Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Phil Spector Retrial: Day Two of Voir Dire Jury Selection


I got out the door a bit late and I missed the 8:29 train. When I got a seat on the next train, I put my purse on my lap and realized that my bottle of Gerolsteiner water had tipped over in my purse and had leaked all over the bottom. My jeans were wet. Just what I needed, to walk into court with wet pants. Fortunately it wasn't too bad and they were almost dry when I finally walked into the back entrance of the criminal court building around 9:10 am.

I thought I would just make it to the 9th floor in time until I saw the security line was all the way to the front of the building and out the door. In line surrounding me were at least four classrooms full of students from Sacred Heart High School on a school field trip. Getting through security would take more time than expected.

I knew the jurors were told they were to be in the hallway by 9:15 am, and I wanted to try to be there before the first 18 were to line up in the middle of the hall and Wendy did her bingo roll call. Amazingly, I just made it. I entered 106 and asked Pat Kelly if I could sit in the pool reporter's seat. "For now," she replied. That turned out to be all day since not one reporter showed up all day to take the seat.

Not long after I sat down, the Spectors' entered the courtroom with the slender bodyguard. Spector was wearing a black suit and a black shirt and a stark white, silk looking tie. The Trial Bride's hair was pulled back into a ponytail; the bejeweled clasp to hold it together was a noticeable improvement from the day before. She was wearing a three-quarter length, hoody sweater and shoes that look like they had something sparkly in the heel. Her pants were a light brown with a dark brown tuxedo stripe down the sides.

I ask Pat about the 35 extra jurors that were supposed to show up today. Pat tells me that Fidler's clerk Wendy, had the herculean task of phoning every single one of them yesterday and postponing their service. She reached everyone last night but one, whom she did reach this morning. I count the chairs that are along the back wall: six. And there are five chairs behind the second bench row in front of the defense area, just in front of those six. I see the bailiff in his glassed in box flipping through a stack of family photos. Both counsel are going over papers.

Spector leaves his seat at the defense table to talk to Rachelle. He appears a bit animated while he's whispering to her. As he's talking, Rachelle picks lint off the right sleeve of his suit jacket. One of the attorneys, Susan, comes to lean in and speak to Rachelle.

Moments later, Spector is standing at the defense table talking to the blonde at the defense table. I make a note where the jury consultants are sitting in the courtroom. There are a total of seven chairs added to the well area of the court behind the prosecution and the defense. At the counsel table, from left to right it's Alan Jackson (AJ) Truc Do, then a young male defense assistant, Doron Weinberg, Susan, Spector and then the blonde at the end of the table.

One of the consultants and Rachelle munch on some candy and chat. Rachelle offers the blonde some candy and she takes a piece.

It's 9:38 am and Wendy comes into the courtroom and says they are missing one juror again. As I look over at AJ, he appears deep in thought. His left elbow is on the arm of the Aeron chair and his chin is resting on his left fist. A moment later, he has changed into another familiar position, his fingers interlocked in front of his waist.

Wendy says the number of the juror who is late and it's the same one who was over an hour late yesterday. At 9:45 am we are still waiting for the jury to enter the courtroom. I notice on the wall above the jurors that there is a small camera mounted on the wall and I ask Pat if that is a security camera. She says that yes, it's hooked into the sheriff's closed circuit security system. Finally the attorney's stand and the jurors enter the courtroom. After the jurors in the box are seated, I note how many women verses men there are.

1F, 2F, 3M, 4F, 5M, 6F, 7M, 8M, 9M, 10F, 11M, 12F, 13M, 14F, 15M, 16M, 17F, 18M. Eight women and ten men, but that demographic will continue to change over the course of the day.

AJ gets up and breaks the ice so to speak by talking to the jurors about the cold room and how it will warm up hopefully after they start talking. It is cold. Pat has on something I've seen her wear when the courtroom is cold, a beautiful cream toned shaw [shawl] that belonged to her mother.

AJ then talks about when they left off yesterday, they were discussing the concepts of reasonable doubt, direct and circumstantial evidence, and he tells them he ". . .just want to get some impressions from you." He starts with potential Juror #14, who sat on a jury before, and asks her if she knows the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence.

"[I] think direct is meritory evidence and establishes a fact. Circumstantial evidence . . . there is some question as to the evidence being presented."

AJ goes onto explain that there is nothing remotely similar to CSI to what we do here in real life. "CSI has no connection to a trial and real life." AJ then goes to give virtually the same example he did at the first trial about little Bobby, the red galoshes and the snow on the ground analogy. I will try to paraphrase it because I didn't get the exact details of his story down. Little Bobby puts on the red galoshes that are completely dry, fit his feet perfectly and haven't been worn in two days. There are footprints in the snow the same size as the red boots that grandma saw being made.

"If we were to call the lady to the stand, and she said, I saw it happen," what type of evidence would that be? #14 replied, "Circumstantial." AJ replies, "It would be direct evidence."

"New scenario," AJ says. "This time, she answers the phone and drinks some coffee. She doesn't see Bobby move." That would be circumstantial evidence.

You hear on crime shows, the suspect saying, "What you have on me is just circumstantial evidence. That's MALARKY!" AJ goes onto explain to the jurors that circumstantial evidence is just as equal as direct evidence.

Potential Juror #8 asks, "But how could that be circumstantial? There's only two people there?" And AJ replies, "Logic is the power of circumstantial evidence."

Like we saw in the first trial I see AJ connect with the jury and get them to ease up and respond to him.

"Juror #3, do you think that just because there's two sides to the story, that means reasonable doubt?" Potential Juror #3 replies, "I don't know."

After some more discussion, AJ asks the members in the box, "Does anyone have any questions about circumstantial evidence and reasonable doubt?"

Next, AJ has specific questions for each potential juror and he addresses them one by one, starting with potential juror #1. The first issue with #1 as [has] to do with something on their juror questionnaire where the juror claimed privacy rights. The juror, AJ, Weinberg, Do, and the Blonde approach the bench and AJ asks his questions of the juror in whispers in front of Judge Fidler. I note that AJ appears slightly animated with his questions to potential Juror #1.

Afterwards, the juror takes their seat and AJ moves onto #3. "Yesterday, you indicated you had read or heard a little about the case, correct? You had head a claim about the gun going off accidentally. Did you see or hear . . ." Potential Juror #3 replies, "I just remember that one statement on the news about the case. I didn't fully accept that claim. I thought that might be a superficial claim." AJ asks if there is any other impression since then and the juror says they can't think of anything.

Juror #4. AJ establishes that #4 works as a lobbyist. She works with elected officials, the local mayor, the city attorney, state officials, etc. In her job she supervises four other employees. In her job she takes a position of persuasion often. She is also involved with a citizens academy which she did on a volunteer basis. She often deals with legislation. She describes her job as helping to write legislation verses interpreting it. She feels it's an important part of the process that everyone has a voice to interpret facts.

AJ and potential Juror #4 discuss the CSI effect and she mentions something to the effect that there's never someone in high heels showing up to examine a body.

Juror #5. AJ goes over with this juror their interpretations of reasonable doubt verses doubt. And then he asks the room, "Is there anyone who had problems with not guilty if the case got proven beyond a reasonable doubt?" No one answers him. This juror worked in film journalism in the 70's. They were "low budget productions," he said. "Not porno films. Art house films, exploitation films, risque," he clarified. "Edgy?" AJ asked. "No," he replied. "Not dramas." Judge Fidler pipes in and comments, "Other than family fare?" And with that there is laughter in the courtroom.

Juror #6. AJ asks about her education. She is still going to college but working now. She's somewhere between a junior and sophomore. I didn't get the full answer completely, but I believe she is working for a degree having something to do with child education/welfare.

Juror #7. Talking about DNA evidence. As long as the collection is proper, they have no problem with it. They clarify to state that they have no problem with the science as long as the collection was proper. AJ then asks this juror about the "C" word. "Do you think it's appropriate to put [the use of the word] in context?" "Sure." AJ presses on, "It would be appropriate?" "Yes." AJ then asks the same question of juror #8 and they agree also.

Juror #8. I'm not sure if I have this right in my notes. I believe this potential Juror's son is a Sheriff for 22 years, and his highest/last rank was corporal. He's proud of his son. AJ asks him if he talks to his son about work, and he replies, "Used to when he was first working but not anymore." He has met two other officers that his son invites to parties; he calls them his "compadres." They are, "great, nice people." He sat on a murder trial in the past. They reached a guilty verdict. He felt in that case that the prosecution "met their burden," and then went on to describe his service on that other trial. AJ asks him if he would have any problem or hesitation with voting guilty? "No," he replied. This juror was also on a narcotics case that resulted in a hung jury. It was a frustrating experience.

Juror #9. He is working and going to school, and his employer is paying part of his school. He does have scholarships. AJ is worried that he might lose his job if he gets selected on this trial, and the juror replies that he thinks he won't lose his job. "When are you going to study?" AJ asks him. He joined ROTC as an alternative to PE. He was in ROTC for four years. AJ asks him how he feels about the criminal justice system and he replies, "I have no idea. I didn't know we were supposed to influence each other."

Juror #7 raises their hand and asks, "Can we have a break?" And Judge Fidler calls a 15 minute break.

During the break I chat with Pat Kelly about the courtrooms in Florida all have [having] a camera mounted in them as part of the court. She tells me there just isn't the money for that in California. I agree with her that the state is broke. She tells me about pending legislation in Arizona where if a Judge denies cameras in the courtroom he must give a reason on the record for his denial.

The jurors squeeze back into 106 after the break and Juror #8 is brought to the bench to discuss areas where he has claimed privacy rights. AJ, Weinberg and Do are at the bench.

As we wait, I make a note that at this rate, voir dire will take two weeks.

Juror #10. At this time AJ explains how he's lost most of his twang, but, "I use y'all a lot; I'm from Texas. It's something I can't get out of my vocabulary."

Addressing #10, "You said, Unless the judge told me otherwise," (regarding believing a police officer's word over a regular citizen's word). "The Judge 'is' going to tell you otherwise. We all start with a clean slate. One they [witness] starts talking that's when you assess their credibility and just because they are wearing a badge you can't give them the benefit of a priest's collar. Would you follow that law?" The juror replies, yes. I'm going to ask you the same as #7, Would it be proper for you to put that language in context?" Yes, she replies. "You said on your juror questionnaire, I'm not sure I can engage in this process." And the juror explains, "Only because I've never engaged in it before."

AJ goes onto explain that no one's going to be asked to judge another human being. Jurors don't judge people. They judge facts. "Can you sit in judgement of the facts that are presented to you? Would you have any problems [with that]?" No, the juror answers.

Juror #11. This juror was not sure how they felt about DNA evidence. Under further questioning, the juror felt they wouldn't have any problem with it based on the credibility of the witnesses.

Juror #12. This juror's dad has been in prison 26 years, since their mother was five months pregnant with her. He was involved somehow with a murder. She knows her father, who has been incarcerated her entire life. She doesn't judge him. She visits him a couple times a year. He was convicted here in Los Angeles. She felt it was "his decision" for the sentence he got. AJ asks, "You think he is factually innocent but he took the fall for someone else?" "Right," she replies. She denies having any negative opinions of LE or the criminal justice system. He asks her if she is a member of any organization that advocates for prisoner release and she says no.

AJ presses her further that he knows that his department, major crimes was responsible for putting her dad in prison, and would that, could that possibly put the prosecution, might it end up an inch "behind the line?" (In relation to the defense.) "Um, no. That's the system," she says. "You understand why I'm asking this?" AJ asks. "I can judge the case individually," she responds.

Juror 13. He's been through prior jury experience, and the prosecution was "lackluster."

"How am I doin?" AJ asks, and the room breaks out into light laughter. "You're fine," the juror responds. The potential juror goes onto explain the case and the weak evidence the prosecution presented. AJ asks him, "Given your experience, what do you think of the process?" "It's a human, man made process. It has it fallacies and has its advantages." AJ asks this juror for their thoughts about circumstantial evidence, and could he describe in his mind how do direct and circumstantial evidence compare with one another. "What do you mean," he replies.

There's quite a bit more discussion with this juror, and if he followed much of the first trial. All he could remember was the charge, murder and that the victim was female. He didn't remember much of the details. This juror has very strong opinions about gun ownership. He says something funny in regards to a question about his juror questionnaire and he clarifies that he wrote that to be funny on his questionnaire. "I don't actually mean I"m paranoid." He just got bored/tired answering the questions.

Juror #14. Works in a trauma center. She would vote guilty if the prosecution presented all the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

Juror #15. AJ says, "I talk a little bit faster than Mr. Weinberg, would you still put your comprehension level at around 70%?" This potential juror states that like yesterday, his understanding is still around that figure.

Juror #16. This juror is called to the bench over a privacy issue. After a bit of questioning the Judge tells the juror that they are excused. A new juror # is called and 198 steps forward and takes #16's seat.

Juror #17. They were a culinary arts student and went into training to be a court reporter. She never worked as a court reporter.

Juror #18. "I'm a Banker." This juror either mentioned yesterday or in their questionnaire that they would have a problem with a defendant not testifying. After some lengthy examples by AJ about it being normal to have curiosity, we all have curiosities, the law says you can do the former (have curiosity) but not the later, (hold it against him, the defendant). No matter how many examples AJ goes into detail to explain the prosecutions burden and the law. The juror says they would still have difficulty setting that aside. They would still wonder. "I understood that but I think it would be difficult for me." AJ says, "Suppose the Judge slams his gavel down and the trial starts... supposing he does have one." Judge Fidler shakes his head and says, "I don't need one." And at that, the courtroom has a breakout of laughter.

The new Juror #16 is number 098.

Judge Fidler calls the lunch break at ten minutes early. The courtroom empties of most of the jurors, and the people sitting on either side of me leave. Spector leaves the well of the court and heads over to where Rachelle is sitting a few seats to my left. She asks him, "Are you ready to get lunch?" I don't hear him answer her. As he walks by me, I look down at my purse by my feet to avoid looking at him. As he passes me, I hear a male voice in a semi-loud tone utter the single word expletive "F**K!" I don't know if it's directed at me, or not. Did he stub his toe? Did he realize at that moment that he lost money in the stock market? Did the Trial Bride grab his arm too hard at that moment? Or, was he thinking the same thing that Vincent Tannazzo heard him say? Who knows. All I know and what Spector must not have been aware of, is the fact that not all the jurors had exited the courtroom when he left the well area of the court. There was a single potential juror in the gallery who was standing in the bench seat area behind Spector as he passed me, and the juror could easily have heard Spector expel the expletive.

Since it's getting late and I'm not even half done with my report here I'll sum up the rest of the days events. Afterwards, Judge Fidler excused the following jurors: #2, 5, 6, 15, 16, 18. The panel was then replaced with five men and one woman, bringing the total to seven females and 11 males.

The attorneys then question this next group in detail, with Truc Do performing the questioning for the prosecution. Both Do and Weinberg connected well with the jurors in the box. Around 3:15 pm Pat Dixon enters the courtroom and sits in the back row. A clerk from the DA's office gives up their seat for them.

At the end of this round of questioning, the new potential Juror #5 is excused and another juror is called from the gallery. This juror is interviewed extensively, and no more jurors are excused for cause.

The attorneys don't have any more challenges for the sitting panel for cause. They now enter the preemptive challenge phase of the trial.

AJ goes first, and excuses Juror #8.
Weinberg passes.
An alternate takes their place.

AJ excuses Juror #12.
Weinberg passes.
An alternate takes their place.

AJ excuses Juror #9.
Weinberg passes.
Juror #15 takes their place.

AJ excuses Juror #5.
Weinberg passes.
An alternate takes their place.

AJ excuses the new Juror #5.
An alternate takes their place.

Weinberg excuses the new Juror #5.

Judge Fidler calls the end to the court day, and instructs the Jurors to return tomorrow at 9:15 am, where they will pull six new alternates.

Update: Wednesday, 5:56 am. (Unedited)
I woke up early, so I thought that I would add a few notes from the afternoon session that I didn't include in my story last night.

After lunch in the hallway, I get to chat a bit with Dr. Adams. He shares a bit of what's going on in the way of courthouse politics with me. I observe the jurors from 107 all huddled together in one area, chatting. All the seats in the hallway are filled and people are starting to stand. At around 1:16 pm, Mrs. Benson, the clerk for 107 calls her jury. A minute later, the Spectors arrive with their bodyguard who is back to wearing his stylish hat. Most of the defense team is right behind them. I notice that Rachelle has switched out of her heels that she was wearing earlier into a pair of brown walking shoes that match her pants. Today, Spector is not wearing his shoes with the Cuban heels, but a pair or regular type shoes with no heel. Even out of high heels, Rachelle appears to be about three inches taller than Spector.

They start knocking on the door for the bailiff to open the door since it's locked. Once he comes and opens it, everyone stands back so Spector can enter the courtroom first. About two minutes later, Weinberg and Susan arrive. The door is still locked and they wait. I speak up and address them. "Mr. Weinberg, Just knock on the tor since your team is already in there." Smiling, Susan jokingly responds, "That's assuming we want to go in." The bailiff then reaches the door and opens it for them.

The PIO has not arrived yet. Before trial started this morning, we talked a bit about the number of staff the PIO has and the Britney Spears driver's license trial. I did not know anything about this since I don't follow news on Spears. Apparently, Britney was pulled over for some infraction, and it was discovered that although she does have a driver's license from another state, she currently does not have a California driver's license. She has lived here long enough as a resident that California law requires that she obtain one. Both sides will not back down in that case and it appears that it will go to trial. Tons of media are following this most important case before the court which requires a lot of time and manpower from the PIO. To me, it sounds like a huge waste of taxpayer dollars.

1:22 pm Do comes down the hallway and AJ follows a moment later, bringing the cart filled with papers from the DA's office. At 1:25 pm I enter the courtroom and take the same seat I had before. I'm right next to the door in one of the plastic chairs against the back wall.

The courtroom is still cold. Rachelle hands her bodyguard a piece of candy. Pat Kelly does not arrive for the afternoon session. The jury comes in at 1:33 pm and everyone stands. The other vacant plastic chairs along the back row are taken up by young, DA staff. All these seats are now filled and one of the Sheriff's adds another chair next to mine on my right, and another DA staff member sits there. It's a young man I've seen at several of the pretrial hearings throughout the year. I ask him if he's been with the DA's office long, and he tells me since January.

A new #16 juror is selected. Weinberg gets up to ask questions and it's revealed that this potential juror is a professor in criminal justice at UCLA. There is extensive discussion with this juror about his area of study and his opinions about criminals and the law. Weinberg comes across well in his questioning. As I listen to him, he reminds me a bit of Gerald Schwartzbach who successfully defended Robert Blake on murder charges, although his voice is not nearly as soft or low toned as Schwartzabach's. During the Blake trial, I often could not hear what Schwartzbach was saying, and if I'm remembering correctly, even the court reporter needd him to speak up at times. It's my opinion that Spector has a much better lead attorney for the retrial than he did with all those clashing egos in the first one.

When AJ get's up to interview this potential juror, he makes an interesting statement. In his opinion of police officers, he states that he thinks some police officers are "taught how to lie." Not all, but some are. It's a case by case basis. The professor has interesting opinions about certain individuals are more likely to be prosecuted than others. AJ asks, "Do you think that maybe it's the criminal who chooses his behavior? Is it possible that it's the chicken or the egg? The juror replies, "It's a scrambled egg." AJ asks if his research is published in his books and unfortunately I miss the answer.

In further questioning regarding the professor's area of study, the juror admits that if an expert witness got on the stand who's opinion he tended to disagree with, ~regarding research data where the juror has reached an different conclusion~ then he would be hard pressed not to replace his own opinion with that of the expert. He would find it difficult to accept the testimony of the expert. We also learn that this juror had been to "the castle" back in the 1970's when it had been converted to apartments. This was long before Spector owned it. I'm paraphrasing quite a bit here but eventually, this juror is kicked for cause.

After AJ is finished with this witness, then Judge Fidler asks six jurors specific questions. Potential Juror #2 admits that she doesn't think she can be fair to both sides. Potential Juror #5 is asked about gun ownership. He states that he does have a problem with people who possess several guns. He would have a problem with someone who just leaves guns around. He would have to know if the guns were left out and not locked up safe. His general opinion is, why would a person have all these guns around? He says, "If the guns are not locked up with the saftey's on, it's my opinion that that person is unbalanced." Juror #6 is questioned about "fairness" if the defense doesn't testify. Juror #10 is questioned about their belief that police officers tend to have more credibility. Juror #18 is asked by Judge Fidler, "Can you be fair if the defendant doesn't testify, and he replies, "I don't think I can."

After the Judge and the attorneys confer, Fidler removed the six potential jurors for cause.

New jurors are pulled from the gallery and take the seats of the excused jurors. Weinberg starts in on the questioning of these jurors. Ciaran McEvoy drops by, shows his reporter ID to the bailiff and takes a seat in an empty plastic chair in the row in front of me. Not long after he arrives, the afternoon break is called. Ciaran asks a question of (I think) AJ as he passes. "Is Plourd still on the case?" No he isn't. I'm not surprised by this. I felt from the very beginning of Weinberg taking this case that Plourd was only kept on the team officially to have a valid excuse to delay the trial. I don't know "when" Plourd was let go, and I don't have any "evidence" that this is true, it's just a personal, gut feeling I have.

When the Spector's come back in at the end of the break, Wendy tells the bodyguard to remove his hat. When court resumes, Truc Do steps up to the podium to interview just the new jurors in the box. I feel that she connected well in her questioning, and a few laughs were obtained from the room.

I'm out of time now to add to these notes, but I hope to finish them later with news about dropping in on courtroom 102 and getting to chat with Steve Mikulan from the LA Weekly, and the member from the Civil Grand Jury who stopped by 102 to tell Steven he was a fan of his articles.


Anonymous said...

Sprocket, I am sure glad you are there to provide us with what's going on. We may not be able to see this on video but your words are the next best thing. Thanks for going and covering this so we can at least know what's going on in that court room.

Sprocket said...

Thank you very much Mindy.

Sirius108 said...

Sprocket, you are one good communicator! Thanks for all your updates. I have never been called for jury duty and the process is very interesting. One thing I took away in part from reading your commentary is this statement:

"Logic is the power of circumstantial evidence."

Great reporting Sprocket. And I agree, the jury selection process will be long and laboring.

Tracie said...

I am so bummed the re-trial won't be televised, but grateful that at least the bloggers are still active.

RoseMaybud said...

Sproket, Thank you for keeping me up-to-date reguarding the Spector retrial. Your blogs are almost as good as seeing a live broadcast of the voir dire and trial. Wish I could be there too.

Anonymous said...

Sprocket, thank you for all of your insights and reporting. You do a fantasic job! I hope I will be able to get to the courtroom to see some of this trial. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Sprocket, I agree you are the next best thing to video. The F+++ comment by Spector. Clearly he doesn't mind trying to intimidate women any old time. Hope they don't call you as a witness though maybe he uses that word all the time..... Anyways, thank you for great reporting.

Sprocket said...

Thank you everyone. I came home early today. Right after the afternoon session started, I felt a heavy wave of exhaustion come over me and I did not think I could stay awake.

I did not get much sleep the past two nights and I guess it just caught up with me. I plan to be back in court on Monday.

shari said...

yeaaaaaaaa and KUDOS Sprocket!!!! The whole thing was fascinating down to the "f" bomb dropped on you. How funny is that? This man just keeps digging deeper in doodoo and I sure hope this jury sees it. I am still shocked that Rachelle is still hanging in there. Whats "old wrinkly" gonna do with no cameras to impress as he and the bride of Frankenstein stroll in and out? Oh well, at least he has Halloween to look forward to. Am luvin' your blog!!!!!!

Unknown said...

We love you guys!!!

I hope your purse dried out...lol

This was a fun and informative read!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Woman! You're the best and I appreciate all you go through each day just to get to the court room to provide us your minions with the DIRT! :D
We may not be there in the physical realm but we have AJs back and we have Lana's back.
Justice for Lana is coming.

As Always,
Cat Toy

mControl said...

Thank you for providing what the press SHOULD but won't. Excellent reporting, as usual.

Unknown said...

Check out Phil Spector's newest production on youtube.Search Phil Spector, Magic Hair. Amazing.