Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cameron Brown Pretrial Hearing, May 13th 2008

This is an unedited, unfinished DRAFT entry.

A while back, a few of my trial watcher friends have been wondering what ever happened to the Cameron Brown case. For those of you who have never heard of this case, back on November 8th of 2000, Cameron Brown allegedly threw his four-year-old daughter, Lauren Serene Key-Marer off a steep cliff, Inspiration Point in Palos Verdes, California, to avoid paying child support to her mother, Sarah Key-Marer. His first trial hung, not because some jurors thought he was innocent; they hung on the degree of guilt.

I was searching around for some information on the case and came across a news report that Brown would be in two different courtrooms on May 13th in downtown Los Angeles and I thought that was interesting. Supposedly, Brown "turned in" a home made knife of some sort that he claims was planted in his cell and he was being charged on that. In addition, Brown somehow got his trial moved from Torrance to downtown Los Angeles in Judge Michael Pastor's court 107, right across the hall from Judge Fidler's courtroom. It's been some time since we've had a good trial to follow so I thought that I would drop in on the two hearings for Cameron Brown to see if I might want to follow this trial. It might start around the same time that Pellicano & Christensen, round two start and it will be a decision which trial I decide to watch. At Pellicano, which is in Federal Court, I know Ciaran and Steven will be covering it and I'll have great company and get some inside scoops. I have no idea who much interest Brown will get in downtown. The LA County Public Liaison's office tells me they have had zero interest in Brown.

On Tuesday, Mr. Sprocket drops me off at the North Hollywood station but I miss the 7:20 train by about 10 seconds. I'm on the escalator from the ticket platform to the trains and the bell goes off that the doors to the train are closing. That means I won't be in the Courthouse until 8 am, and I know Pastor's courtroom starts right on time. I had already contacted my friend, Dr. Carroll Adams, who got interested in a trial in Pastor's court when Spector was just about ending and things got weird in that courtroom. He's been following several trials in Pastor's courtroom ever since so I knew he would have the scoop on which hearing would be first.

When the 7:30 am train comes at 7:25 am, they don't let everyone on right away. Metro does a security sweep of the train and it all the times I took the subway to watch Spector, this is the first time I've actually seen them perform a security check of the cars.

I don't have a book today and I'm tempted to ask someone for a section of paper. A man is on his laptop, several people are reading the paper and I see a woman putting on her makeup. The car is pretty full with at least 15 people standing. An older gentleman with a lined face offers a woman his seat and then the young man next to me gets up and offers his seat to the older gent who just got up for a woman.

In the Hollywood Hills/Cahuenga Pass, where the train reaches speeds up to 70 mph, there is some unique advertising in the tunnels now, that I first saw on my way home on Friday for the Miura hearing. As the train speeds by for quite a distance you see an ad. On Friday, it was promotion for the movie Speed Racer. I've also noticed that the train platform notification boards that were the same type you see on freeways with the moving text, have been replaced with LCD screens and more information. And, the time is visible at the very top of the screens.

I clear security on the main floor and on the 9th. As I round the corner from the elevator bays I see Carroll with his great smile and it's a good feeling to see a familiar face. We catch up on the latest news. There are two nondescript people waiting for Pastor's courtroom to open also, but I can't imagine from the way they are dressed that they are here for Brown's hearing. They leave the hallway but show back up later. When we finally get inside 107, the benches have double cushions! For the seat and the back. Carroll says, "Now you can see why I started hanging out in Pastor's courtroom," and we both have a chuckle because the benches in Fidler's court with no cushions are quite hard.

Carroll knows everyone in Pastor's courtroom and he points out Judge Pastor's clerk, Sammie Benson and his new bailiff, Kirk Richardson as well as the names of Pastor's court reporters: Mavis Theodoro and Pat McNeal, who unusually, still uses the "old style" of stenography machine. Carroll tells me the story of what happened to the prior bailiff and it's quite sad. He's got quite a recovery ahead for his injuries. We see Judge Pastor, a distinguished looking man with grayish hair, come out and talk to two attorneys but he's not in his robes. I jot down the phone number to Pastor's courtroom just in case I want to check on hearing dates and times. I ask Carroll how old is Judge Pastor because to me, he looks quite young. "He's 65 and has been on the bench for 26 years," Carroll replies.

Pastor now comes back out into the courtroom with his robes on, but he doesn't take the bench directly. Carroll introduces me to a defense attorney from another trial he watched, Tom Burns, where the verdict was overturned and the case must be retried. If I'm remembering correctly, supposedly the defendant (or maybe it was a critical witnesses) was not told that he could have his own interpreter. I have in my notes the defendant was Pedro Avena, but I might be wrong about that.

Finally, Cameron Brown is brought into the courtroom wearing an orange suit. He doesn't look anything like the photos I've seen on some support blogs. He's rail thin and his beard is quite long, at least eight to ten inches long. His hair is not grown out, it's trimmed short along the back of his neck, and I see that the beard appears to be evenly trimmed around his cheekbones. Cameron turns and nods to the two people in the courtroom who were in the hall earlier. I'm shocked. At first I thought the woman might be a relative, like his mother but it dawns on me this must be "Patty," his wife. The man who was with her I didn't pay much attention to, but later I come to realize that this must be Patty's brother, Theodore (aka "Ted") who is very vocal on Usenet and several blogs in support of his brother-in-law. Maybe it's just me, maybe I've totally abandoned my 70's hippie teens, but if my husband was on trial for murder, I wouldn't be showing up to court so casually dressed wearing flip flops (and we are NOT talking high end, gemstone adorned footwear like what you would find on Rachelle Short's feet but standard black flip flops) or forgotten to put a brush through my hair.

Court is called into session. Craig Hum for the people; Pat Harris on behalf of the defense. Harris brings up an issue that was raised last time about delays in meeting with his client at the jail. The Court has a trial (or is it two) that will be heard before this one and it's not clear how long that trial will take at this time. A new pretrial date is set for June 13th, and the count is reset to 0-45 from that date. Defendant waives rights, and accepts the new date. The Court states that it will have a much better idea on that date as to the schedule and a firm trial date.

Harris brings up the issue that the defendant is trying to get his hair cut and a medical appointment before trial. And that's it. It's mentioned that the next hearing is in Department 133 on the 13th floor. And that's it. I say my goodbye's to Carroll, and head off to the 13th floor.

Patty and Ted and I are all in the same elevator. Patty has what appears to be a letter in her hand and she starts to read the letter to him, "...all he's concerned about..." and then Ted goes, "Sussh!" at Patty and that's all of their conversation I overhear. On the 13th floor we see a sign that states Department 133 is on the fifteenth floor, and we all head back to the elevators to go up two floors. Department 133 is Judge Sterling's courtroom and there are several people in the gallery and another case is being adjudicated. Patty and Ted sit in different rows, far from each other. Since there is another case being heard, I sit in the nearest row available, but it means I can't hear what's going on as well. People are coming and going and the courtroom is quite noisy.