Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

According to Wikipedia,

“Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May (May 31 in 2010). Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. soldiers who died while in the military service. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War (it is celebrated near the day of reunification after the Civil War), it was expanded after World War I to honor dead Americans from all wars.”

I think this Memorial Day, we need to also remember and honor all our men in the service who are risking their lives for their country.

My father waited until he turned 18 and finished high school before he enlisted in the Navy, some time in May of 1944. After basic training (most likely in the Midwest) he shipped out of San Diego, California.

During roll call each morning, they would yell out your first two initials and then your last name. I remember my father telling me that is how his buddies gave him his nickname “Jan” because it sounded like his initials, “JN.”

I remember one story he told about when his ship was being attacked, gunned by the Japanese. The guy standing next to him on deck got hit, he looked over at dad and dropped. I can remember exactly where I was when my father told me this story. I was in the pool and he was on his plastic strap lounger laying on his tummy baking in the sun. We were studying WW II in school and I was asking lots of questions. He, like so many men of the greatest generation, never spoke about or brought up his war years.

My father died young. He was the same age I will be later this year. This Memorial Day, I remember and honor my father.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Casey Anthony: Motions Hearing for June 1 Takes New Direction

The motions hearing next Tuesday has taken somewhat of a new direction. In a Second Amended Notice of Hearing (as to Motions to be heard), filed May 26 by J. Cheney Mason provided an update to the motions list.

The first motion, the Motion to Seal Jail Visiting Log Records, is left over from the May 10 hearing. You can read more about that motion in my previous article.

The second motion is the Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration of Certain Prior Rulings by Disqualified Judge, filed May 6. While this was on the original agenda, the section of the motion dealing with TES documents will not be heard. Mark NeJame filed a Notice of Conflict with the court on May 24. He explained that he had received the notice of the hearing the previous Friday. He further stated that his family had a pre-planned vacation for the June 1 date. NeJame made it quite clear that he was not consulted about the setting of this date.

4. This aspect of the case regarding the Subpoena Duces Tecum is of a civil nature and therefore the Civil Administrative Policies and Procedures state under Section 11(b)(2) states. If at all possible, hearing time for complex motions or several motions to be heard at one time should be cleared with all affected counsel as to avoid calendar conflicts. This policy was clearly not followed by the counsel for the Defendant. Moreover, local custom has long established that out of professional courtesy that the opposing cousnes be contacted to coordinate a mutually convenient or available time. This was not done by Mr. Mason who scheduled the hearing.

Towards the beginning of the case when Jose Baez began filing motions and failed to notice parties to a motion, I called them "rookie mistakes". I can't say this for Mr. Mason, who has a long history as one of central Florida's outstanding attorneys. For the life of me, I don't understand why such "slip-ups" keep happening in this case. Clearly, the defense wants the documents. I have to wonder why they would fail to coordinate dates with the attorney who is representing the organization in possession of them?

In the meantime, we will hear arguments as to why the judge should give the defense a copy of George Anthony's testimony before the Grand Jury. The State had asked for this last fall in order to find inconsistencies in his testimony and later deposition. The defense filed a motion to join in that which was never addressed by Judge Strickland.

It will be interesting to listen to any objections the State may have.

The defense will again try and have Joseph Jordan's illegally made audio unsealed. Judge Strickland had ruled it was not necessary since the defense's own PI, Mort Smith had his notes from the meeting and could directly testify to the contents of the tape.

Finally, they want those 7,000 tips from the beginning of the case. I don't know if these tips could be considered discovery. One thing I do know is that the OCSO followed up many credible tips which were reported in discovery on an ongoing basis. It looks to me like another hunting expedition.

Next up will be the Motion to Strike State's Notice of Aggravating Circumstances, filed by the defense May 20. The defense is not happy with Jeff Ashton's reply which was filed with the court on May 13, two days after ordered to do so by Judge Perry.

If you read the judge's order, it says,

The Court agrees with the defense that this issue implicates Defendant's due process rights, and in the exercise of its discretion, the Court requires the state to provide notice of the aggravating factors it intends to prove. In view ofthe potentially unlimited list of possible mitigating factors, the Court will not require the defense to provide a reciprocal list.

That's all it says. It does not state that the prosecution has to provide the information on what information they will use to develop the content of these aggravating factors.

I was somewhat amused by paragraph 4 in the motion.

4. On May 14, after the state failed to serve the defense with a copy of the Notice, the defense learned through the media that the state had filed its Notice of Aggravating Circumstances. The notice provided that the state may rely on five aggravating circumstances...

If true, I'm wondering if someone on the prosecution team made the same little boo-boo the defense has made more than once? OH MY GOODNESS! I can still remember waiting for the four motions found on a tv site at least two weeks before they were even filed in court! Let's remember, this motion was filed by Jose Baez, himself!

He also complains that the prosecution MAY use these aggravating circumstances. Let's see, it's just about eleven months until this case goes to trial and we can be sure it is still under investigation. The prosecution could change its mind about one of them. They may learn of others during the further investigation.

Let's remember that Perry ordered the prosecution to give a list, he didn't have to order that. He ordered the list because "death is different". In addition, there is no law that says the judge has to order the prosecution to give a list of particulars.

I don't know if Perry will grant this motion. However, since the trial is so far out, there is still a lot of investigation going on. If those jail house letters Casey wrote can be incorporated into the case, who knows what other information may come out over the next eleven months!

The Supplemental Motion to Compel Forensic Discovery, was filed May 20 as a response to Judge Perry's instructions at the May 10 hearing. At that time, the defense had a hard time going through their lists and coming up with the material that was missing. In this motion, they have simplified the issues to make them more manageable.

Jeff Ashton wrote the State Response to Supplemental Motion to Compel Forensic Discovery. Complete with charts, he makes many of the same arguments he has been making all along.

Concerning all the defense requests, he states that

The State of Florida's discovery obligations are set forth in Fla. Rule Crim. Proc. 3.220(b). Sub section (I)(J) of that rule limits the obligations as they concern expert witnesses to "reports and statements of experts made in connection with the particular case, including results of physical and mental examinations and of scientific test, experiments, or comparisons". None of the documents contained in Excel Chart 1 or 2 fall within this rule.

The requested documents in Chart One are not alleged to be in the possession of the State of Florida or any of its agencies. As the undersigned has stated on numerous occasions over the two year history of this case any document desired and in the possession of an individual or entity outside of the State of Florida must be obtained thru contact with the individual or entity in possession of that document.

Ashton adds that the State has been helping the defense get documents such as these, but cannot be ordered to do so.

The second chart contains material that the defense can get on their own, according to Ashton. It is his position that

...any order requiring the state to obtain and produce a document, not specifically required to be produced by 3.220(b)(I)(J), should be contigent upon a proper motion and showing pursuant to 3.220(f) and a demonstration that the Defendant cannot obtain the document themselves thru request or an application under F.S.119.

It sound to me as though Mr. Ashton has gotten tired of facilitating the defense in obtaining all those documents! What the judge will say, I have no clue.

So, for those of you who haven't already started your long holiday weekend and read this, do have a wonderful Memorial Day and remember those who have given their lives to defend our country.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Casey Anthony Murder Trial: Hearing Date Set

Late last week, Judge Belvin Perry announced a hearing date for June 1, 2010. The hearing will take place at 2:30 P.M. Judge Perry has set aside two hours for this hearing.

There will be two motions discussed at the hearing.

The first one is the Motion To Seal Jail Visitation Logs, filed by the defense on April 29, 2010 was supposed to be heard at the hearing on May 10. I find it curious that a seasoned attorney such as Cheney Mason would forget to notice the target of the motion, Orange County, the entity which administers the county correctional facilities. In fact the Certificate of Service at the end of his motion says:

I HEREBY CERTIFY that a true and correct copy of the foregoing has been furnished by U.S. Mail and/or hand delivery to the Office of the State Attorney, 415 N. Orange Avenue, Orlando, Florida 32801 and to Tamara Gapen (sic), Esq, at the Orange County Jail, Post Office Box 4970, Orlando, Florida 32802-4970 this 29th day of April, 2010.

Yet, in the Orange County's Response To Defendant's Motion To Seal, filed by Tamara L. Gappen on May 5, 2010, she states:

8. ...Counsel for the defense has again failed to provide proper notice to Orange County in this Motion. This failure to provide proper notice is in violation of this Court's Order Requiring Proper Notice to Orange County entered on October 22, 2009.

Clearly, proper notice goes to the county, not to the jail.

According to the defense, the jail logs need to be sealed because

2. The inability to maintain confidentiality of visitors to the Defendant prohibits the defense from being able to properly prepare her case for trial in that the mere identity of some expert witnesses that the defense desires to visit with Miss Anthony, if revealed, will cause unfounded speculation, as well as investigation and "google" inquiries about said visitor, thus, severely hampering the Defendant's preparation for trial and her entitlement to due process, equal protection of law, and effective assistance of counsel.

During the April 30 hearing, most of the expert witnesses were publicly acknowledged. There was one expert that was discussed at sidebar. I have to wonder if this is the one the defense doesn't want us to identify and investigate. The mention of Google makes me think that this is another blast at us nasty, threatening, evil bloggers!

To bolster his argument, Mason indicates in paragraph 5 that the prosecution is taking no position on this matter! That's nothing new! Every time the topic arises, the State's Attorneys have taken the exact same position. With the exception of the video of Casey in the infirmary at the time of the discovery of the remains, Judge Strickland ruled that he had no authority to tell the jail to violate their standard policies which are governed by the Sunshine Laws.

Indeed, in her response, Gappen states that

7. A criminal Defendant's desire to "maintain confidentiality of visitors" in high profile case does not fall into any category of lawful exemption. In fact, Defendant does not provide andy statutory exemption or legal authority for this court to legally "seal" public records that are open for public inspection pursuant to F.S. 119.07, and Article 1, Section 24 of the Florida Constitution.

Oh my, we HAVE heard this before!

The second motion is the defense Motion To Reconsider Certain Prior Rulings by Judge Stan Strickland, is more complex in nature. I discussed many aspects of this motion HERE.

What we are waiting for now are possible replies from TES attorney Mark NeJame and the State.

If they are filed and become available prior to the hearing, I will post about them.

Lacking that, stay tuned for the hearing. Since InSession ends at 3 P.M. and the hearing begins at 2:30 P.M., check out the local feeds for coverage.

I am looking forward to hearing Judge Perry on the TES issue.

Thanks to Muzikman for links to the visitation motions!


No sooner had I posted this article, the Orlando Sentinel has reported that:

Earlier, Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Belvin Perry set a hearing for June 1 to hear arguments on the defense's requests to seal jail-visitation logs and to have Perry reconsidered earlier rulings by the initial judge on the case.

One of those items to be discussed involves documents belonging to EquuSearch, the group that helped organize large volunteer searches for Casey Anthony's daughter Caylee, before the toddler's remains were found.

NeJame stated that Casey Anthony's defense team scheduled the hearing without coordinating with him, and he had a pre-planned family holiday that day.

NeJame stated his office is coordinating a new hearing date with Casey Anthony's defense, and that he was filing the conflict notice simply to assure his portion of the hearing be cancelled and rescheduled.

Check back at Trials and Tribulations for further information as it becomes available.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Christian Newsom Murder Trials: Afterword by David in Tennessee

Guest Entry from David in Tennessee!

The trials for the torture-murder of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom are over. There were four, one for each suspect. There was a fifth in 2008 of Eric Boyd in Federal Court for accessory to carjacking. Boyd was convicted and sentenced to 18 years for assisting the ringleader, Lemaricus Davidson, to escape.

The first trial saw Davidson's half-brother, Letalvis Cobbins, convicted of the rape and murder of Channon Christian and facilitation of the murder of Christopher Newsom. Cobbins was sentenced to life without parole. Here is my account of the Cobbins trial, along with an outline of the case. It includes the medical examiner's testimony.

The second trial resulted in the conviction of Lemaricus Davidson for both murders. He was sentenced to death. Davidson will be sentenced on the remaining charges on June 11.

In the third trial, George Thomas was convicted on all counts and was sentenced to life without parole.

In the last trial, Vanessa Coleman, the only female suspect, was found not guilty of both murders and of all charges relating to Newsom. Coleman was convicted of facilitating the first degree murder, kidnapping, rape, and theft of Channon Christian. The sentencing hearing for Coleman will be held on July 30.

I attended two and a half days of Coleman's trial. This is my account. There were some things I didn't write while the trial was still going on. My account of what I saw is from notes I took at the time.

The jury, as I wrote, looked unemotional, but their questions were revealing. Once, after defense attorney Theodore Lavitt finished a cross examination in which he yelled at the witness, several jurors were eager to ask questions. I saw one of them practically throw the question at the judge. The questions asked indicated an obsession with Daphne Sutton being "let off' and the thought that the authorities tricked and cheated Coleman. This is just what the defense was implying.

At noon on Thursday, I went to a coffee shop on the same floor as the courtroom for lunch. Standing in line, the entire defense team was standing behind me. The lead defense attorney. Mr. Lavitt, was right next to me. They were discussing trial strategy and didn't seem to care if anyone heard them (this was true of everybody). I couldn't keep from hearing what Lavitt said. He was saying (I thought) that the journal could hurt but Coleman's letters to her parents were "all right." Lavitt spoke in a clinical way, unlike how he sounded when cross examining.

On Wednesday, I heard someone give a pungent opinion of Lavitt's cross examination. He described it as like "watching a dead snail crawl down the aisle."

When the journal entry about Vanessa's "HELL OF AN ADVENTURE in the big T.N." was read on Friday afternoon, Lavitt looked beaten to me. I forgot to check the jury's reaction but they had no questions, for about the first time all day. It now appears by the verdict that most jurors paid no attention to the journal.

A woman sat next to me on Thursday and Friday. On Friday, she asked me if the medical examiner would testify that day. I answered that Lavitt's cross examinations had taken so long that she would not. The woman looked relieved and said, "I'm glad I won't have to watch it." We knew about the testimony the ME was going to give, along with the gruesome photos. On Monday, I watched the live stream of the medical examiner's testimony. Once, the camera panned over the audience. Sure enough, the woman I talked to was in the same seat as on Friday, watching the same testimony.

The key to how the trials went was each suspect having a separate trial. This enabled each suspect to blame it on the others. Cobbins blamed Davidson. Davidson blamed Cobbins. Thomas claimed to have been stoned. Coleman said she was a victim held against her will and the jury found her guilty of facilitation only.

The victims' families had to sit through five trials (counting Eric Boyd's federal trial) and hear the horrible details and see the awful photos. In Davidson's trial, the defense attorneys said that Channon and Chris came to the Chipman Street house voluntarily to buy drugs. They also said that Channon had "consensual sex" with Davidson.

The suspects had the best defense attorneys in Knoxville appointed to represent them free of charge. Theodore Lavitt is a Kentucky attorney hired by Coleman's parents. When their money ran low, Lavitt was paid by the state of Tennessee.

A few months ago, I reread Vincent Bugliosi's book on the Charles Manson case, "Helter Skelter." Former Los Angeles prosecutor Walt Lewis, author of "The Criminal Justice Club (a book I recommend to T&T readers)," told me by email that the Christian-Newsom case was about the worst he had heard of since the Tate-Labianca murders.

A big difference is that Manson, Krenwinkel, Atkins, and Van Houten were all tried together. This was Manson's idea. Tex Watson was tried and convicted separately, but would have been tried with the others if not for his family's political influence which delayed his extradition from Texas.

If we didn't already know it, the Christian-Newsom trials have shown that there is no slam dunk in a murder trial.

Donchais did an outstanding job covering the Coleman trial on her blog. Jamie Satterfield's articles at the Knoxville News Sentinel can be found at this archive.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Casey Anthony: More Wrangling over TES Records Ahead

The last two weeks have been a veritable motion-o-rama in the murder trial of Casey Anthony. After the hearing last Tuesday, I succumbed to the good May weather to tend to my garden and clear my head of the case for a while.

It was with some reluctance that I approached the pile of motions stacked on the floor next to my chair for the past week. They needed to be sorted and filed. Some needed to be read and analyzed. I felt that, if it weren’t raining, I’d be far happier digging rocks out of my prospective garden beds.

The case has grown so frustrating with the repetitive motions and the intentions of the defense team to get every piece of paper available from Texas Equusearch so that they can mount a major fishing expedition to find one searcher who surreptitiously searched on Suburban Drive and can state that the area where Caylee’s remains were found was dry as a bone and there were no remains there at the time.

Based on the two plus year quest for these documents, I believe that the defense is hoping to cast reasonable doubt as to the timing of the placement of Caylee’s body. They want very much to prove that Caylee wasn’t on Suburban until after Casey was incarcerated October 14, 2008. All the defense needs is a credible witness.

In a motion filed May 5, entitled Motion To Reconsider Strickland Rulings, the defense has asked Judge Perry to reconsider the following motions:

Please note that some of the documents linked here refer to the above motion as there are copies withing the motion.

Defendant’s Motion to Compel Production of Tape Recorded Statement of Joe Jordan (unavailable) and the Court’s Order on same dated April 7, 2010.

Motion for Production of Grand Jury Testimony of George Anthony by the state of Florida on September 16, 2009 and joined by the defense and the Order of the Court dated October 6, 2009.

Defendant’s Motion to Compel Tips Gathered by Law Enforcement, dated November 4, 2008.

The Order on Defendant’s Motion to Modify the Court’s Order on Defendant’s Application for Subpoena Duces Tecum for Documents in the Possession of Texas Equusearch.

The motion asking Perry to reconsider giving the defense a copy of George Anthony's testimony before the Grand Jury is easy to understand. The State's attorneys were there, the defense wasn't. When Jeff Ashton asked for the testimony, he gave as a reason that he needed it because he believed there were substantial differences in the testimony and other information George had given to LE. The defense came in and basically said, "We want it, too." The judge granted the State's request and never addressed that of the defense.

All the rest of the motions and orders the defense wants to have reconsidered by the new judge (and it is their right to do so as long as they are filed within 20 days of the recusal of the previous judge) circle around the issue of finding someone in the veritable haystack of documents who just might help cast reasonable doubt on the guilt of their client.

Those Pesky TES Documents

At the April 5 hearing on the latest motion from the defense concerning the TES documents, there were verbal fireworks in the courtroom. TES attorney Mark NeJame indicated that the defense team had only made one appointment to view the documents. The appointment was cancelled when he learned that a professional copying company was coming in to duplicate the documents, an obvious violation of the court order. NeJame literally shouted to the defense lawyers, COME TO MY OFFICE!

Judge Stan Strickland agreed with NeJame and told the defense to make an appointment to view the documents as per his previous order.

Now, the defense has gone to NeJame's office and now wants Judge Perry to allow them to copy all the documents. In the motion, Baez goes into detail about his version of his visit to NeJame's office. Here's a brief summary of the motion, penned by defense attorney Cheney Mason.

After agreeing to pay a monitor $12/hour, they went into a conference room and four unlabeled boxes of different sizes were brought in. The boxes weren't labeled or indexed and had no inventories. He went on to claim that they were not permitted to examine the two larger boxes which "apparently contained the very subject matter that the defense was after: identity of searchers who could be questioned as to whether or not they had also searched the relevant area as Ms. Buchanan has stated that she and others did...".

Hmmm... how do they know that if they weren't allowed to examine them?

When Baez and Mason began examining the third box, not indexed and about half full, they found a suspension folder labeled "no Suburban". Wouldn't you know it? The folder revealed that some " fact, contain some TES documents revealing searches on Suburban Drive property..."!

Here is one of my favorite parts of the story:

e. At this time, after about two hours, suddenly and mysteriously, news media appeared with a television camera surreptitiously videoing counsel through the glass door of TES lawyer's conference room. Such action completely thwarted the ability of counsel to engage in conversation amongst themselves and point out any documents that might be important.

Mason did state that they had tabbed numerous documents and that there were searchers who were not among the original 32.

I am sure Mark NeJame will be replying to this motion sometime this week, and I can't wait to hear HIS version. I am very sure he will not hold back anything he has to say. In the motion, Mason referred to NeJame as having "inserted" himself into the case.

The defense team wants Judge Perry to "... enter a new Order compelling that all of the Texas Equusearch documents be presented to the defense, without fee or charge to the indigent Defendant, and without restrictions of defense team's ability to take notes and find, thereby, witnesses to investigate. All the defense wants to do is learn the identity of these people so they can be contacted to determine if they, like Jordan and Buchanan, and those whose names could not be "noted" from the prior viewing, actually searched the relevant area or not.".

There it is, folks, an official request for a fishing expedition!

Joe Jordan and Laura Buchanan

I find it fascinating that the entire argument for the TES documents ends up by relying on the original signed statements of Joe Jordan and Laura Buchanan.

The statements can be found at the end of the current motion.

Joe Jordan taped his interview with Mort Smith and his attorney, Kelly Sims. At that time, he apparently signed his statement. The same evening, he was advised by someone to call LE and tell them about it. He spoke to Cpl. Edwards and came in the next day, October 28, 2009, for an interview. The surreptitious tape was one of two main topics. Edwards explained what he needed to do under the circumstances. As a result, both Smith and Sims agreed not to prosecute Jordan concerning the tape.

The second issue was that during the interview with Smith, he had been shown TES documents that he didn't recognize. They had been provided to the defense by Laura Buchanan. Jordan had noticed his name written in femenine handwriting and he did not recall searching with Buchanan.

He also indicated that Laura had called him and represented that she was Kentucky LE and had searched for Caylee with him. She asked him to contact Jose Baez and Jordan refused. A while later, he was approached by Mort Smith, who indicated Laura Buchanan had given him his information.

Jordan did a second interview on November 5, 2009 with Linda Drane Burdick, Cpl. Edwards, Cpl. Melich and his attorney, William McClellan. Jordan had received an investigative subpoena for this interview. He pretty much repeated and expanded on the information he had given in the first interview. He didn't know Buchanan, he didn't recognize her from her Facebook page.

The third issue was an e-mail that Jordan had sent after Caylee's remains were found. In both this and the first interview, Jordan stated that the e-mail had been in error because, at the time, he didn't know the exact location. In the second interview he was quite detailed in the area he had searched and it wasn't where the remains had been located.

Now, we have to look at what Mason wrote in the motion concerning Joe Jordan and Laura Buchanan. Here are a few snippets taken in the order they were written in the motion.

4. The former Judge did not fully consider the facts, overlooking the initial involvent of Mr. Jordan. In fact, Mr. Jordan e-mailed law enforcement on December 13, 2008, tw days after the remains of Caylee were discovered.....he, in fact, had searched the area...and that there were no remains found and the area was dry.

7. ... Accordingly, even if Mr. Jordan surreptitiously recorded the statements, withought the expectation of provacy by both Mr. Smith and Mr. Sims, there is no violation of law.

8. enforcemnt involved in this case, not being pleased with the December 13th e-mail from Mr. Jordan, have intimidated Mr. Jordan about his very valuable and exculpatory evidence...

11. Both Mr. Sims and Mr. Smith have a right to consent to the use of the recording...

As of now, I am having a difficult time understanding how the "discovery" of these two "witnesses" to the fact that the EXACT place Caylee was found was dry and she wasn't there would allow for the defense to have all the TES documents.

Joseph Jordan was honestly concerned that the tape he made could lead to prosecution. He contacted LE about the situation and Cpl. Edwards explained to him what he needed to do to handle the situation. In neither interview did I hear threats or intimidation. The interviews show that the State wanted honest information and aided Jordan in handling his situation by telling him to see an attorney. Jordan gave a very coherent explanation for his e-mail after Caylee was discovered.

Most curious of all, at the hearing on April 5, Jose Baez had stated that he had contacted Joe Jordan's attorney who promised to bring him in to be a witness for the defense in arguing the TES motion of the day. Funny, Jordan never did appear!

As far as Laura Buchanan is concerned, her name has now come up twice. At the April 30 status hearing, State's Attorney Linda Drane Burdick mentioned that some people were "stonewalling" and otherwise blocking attempts to be deposed.

In a recent motion filed by the State, when mentioning these folks by name in the section regarding Roy Kronk, she also brings up the name of LAURA BUCHANAN. Apparently, Ms. Buchanan isn't going to come easily to her deposition!

There is a great deal of good information in this motion I haven't gotten to, but I'm sure you will go back up and read it for yourself.

Prosecutor Alan Jackson to be Honored "Prosecutor of the Year"

Los Angeles Co. District Attorney's Office Press Release

LOS ANGELES – A veteran trial attorney of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office will receive the accolade of Prosecutor of the Year at a ceremony later this week.

Alan Jackson will be recognized at an awards dinner on Thursday, May 20. The event will take place at the Biltmore Hotel, 506 S. Grand Ave., in Los Angeles.

“The District Attorney’s Office has a long-standing tradition of prosecutorial excellence,” District Attorney Steve Cooley said. “I congratulate Alan for this prestigious distinction. He is an accomplished prosecutor who has secured convictions in some of the county’s most complex, high-profile cases.”

Other award recipients include the Honorable William R. Pounders of Los Angeles Superior Court, recipient of the Judge of the Year award; Justice Carlos R. Moreno, associate justice of the California Supreme Court, recipient of the Career Achievement award; and Richard A. Hutton, of Hutton & Wilson, recipient of the Defense Attorney of the Year award.

Jackson has prosecuted more than 50 felony cases – nearly half of which have been murders – during the course of his 15-year career with the District Attorney’s Office.

In 2009, Jackson successfully led the prosecution of famed music producer Phil Spector, who fatally shot a woman in the foyer of his Alhambra home. Similarly in 2006, Jackson secured a conviction against the man who ordered the 1988 execution-style murders of legendary race car driver Mickey Thompson and his wife, Trudy.

He is currently assistant head deputy of the Major Crimes Division where he continues to carry his own case load. Previously, Jackson was assigned to the Hardcore Gang Division where, for five years, he convicted some of Los Angeles County’s most violent gang members.

Each year, the Los Angeles County Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section, honors individuals who have consistently demonstrated legal excellence in the field of criminal justice. The award recognizes professionalism, ethics, prosecution of high-profile cases, career accomplishments and community service. Nominees are selected from federal, state, county and city prosecutorial agencies.

Past recipients of the Prosecutor of the Year award include District Attorney Steve Cooley; Patrick Dixon, Head Deputy District Attorney of the Major Crimes Division; David Demerjian, Head Deputy District Attorney of the Public Integrity Division; and Compton Superior Court Judge Eleanor J. Hunter, a former Los Angeles County prosecutor.

Friday, May 14, 2010

New Polanski Rape Victim Comes Forward … why did she take so long?

Charlotte Lewis, image from

Confessed rapist Roman Polanski’s dear friends are partying it up in Cannes and distributing a petition calling for his release. That’s what friends are for, you know.

American actor Michael Douglas did not join in the happy group. Douglas stuck to his principles and made a statement during a French radio interview, saying it would be unfair to sign a petition for someone who confessed to the crime of unlawful sexual intercourse back in 1978.
A few hours after the interview aired, British actress Charlotte Lewis, accompanied by Gloria Allred, announced at a Los Angeles news conference that she’d also been raped by Polanski when she was 16 years of age, back in 1982, a mere five years after the Los Angeles rape.
Recall that Polanski also continued his statutory rape ways when had an affair with then-15 year old Nastassja Kinski, his leading actress in “Tess,” a film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d'Urbervilles. The film, which was released in 1979, was made upon the suggestion of Polanski’s murdered wife, Sharon Tate, who had suggested Polanski adopt the novel for film.
Because Polanski was a fugitive from justice in the United States, “Tess” was filmed in France. The legal age for sexual consent is 15, and there were no legal consequences for the affair with the teenaged German-born Kinski.
Lewis claimed that Polanski forced himself upon her at an apartment in Paris while she was working on his film, “Pirates,” which was released in 1986.

Polanski is pretty bold with the ladies when in France, isn’t he?

Lewis never reported the incident, and it is unclear why she has done so now. She and Allred spoke to Los Angeles County prosecutors on Thursday. It is speculated that Lewis’ statement could be used as a prior bad acts statement, a propensity to rape.

I am always torn when Gloria Allred insinuates herself into cases such as this. She is turning into the attorney for wronged girlfriends/wives or “the other” woman. On the other hand, Charlotte Lewis is certainly opening her life for plenty of public scrutiny as far as her private life is concerned.

Do I believe it happened? You bet. I bet she’s not the only one, either. Amazing how being cast in a movie will buy silence for a few decades. According to IMDB, Lewis hasn’t worked in film or television since 2003, though she did give birth to a son in 2004.

Earlier this month Polanski released a written statement suggesting his arrest in Switzerland was “based on a lie.”

The statement included the following passage: “
I ask only to be treated fairly like anyone else.”

Fair meaning drop it? Man up, Polanski. Even if the Los Angeles authorities choose to say you are even-steven on the rape charge, and those 45 days were plenty, you are a fugitive from U.S. justice. You enjoy taking our U.S. dollars when you release a film here. Our dollars are fine, but our justice is not?

And to those psychiatrists back in 1977 who deigned that Polanski was unlikely to reoffend and have sexual relations with a teenager, looks like you all were wrong.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Perry Hears Death Penalty Motions: Hearing in the murder trial of Casey Anthony

Today's hearing has just ended and I'm staring at piles and piles of notes. There was a great deal of back-and-forth between the defense and the prosecution and a surprise witness. Today's hearing was one rich in eloquent lawyering, and I recommend you watch some of it for the details I have not included!

I must also say that it wasn't a good day for Casey Anthony. Everything heard by the court today dealt with the death penalty. She fidgeted a great deal and had some "teary" moments when she wiped her eyes with her tissue or wiped her eye with her finger and wiped her finger on the tissue.

The defense, represented by Andrea Lyon, presented a total of six motions today, which leaves eleven outstanding.


(I have had difficulty getting individual links to work and you need to go to the site and click on them as listed on the lower right-hand side.)

Andrea Lyon presented a surprise witness, Elizabeth Rapaport, an attorney from the University of New Mexico School of Law. Assistant State's Attorney Jeff Ashton objecting, indicating that the defense had not listed this person as a witness, nor had he received a copy of her CV.

Judge Perry allowed her to testify and gave her wide latitude. She has done a number of studies about gender bias in death penalty cases. She testified about the prejudice in courts towards women who are accused of killing their children. She also pointed out that such cases are rare. She stated that women who kill their children will elicit extensive media attention. If the mother lives a life style of partying, having different sex partners, is "scantily clad", watches male strippers, and so on, they are judged by their behavior, not their ability as a parent. She pointed out that such a woman can be a good parent, providing nurturing and care to her child.

Mike Brooks on InSession just pointed out that a good parent does not wait 31 days to report her child missing, how apropos as I write this!

Jeff Ashton asks Ms. Rapaport if she has any background in child psychology or child and adolescent development. She says she has none. She also admitted she knew little of this particular case. She did add that if a man or woman who led a lifestyle we don't admire, but were there 100% for the child physically and emotionally could be good parents. She also said that some prosecutors and some media used such information to inflame the public to the point that whether or not the woman did kill her child would not be the main issue.

Ashton got a little hot about the relevance issue and was admonished by the judge. He asked her if there have been times when a court has deemed some of these issues relevance.

This is a part of the hearing you have to see for yourself! It is a preview of things to come in the trial itself.

In the end, Judge Perry denied the motion.

Defense 0 State 1


Lyon explained that, in Florida, the jury finds a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt but, in the penalty phase, the jury does not need to agree about aggravating factors. She said that the law mentions "aggravating factors", meaning that there must be two. Judge Perry says that the law says there must only be one. She asked the judge how he could go forward when the statute cannot be constitutional as it is in opposition to Ring v. Arizona.

Ashton indicated that in her motion, she had agreed that the Florida Supreme Court had ruled on this issue. He also said that the case hadn't come to trial yet and there were no facts yet. The facts haven't been heard and the jury has not ruled. He told the Court that the motion was premature.

Lyon concluded by stating that if the defense were right, this is the correct time.

Judge Perry stated that the Court is bound by Supreme Court decisions in 2002 that upheld the Constitution of Florida's death "scheme". He cited the decisions and denied the motions.

Defense 0 State 3

I don't have a specific reference to a motion for the next one. It refers back to the December 11, 2009 hearing in which Jeff Ashton made his eloquent "closing" argument concerning the death of Caylee Anthony. That was the hearing where the defense wanted to know the aggravating factors being used in the case. At that time, Judge Stan Strickland ruled against the death penalty. Apparently, there was a response from the state which argued that the defense should be able to figure out the aggravating factors.

In Ashton's reply, he argued that if the state had to supply aggravating factors, the State wanted the defense's mitigating factors.

This argument was Jeff Ashton at his best! He was indignant and fiery in his representation of the need for reciprocal discovery.

After the arguments back and forth, Perry granted the motion.

Defense 1 State 3

Lyon then presented her case for the defense motion: Protective Order with Respect to Penalty Phase Discovery. She wants this information sealed to protect potential witnesses in the penalty phase from harassment. The defense does not want to present this information prior to the trial. Lyon believes these witnesses have a right to privacy considering what has happened to other witnesses in this case.

Jeff Ashton pointed out that the defense had agreed to participate in discovery. He said that they had taken full advantage of the State's discovery and now don't want to reciprocate. Ashton said that the Court has the right to restrict information concerning witnesses, but that he believed Roy Kronk finds the irony in this situation "quite rich". He further indicated that the State wouldn't be able to rebut without discovery.

Andrea Lyon pointed to the attempted suicides of two witnesses as an example of the effect of the publicity on potential witnesses.

Perry cited case law and denied the motion. He did indicate that if some particular witness were facing public harassment, the names could be withheld on a case by case basis.

Defense 1 State 4

The final motion presented today was the SECOND MOTION TO PRECLUDE DEATH PROCEDURES FOR IMPERMISSIBLE PROSECUTORIAL MOTIVES. This is the motion the defense filed which essentially says that once the State learned how much money the defense had at its disposal last March, they put the death penalty back in play so that Casey Anthony would be forced to spend all her money and not have the right to counsel of her choosing.

Andrea Lyon began by pointing out that some of the information was still under seal (from the in-camera hearing last year).

Judge Perry said that they would deal with this at the sidebar.

Jeff Ashton said he wanted to know that information!

The judge said he would know, at the sidebar.

Lyon then stated that the timing and behavior of the state after the disclosure of the amount of money available to Casey Anthony, was not a coincidence. Even though there was no cause of death, no evidence of the cause of death, after the State became aware of the amount of money at the March 12 hearing, the State had put the death penalty back on the table so as to interfere with Ms. Anthony's ability to have counsel of her choice. She indicated then that what was to be discussed next was under seal. Prior to approaching the bench, she reiterated that the timing was suspicious.

After the bench conference, Ashton said he was now free to speak about the in-camera hearing. Baez immediately objected and Judge Perry said it was not going to help him as there was no mention of Baez' fee at the hearing.

Ashton then said that $200,000 should have been more than adequate for the case. He was annoyed that this was the third time that this has been alleged.

Lyon had a few words to say, and the judge ruled:


Defense 1 State 5

At this point, the hearing was complete. Judge Perry went on to housekeeping details. He indicated there were 8-12 death penalty motions left. Lyon stated that there were 11 and she was willing for the judge to base his rulings on her pleadings if the State didn't object.

Ashton agreed, but wanted the opportunity to write a response.

Judge Perry agreed to give Lyon 7 days to provide the State with a list of the motions and Mr. Ashton to respond.

Perry then asked if there were any opinion motions ripe to be heard. The defense stated that they needed to wait for depositions before arguing the spoliation motion. Ashton said the State needed more time (I'm assuming to respond to the latest motion). Baez then pointed out there would be more motions in the next couple of days to be heard. Since the majority of those motions ask the judge to declare parts of Florida Statutes unconstitutional, they will probably be denied.

Perry closed the hearing by warning both sides to pay attention to the deadlines or "they may be left hanging in the cold".

I do believe him when he says that!

Watch the hearing

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Monday, May 10, 2010

JUDGE PERRY RULES! May 10 hearing in the murder trial of Casey Anthony

Judge Belvin Perry Jr. presided over yet another pre-trial hearing in the murder case of Casey Anthony. As he has done in prior hearing, he reigned in counsel and made Jose Baez get to the point when he would wander off into flights of fancy. During the hearing, Perry ruled on some motions and deferred others to a later time. He also managed to get through the entire list of outstanding motions not related to the death penalty in under two hours.

The first motion discussed was the Amended Motion For Change of Venue.

Jose approached the podium with a huge stack of papers and what appeared to be a book.

Linda Drane Burdick then got up to say that the State waived seating a jury in Orlando, but would have comments later concerning what had been discussed at the April 30 hearing. This would mean we would not have to hear Baez' speak to that issue!

I have a notation in my notes that she didn't want a jury from Dade County.

Baez said that the defense agreed to have a sequestered jury. He then presented the defense argument for Dade County and southern Florida in general as being the location where the least percentage of population were aware of the case and less subject to the intense media. He mentioned two murder trials he's had in the past year. In Orlando, all the jurors knew who he was and in Miami only one person knew.

Baez also felt that northern Florida was inappropriate because of the Hayleigh Cummings and the Somer Thomson cases. He pointed out that even the names were similar with Hayleigh and Caylee. He went on to mentions bounty hunter, young woman, TES and lawyers injecting themselves into both cases (another slap at TES and NeJame).

Baez really wanted to persuade the judge to physically move the trial. He went on at length about the helicopters and angry protesters on street corners when he accompanied Casey home from jail three times. He continued on in this vein for a while and said that he compared this case to the one in "To Kill a Mockingbird" and began to describe the tense situation in that courtroom. Judge Perry put a quick stop to that and headed Baez back on target. Baez apologized to the judge and continued . He objected to jurors being brought back to the Orlando "atmosphere" and court should consider this.

Some of what he said now he said before, so I'll spare you a repeat!

Baez then read off some statistics. The case had generated $19 million dollars in advertising revenue The media frenzy, he said, was not about justice, not about Casey, not about a small child. It was about MONEY!

Personally, I think a trial is about justice for Caylee Marie Anthony.

In his quest for south Florida as a location of the trial, he sad that it can handle media coverage and that the two jurisdictions had switched trials before.

Finally, he asked to give a two minute presentation.

The judge allowed it and we were all treated to a poorly produced video with screaming protesters with their signs and people demonstrating outside the Anthony house shouting "baby killer" and "go to hell". Amazingly, he showed George and Cindy fighting with the protesters.

Judge Perry then asked if other than 4th Judicial Circuit, did Baez have any objections to any other jurisdiction. Baez conferred with Mason and added the 1st Judicial Circuit (Pensacola) as well due to media coverage and demographics.

Drane Burdick spoke next. First, she handed the judge a sampling of all areas of Florida which includes demographics, racial, median income from 2007 Census Bureau.

She then stated the statute which says that if a jury is sequestered and there is a change of venue, the jury SHALL be brought to the venue trying the case... ORLANDO!

Concerning the "atmosphere", she said that State is confident the Court can handle the atmosphere in the courtroom. She cited a case she tried with Mason three years ago where there wasn't any media attention. The families in courtroom were creating problems and the situation was dealt with.

Then end result was that Perry indicated he would rule on this at an appropriate time and stated what his ruling would be. It was exactly the same as he indicated at the April 30 status hearing. There will be a change of venue, the jurors will be brought in from another jurisdiction to Orlando where they will be housed at an undisclosed location. He will also issue a gag order on the attorneys once they are made aware of the location.

As for the situation with the protesters, the judge indicated that he was sure that the Orlando County Sheriff's Office would be able to deal with the situation.

Cheney Mason spoke briefly about the Motion To Seal Jail Visiting Logs. I had to go back and re-listen to this part because Mason spoke very quickly. No unsurprisingly, the defense had failed to notice the Orlando County Jail, which has jurisdiction over the logs. I can't understand why the defense continues to fail to notice the jail!

I have to wonder if Judge Perry, when he hears the motion, will agree to seal the logs as there is the real possibility that the experts who will interview Casey may give away the defense strategy in the case. It is also possible that the same arguments from the jail's attorney as were given about previous jail videos and documents will be given and accepted by the judge. We'll have to wait for another hearing to find out.

The next motion up for discussion was the Motion In Limine To Exclude Irrelevant Evidence of “Party Pictures”. Baez began to speak and and Perry interrupted him to say he had viewed the pictures and read the motion. Baez quickly stated that the vast majority of the photographs were irrelevant, that they did not relate to the crimes Ms. Anthony is charged with.

He stated he would save the rest of his argument for rebuttal, but did state that he was at a loss as to what these photos allegedly prove.

Linda Drane Burdick referred to these pictures a before and after photos. Concerning the photos taken before June 15, 2008, she stated she would agree to proffer them prior to introducing them at trial and that she would not refer to them in opening statements.

Linda Drane Burdick referred to these pictures a "before" and "after" photos. Concerning the photos taken before June 15, 2008, she stated she would agree to proffer them prior to introducing them at trial and that she would not refer to them in opening statements.

Drane Burdick said that the Court could not rule in on the motion in vacuum, without the context of how the pictures would be used. She then went on to demonstrate that the same was true of the Defendant’s Motion In Limine To Exclude Lay Opinion Testimony.

If the defense were to offer testimony that Ms. Anthony was a good mother, if they were to open the door to that topic, Ms. Anthony’s activities during the almost 3 years previous could come in to rebut the testimony. Likewise, previous pictures could come in to do the same.

Drane Burdick said that the Court could not rule in on the motion in vacuum, without the context of how the pictures would be used.

Concerning the “after” photgraphs, she stated that the State has a time line of Casey's whereabouts from July 15-16.

Drane Burdick said that the prosecution intended to use the photos to prove what her activities were during this time frame, not that she was a bad mother.

She also said that the number of pictures would be limited, that there was no need to introduce them all as just one or two would prove their point. They would establish demeanor better than by words alone. They would not be a feature of the trial.

Judge Perry then posed a question to her.

He asked her to assume for the moment the defense offers evidence that Ms. A. is a good mother. What relevance do photos of Ms. Anthony in club with the blue dress have to do with her being a good mother? What was the state's theory on that?

Drane Burdick replied that the blue dress pictures were taken during the time frame she had indicated earlier. They would not necessarily go to challenge the depiction of Casey as a "good mother". They would challenge the fact that Casey claimed she was looking for her daughter when the pictures were taken. She further indicated that the dress would not be an issue. She said there were cases of Casey sitting in a booth with other people which would not feature the length of the dress.

At this point in the hearing, Casey looked very tense.

Perry stated that most of photos would dealt with before trial. Perry said that he didn’t want the jurors to be locked up in jury room while they make arguments about the pictures. He added that he had concerns about some of them. He agreed with Drane Burdick that it is hard to rule on these in a vacuum.

Drane Burdick then stated that, as the trial gets closer, they would be able to narrow the evidence to be presented. They will preview them all with the defense with the intention that it would be reciprocated.

Baez addressed the photographs taken before June 16; he said that he didn’t know what they could indicate as to whether or not Ms. Anthony was a good mother or not. Just because she's drinking beer and is having a good time with her friends doesn’t indicate that Casey wasn't a good mother; that her child were well fed, being taken care of. It was a sexist comment!

He then said that it was the State's theory is that Caylee Anthony died June 16, and that what happened on June 20 wasn't relevant. Baez said that the State's motives were very transparent, they wanted to paint Ms. Anthony in a bad light.

Judge Perry said he would defer ruling and that the State and the defense, under reciprocal discovery rules were to narrow down the issues by March. He said he would hold a hearing March 31 to settle issues about them.

Drane Burdick asked if that was to include all photos. Judge Perry stated the hearing would deal with these and photos of remains of victim.

Cheney Mason gets up to speak to the next two motions, the Omnibus Motion To Exclude Heresay Evidence, Gossip, And, Innuendo and the Defendant’s Motion In Limine To Exclude Lay Opinion Testimony.

I must say that when I read the first motion, I had made a note that any good attorney knows the heresay rules and exceptions. I found that the defense making a long list of statement by various witnesses in statements and depositions was a big waste of time. These issues usually come up on a case-by-case basis. Most of you have followed trials and the sound of an attorney standing and saying "objection, heresay". Then the lawyers will debate with a judge as to why or why not the testimony that would come would be heresay. How many times have we heard an attorney say that the testimony would go towards state of mind, not for the truth of the matter?

Mason said that Doesn't think this, waving and shaking the motion was all that necessary since the prosecution knows what they are doing! He pretty much indicated that the long litany of heresay motions was a big waste of money and that the issue of heresay is more like shifting sands.

I thought to myself at the time that he agreed with me.

He did say he wants State to have a date by which they can present the heresay they intend to use.

Perry agreed with Mason. A lot of the statements could cause heresay objections. He said he would deal with anything theyhave big issues with.

These "things of great concern" will be heard prior to the trial. He said he did not want a mini-trial

Drane Burdick said she didn't have much of a response, agreeing that these issues would have to be a case-by-case basis.

She said that she had a problem with the defense referring to the 911 call as being heresay. She said she would be willing to talk with the defense about redacting it.

Perry stated that his order issued last Friday gives a deadline for all motions. He pointed out that the deadline for the photos is an extended deadline. (March 31) The main deadline is December 31.

Drane Burdick said she would include a motions to redact and to narrow the focus for trial purposes. She stated that the prosecution was not willing to pre-try every issue.

As to the 911 calls, Drane Burdick indicated that the defense only addressed 2 of 3 calls. She said the State was going to use use last one. They would be arguing that Mrs. Anthony's statements are excited utterances. She added that the Court can't rule out of context and they aren't heresay.

Judge Perry said he would reserve ruling on the issue for the present time.

We now got to the Motion To Dismiss Defective Indictment.

Perry asked the defense was going to rest on the pleadings and Baez indicated he was.

Drane Burdick said she had prepared a two page response and handed it to the judge.

Perry took a few moments to read her reply and denied the motion.

The final motion, Renewed Motion To Compel Bench Notes, Standards, Data, And Communications With Law Enforcement, Et Al., was filed by the defense on August 11, 2009. It laid out a laundry list of materials the defense wants.

Baez indicated that they had received some of the material and had not received other information.

They have some of the requested material but not other stuff.

Perry asled what specifically had asked for and from whom (as far as what they still needed).

At this point, I am not going to burden you with all the details. Just going through that gives me a major headache.

Suffice it to say that Baez said that he was missing some CV's (curriculum vitae). Jeff Ashton pointed out that only expert witnesses are required to provide them. Perry asked for the names of those who fit the parameters and Baez came up with four names.

Ashton said that he had no objection and will supply them although one of the names was from the FBI, whose production was complete as of his last discussion with Linda Kenney-Baden.

Baez mention ASCLAD documents from all the certified labs. When Baez mentioned the OCSO, Ashton pointed out it wasn't a crime lab.

Judge Perry asked about Oak Ridge. and Ashton indicated that it was run by the Federal Government and wasnot a crime lab. The awyer representing them has indicated that previously.

Baez then said that certain evidence was sent from FDLE to other labs. He said they do not know if FDLE they ran any tests.

Ashton said he saw no reference to them that he hadn't seen in the14,000 pages of discovery and that they didn't run any tests.

Perry then asked his favorite question, "Next?".

Baez simply said bench notes

Ashton said that Baez needed to be more specific. He' already provided four to five thousand pages of such documents. He said that he had immediately complied with what he had received from the defense.

It was then discussed that Baez needed to speak with lawyers for the Federally run labs.
How many times have we heard this before?

Ashton said that the State had provided everything that they are willing to give that has been asked for and that the defense needs to get this information by going to the jurisdiction of those labs. He added that they could discuss specific items, but they have been compliant.

Perry asked what has Baez not received that he has asked for that he is entitled to.

Ashton replied that counsel should make new motion with specific items and then he can help.

Baez stated that this has been an ongoing issue. He said he'd received nothing from OCSO.

He was again told to list what he'd asked for.

Perry then made a differentiation between experts and crime scene investigators. He asked if there any experts from OSCO who did testing who would testify as experts?

Ashton said that there were only two Sandra Kahn, and Steven Stanger (computer experts). He said that their entire, extensive report has been produced. He added that much that Baez has asked for, such as notes, are undiscoverable.

Perry asked Baez if he would concede or not concede that he had received the material from computer experts.

Baez said that he could only accept Ashton's statement that they are not in existence.

Ashton got testy at this point and indicated he said some of the material is not discoverable.

Perry asked Baez again to list specific items and who he had not received from. He said that the rules of discovery are specific as to whether he is entitled to notes here are rules about whether Baez is entitled to rough drafts and notes. He added that this would be discussed at another time. He mentioned Brady(that the State must provide defense with exculpatory evidence). He again indicated that Baez had to be more specific in what he was missing as it was difficult to go through "this" without knowing what you are missing from whom.

The motion was stabled, and if there is a listed expert the defense has not received bench notes from, they are submit a response and the State can reply and they all can discuss whether they are discoverable.

Baez was given ten days to present this information and Ashton can reply within ten days at which point a hearing for the issue will be set.

Baez asked if he had to file a new motion and the judge told him to rearrange what he has and indicate what he wants from whom.

What the judge was saying was that Baez has to show what exists, does not exist, what hi is entitled to and what he is not entitled to have! In other words... get organized defense!

That was the end of discussion for today's hearing. Tomorrow, Andrea Lyon will be present to present the death penalty motions.

I'm looking forward to seeing Perry vs. Lyon!

Watch the hearing:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Melissa Huckaby Pleads GUILTY to First Degree Murder

Shocker in a Central California court today. Melissa Huckaby pleads guilty to the murder of eight-year-old Sandra Cantu. Read this report at ABC news.

CNN Report

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Vanessa Coleman Trial Coverage: Christian-Newsome Murders

GUEST ENTRY by David in Tennessee

David attended two-and-a-half days of Vanessa Coleman's murder trial. Sprocket.

The Christian-Newsom Trial by David From Tennessee

On Wednesday morning, I drove 270 miles to Knoxville, Tennessee. Upon reaching Knoxville, I left the interstate for Kingston Pike. This becomes Cumberland Avenue which runs through the University of Tennessee. The road then turns into Main Street where the courthouse is located inside the Knoxville City County building.

After a couple of turns, I pull into a parking garage and park my car. I walk to the courthouse. At the front door, there is the first security check. You have to empty your pockets and undergo a scanner to see if you have a concealed weapon.

I then proceed to find the courtroom where the trial is held. I've been told something about the layout, but it takes some searching. I spot a bench alongside one of the courtrooms. I see some witnesses sitting on it whom I recognize from watching the live stream of previous trials. I then spot Chris Newsom's family, whom I also recognize. The trial is on the 2:30 PM break. Everybody is moving toward the courtroom. I follow in behind them.

Three Knox County deputy sheriffs are checking everybody who goes in the courtroom. Every time you go in whether morning, break, after lunch, you have to be checked. I empty my pockets again and am scanned for a weapon. I then walk into the courtroom. Every full day, I was checked 5 times, as was everyone else.

Although I have been a true crime junkie for decades, I had never attended a trial in person, only watching on television. It was surreal. The jury is brought in. On TV, I never saw the jury. They looked serious, but noncommittal.

Daphne Sutton had testified earlier that day, so I missed it. Stacey Lawson, ex-girlfriend of the now-convicted George Thomas, was the witness. Some of her friends follow her on the stand. Theodore Lavitt, lead defense attorney, tries to trip up the witnesses but rambles on and on and is boring. Judge Richard Baumgartner looks as bored as anyone. Once, he looked asleep. His tie is askew.

There are seven benches on each side of the center aisle. The victims' families sat on the second row from the front on the right side. I sat three rows behind them on Wednesday, two rows behind the next two days. I estimate the courtroom could seat around 125 spectators. I counted 40 on Wednesday afternoon. The number always fluctuates, but stays close to this number all three days. The judge lets people come and go while testimony is taking place as long as they make no noise.

Prosecutors Takisha Fitzgerald and Leland Price have the case cold after three trials. Toward the end of the day, the prosecution brings out tape that shows the dimensions of the Chipman Street house. No one in this small house could have been unaware of what was happening.

The jury is made up of 6 white women, 2 white men, 3 black women, and 1 black man. The four alternates are 2 men and 2 women, evenly split black and white. I have read that half of a jury is what the prosecution wants and the other half what the defense desires. This jury panel fits that description.

At a bench conference, I hear the judge tell the lawyers, "My attitude has always been to let it all hang out."

The overall atmosphere is relaxed. The victims families are used to being here and are good friends with the court employees. I want badly to tell them I am here to support them but don't know what to say. I am a shy person who doesn't speak to strangers unless spoken to. The Christians and Newsoms are very likable people.

Before court on Thursday morning, I saw Gary Christian talking in a hallway with a local TV reporter who is sympathetic to the parents of Vanessa Coleman. Vanessa's father wanted to meet the victims' families and tell them his sympathy for their loss. The trouble is that the Coleman's insist their daughter is an innocent victim who was raised to know right from wrong. That nigh, back in my motel room, I saw the Christians asked about this on TV. Gary walked away from the camera and refused to talk. Deena, Channon's mother, said, "If she was raised to know right from wrong she didn't learn." The respective parents avoid each other.

Thursday is spent playing the tape of Vanessa Coleman's interview with law enforcement. She has a little girl voice. Vanessa claims to have seen and heard very little. She never saw Chris Newsom. Lemaricus Davidson took Channon into his room and had sex with her several times. She didn't see any others go in the room. Channon was tied up. Once, Vanessa snuck in and gave Channon a glass of water. She wanted to call the police but was afraid.

Davidson took Channon and snapped her neck. He then told Vanessa to check her pulse. She didn't know how but held her wrist. Channon was dead. Davidson and the others then tied up Channon and put her in the garbage can. This is the gist of the story Coleman has been telling the last three years. The interviewing police told Vanessa they didn't believe her as this story does not fit the horrible torture inflicted on the victims. For one thing, Channon's neck was not broken. Also, the house was too small not to know what was going on. Coleman claims to have seen and heard little.

When cross-examining the law enforcement officials, defense attorney Lavitt keeps bringing up Daphne Sutton. Once a juror sent in a question (In Tennessee, jurors can ask a question if the judge and lawyer approve it) asking why Sutton wasn't charged with murder. Sutton came by while Channon was still alive held in a closet or bathroom. Davidson also gave Sutton some of Channon's things. The defense strategy is to portray Vanessa Coleman as a victim who was held hostage by the gang of killers, had nothing to do with the murders, and tricked by the police detectives who questioned her.

Theodore Lavitt spend hours Thursday cross-examining ATD agent Bernard Waggoner. He shouts and asks the same questions over and over. It goes on and on. Finally, some spectators voiced their disgust with Lavitt's tactics. Judge Baumgartner then said, "I don't want any editorializing from the audience. that's my job."

Outside, the jury's presence, handwriting expert Larry Miller takes the stand to authenticate Vanessa Coleman's journal.

Coleman's federal grand jury testimony is entered and reenacted by Price and Fitzgerald.
On Friday, the rest of Coleman's statement is played for the jury. Many pauses and stops for Coleman's little girl voice. She sits at the defense table with little emotion. Sometimes she takes notes. Coleman didn't hear Channon scream but heard Eric Boyd talking to the others when he came to the house. She said she heard boyd whispering while taking a shower.

ATF agent Waggoner is back on the stand and Lavitt keeps on with the same questions. Waggoner keeps testifying that Coleman's story was unblievable. Coleman's letter to her parents is introduced. It is the same story. Davidson and her boyfriend Cobbins threatened to kill her if she went to the police.

Knoxville police detective Todd Childress testifies. On cross, Lavitt accuses Childress of tricking Coleman and not tellinng her she was about to be arrested.

Jennifer Millsaps, a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation DNA and forensic expert, takes the stand. She gives a clinic on DNA. Millsaps then tells where the DNA was found. Coleman's DNA was found on some strips binding Channon's wrists. the defense says Coleman had slept on the sheet torn into strips. Remember that Coleman said she checked Channon's pulse? She said that in case her DNA was found on Channon Christian. the DNA testimony is boring.

Finally, handwriting expert Larry Miller testifies before the jury about the journal. It was found at the house where Coleman fled with Cobbins and Thomas. It was in a purse that had items from Christian. There is no doubt Coleman wrote it. She has a distinctive style of forming some letters. As the journal was flashed on the screen, the spectators were on the edge of our seats. It is a very dramatic moment. No one is bored now. Miller reads the entry:

1/8 & 1/9
Wake up! And look around! Whats really going on! I don't really have a clue or at least I use to be able to say I don't know, but as much as I've seen and observed and learned. I know exactly whats goin on. Although alot of this is new to me. Life is a trip but its amazing how things play its own role. Life is interesting & full of surprises even very unexpected things happen that you don't expect.


last night was one of a kind we stayed w/a crackhead that was cool as hell. It snowed a little bit but its already melted. Lets talk about Adventures! I've had one HELL OF AN ADVENTURE
since I've been in the big T.N. its a crazy world these days! But I love the fun adventures & lessons that I've learned. Its going to be a long intgeresting year!


Day two The ride home! Ha, Ha,

We had a crackhead bring us back. the whole way back she was complaining b/c she didn't have any drugs.

She was drivin kinda crazy but it was str8 tho.

Let us remember what Vanessa Coleman called a HELL OF AN ADVENTURE. Chris Newsom was beaten and raped anally. He was dragged by a dog leash around his neck and naked from the waist down to a railroad track. His hands were bound and his mouth gagged with his own socks. Chris Newsom was then shot three times as the killers inflicted as much pain as possible. His body was then set on fire.

Channon Christian was found bound in a fetal position in the trash can. Five bags were around her body. A smaller white bag was around her head. She suffocated in the trash can. Channon was raped repeatedly, then kicked repeatedly in the vaginal area before she was stuffed alive in the trash can. She also suffered blows to the head.

Does anyone care to guess who administered a good part of this beating. The above is only a brief description of the agonizing torture two decent and likable young people were subjected to.
On Friday morning, I was seated on a bench waiting for court to begin. Hugh Newsom, Chris' father, spoke to me. He had seen me the previous two days. I told him I was there to support the Christian and Newsom families and hadn't spoke to him before because I didn't know what to say. Hugh put me at ease and we talked for a few minutes.

Later that day at a break, I held the door for a lady. She said, "Thank you sir." It was Deena Christian. When the day ended, I talked with Hugh and Mary Newsom. I told them, "God bless you and I hope everything works out for you."

They are wonderful people. It gives you a good idea what their children were like.

Thank you so much David. I hope you will consider sharing more of your courtroom observations and what you were feeling with T&T's readers. Sprocket.