notice that the front door is in exact alignment with the back door. Uh-oh. That's very bad Feng Shui. (Don't knock it until you try it everybody. Feng Shui changed my life.)

A new diagram is up on the Elmo now. This is a diagram is not to scale, but it outlines where the fountain was in relation to the house. Detective Lillienfeld testifies that he had no trouble having a conversation by the car near the water fountain. He could understand and hear everything that was said. He didn't have to yell. It's approximately twenty-one feet from on edge of the fountain to the back door. The witness says that there is a numbering system that the Sheriff's Dept. uses to identify a crime, and it's unique. And, there are numbers for pieces of evidence. He was responsible for controlling the evidence, and the number distribution for identifying that evidence. Pat Dixon then leans in to Donna Clarkson to tell her there are images of her daughter coming up.

I know I am writing these notes up almost a month later, but I'm pretty certain this is the first time that I see a side view of Lana in the chair and can clearly see how her handbag straps are twisted around 180 degrees. It's a hobo type bag, and her arm is resting on top of the bag. The straps are also caught around the front edge of the downward leg of the chair's right arm. The witness identifies the gun as item #1. Photos on the Elmo now show the gun up against the left leg of Ms. Clarkson. The gun is identified as a six shot colt cobra revolver. It was loaded with two different types of ammunition. The firing pin was lying against a spent cartridge. It's now that Detective Lillienfeld puts on gloves to remove the weapon from the evidence bag. The jurors watch with rapt attention as the gun is displayed. Pat Dixon leans into the tall, black haired family attorney to let him know that more photos of Lana are coming.

Lillienfeld describes discovering the unique holster in the three drawer dresser. The other weapons discovered are shown and where they were found in the house. These become evidence items #25 and #26. A photograph of where the shotgun was found is put up on the Elmo. On the Elmo are images of one of the other guns recovered, and holster by the same manufacturer of the holster that was found in the bureau beside Ms. Clarkson. The other guns were fully loaded with the same ammunition as in the murder weapon. The shotgun, however, wasn't loaded.

Spector doesn't appear to be looking at either the witness or the guns when they are shown to the jury. Now the witness is talking about all the holsters. When the shotgun is put back in the evidence box, it slides down to the end of the box with a "boom" echoing through the courtroom. The witness stresses that all the holsters found were the same brand: Hunter. A shoulder holster was also found...but I'm not sure from my notes here if it was found in the office or the master bedroom. There was also ammunition also found in the master bedroom, which was a mixture of two different types of ammo. The box said "SPEER" but it was not all Speer.

22 bullets 38 caliber Speer rounds
..1 bullet TP round
45 bullets Remmington Speer rounds.

There is a bit of a break now because the court reporter needs to change her tape. Spector stares straight ahead. Now it appears he is looking at the image on the Elmo. The tape changed, the detective outlines the different ammunition and where all of it was found.

Q: Was the case in the master bedroom or the office?

A: I guess the holsters were in the office and the guns in the master bedroom.

There is come confusion here by the witness exactly where the holsters were found, and the gun case with the two other hand guns. Spector is looking at the Elmo that has images of Lana in them. Now a sidebar is called, but it appears to be quick. The witness states that a valise was found on the matching chair on the other side of the bureau. Underneath it was a DVD player with the movie "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" inside. The contents of the valise are listed. Zantac and other medication. A three count blister pack of Viagra with one tablet left. Stay awake pills from RiteAid. There are more items but I don't get them all written down.

Now the witness is describing items that were found in the living room on the coffee table. There was an empty tequila bottle. A bottle of ginger ale, and a brandy sniffer with some alcohol in it.

The lunch recess is called.

At lunch, I talk with two trial watchers, a young man who has brought his mother to watch the trial. (It's about a week later that I finally learn their names, David and Margaret.) During lunch, we talk about the trial. Upstairs, in the hallway outside Fidler's courtroom, Mr. Dunne and I talk about Lana's mother, and the exchange they had the first day. He shares with me his story about getting a ride from Cutler when his driver fails to show up, and how that felt. We finally get back in the courtroom. Pat Dixon leans in to speak to Lana's mother. It's 1:40 pm and no one is ready. 1:44 pm the jury comes in and the Judge finally takes the bench.

Lillienfeld is now identifying photos up on the Elmo. It's a picture of a second brandy sniffer that was found on a sink counter just off the foyer that was taken into evidence. It's in the next series of photographs everyone can see that the toilet in the bathroom must have been a special order because it's a deep maroon color. More photos of evidence that was collected: the eyelashes, the curity brand diaper, and the second brandy sniffer, all found in the bathroom. We find out that this "diaper" is a cotton baby diaper, from a pre-disposable era. In describing the fourteen inch by fourteen inch square diaper, detective Lillienfeld states, "It was wet to the touch and covered in a good amount of blood. Now, there are photos up of the foyer back door, and the blood smears on the deadbolt lock and doorknob handset. Lillienfeld is describing more evidence that was collected, such as blood samples from the back door, and the deadbolt. The lever to the deadbolt (called a "thumb latch" in court) was on the floor behind the door. Now, the detective is describing all the phones he found in the house and their location. There were two cell phones in the valise on the chair beside the bureau in the foyer. A phone in the living room, one in the kitchen, and one at the stairway mid landing beside the security TV monitor. There's a phone in an upstairs kitchen, a phone in a guest room closet/dressing area, a phone in a bedroom that was turned into a dressing room~entertainment center, and a phone in the guest bedroom on the west side of the house. There's also a phone in another guest bedroom and two phones in an east wing bedroom that was converted into an office. And there was a phone in the bar on the lower level in the east wing. Each time when Dixon asks if the phones were working, Lillienfeld describes testing each one. He picked up the hand sets, ensuring every phone had a working dial tone.

The witness states that Bob Kyle from the Sheriff's Department Crime Lab collected anything having to do with biology; hair, blood, etc. The detective identifies Spector's white jacket as a ladies dinner jacket, that was found in the dressing/entertainment room, lying on the floor. The buttons and button holes are on the opposite sides of a man's jacket. I'm floored by this, but at the same time it totally goes to explain why Lana identified Spector as Mrs. Spector. Spector was wearing a woman's jacket!

Shifting back to the deadbolt lock, the witness testifies that the set screw, a little screw that keeps the lever mechanism on the lock, was turned back. It's unknown when this was done, why, or if it was done on purpose.

The witness is now asked if he attended a BBQ event in Whittier (for a Sheriff's Academy event of some kind. I miss getting the exact detail) back in July of 2003. Detective Lillienfeld says that there were many generations of retired alumni present at the afternoon event.

Q: Did you know Stan White?

A: Yes.

The witness states that he's known Stan White about twenty-five years. Stan is a retired from the Sheriff's Dept. The jury is taking notes.

Q: Did you have a conversation with Stan White regarding the crime scene?

A: Yes, I did.

The direct examination ends. That was interesting. The prosecution is laying the foundation to bring in Stan White's testimony.

Bradley Brunon steps up to cross examine the witness for the defense.

Brunon first off tries to get the witness to say that when the police came into the house they could have broken the finger latch off the deadbolt. Objection! Unfortunately, I don't write down how the Judge ruled on this.

Several jurors move around in their seats. One leans back; another leans forward, another fidgets, and one leans their char back towards the back wall. Brunon now trying to imply that the police had enough time, as much as they needed to investigate the crime scene. It's now 2:40pm, and I'm about to fall asleep. I was up late, trying to get caught up on chores. I watch two jurors in the back row fidget a bit and then pick up their notebooks to take a note.

A juror appears to have closed their eyes, and another juror leans back and crosses his arms across his chest.

Q: No officers had booties or hair nets on?

A: I've never seen hair nets used in three hundred plus homicides. That's only on TV.

Finally, the break is called and I can stretch my legs. A woman comes up to Mr. Dunne. Her name is Kelly from Malibu Magazine. She says that her editors, "...won't let her cover the trial, but they are interested in covering you." She shows Mr. Dunne the magazine. I have in my notes here, some information about Alan Jackson, and, I can't tell from my notes where I got the information, but I believe it was from the DA's public spokesperson. Mr. Jackson was in the air force. He's approximately 41-42 years old, and with the DA's office for 10-15 years. He graduated from a university in Texas, which ever one is where the "Aggies are." He's only lost one case, and is a "rising star" in the DA's office. Dominick and the Malibu Magazine reporter chat, and I believe Mr. Dunne agrees to give an interview.

Break is over, and we're back on the record. Brunon puts up on the Elmo a photo of officers at the scene, taken from the stairwell balcony, down into the foyer area, showing some detectives not wearing gloves.

A: We didn't pick up any evidence. We directed others to pick up evidence.

Now there is a blow up image of Dr. Pena not wearing any gloves. Rosen gives a note to Brunon, and then a moment later, a second post it note to Brunon. Brunon is now asking about the bureau drawer, and if the witness knows if it was closed all the way.

A: No, I don't.

Now images of Lana's purse are up on the overhead screen, and there appears to be a hand there, handling the purse that doesn't have a glove on.

A: That's most likely Lana's hand.

One of the jurors looks out at the gallery, and one juror has their arms crossed. Two jurors appear to take a note. Now there is an enlarged image up on the Elmo of tiny items on the red carpet next to the baseboard.

Q: Was that item picked up?

A: I believe so.

The direction this cross is going is clear to those of us who followed the evidentiary hearing outside the presence of the jury. That if the nail was there, (next to the stairwell wall) then it would have been visible in police evidence photos, with the evidence markers #'s 4 and #5. Finally a photo is put up of the lower stairs, and I can't see if there is anything on the lower step. I'm squinting, looking for that "scratch" that Dr. Lee said was there. Now Brunon does his own demonstration for the jurors. He picks something up from the carpet in the courtroom, and places it on the witness stand counter. "Now I'm sorry I picked it up," he says. The expression and smile on the Judge's face when Brunon said this was priceless. Rosen brings Brunon another post it note. Brunon is now asking about Lana's broken nail, and Rosen brings Brunon another post it note! The jury appears restless to me. One juror stopped taking notes hours ago. Another juror has their hands in their lap, no notebook. Same for another juror. And Brunon receives more notes from Rosen. It's 3:55pm and Lillienfeld is still on cross. Several jurors in the back row are not taking notes, although one juror does have their notebook in their lap. At the other end of the jurors, (from the one's I just mentioned) one juror appears to be writing lots of notes.

Finally, court is over for the day. The prosecution then informs the Judge that they will not be calling Robert Shapiro. Wow. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall of that in camera session. The argument that Shapiro's attorney gave in camera must have been a damn good one, for the prosecution to change their minds about calling Shapiro.

Rosen comes over to talk to Mr. Dunne. It appears that the same people who recently fixed Mr. Dunne's computer in New York, The Geek Squad, also went to work on the computer of Jennifer's mother. (Jennifer is the defense's attorney who handles their exhibits for the Elmo.) Rosen delivers a message to Mr. Dunne that, "Your computer's fixed now." Small world. Several people come up to Dominick to tell him they love his show on Court TV.

On the Orange Line bus on the way home, I notice a woman in a seat across the isle from me. She's wearing a very tight shirt over massive breasts that reads, "Who needs brains when you have these?" Ah, me. The things people wear.