Friday, May 27, 2011

James Fayed Penalty Phase Verdict Watch Day 4

James Fayed, left, with his attorney Mark Werksman during opening statements

8:42 am: I'm inside Dept. 109 and I'm the only one here in the gallery. Sean the bailiff, Lori the court clerk and Lynn the court reporter are here. The room is quiet.

I drove because Mr. Sprocket couldn't take me to the train this morning. He's working on a difficult project all day today. Last night coming home on the train there were two people in the seats behind me that were on jury service. As I was listing to them talk, I realized that they had to have been in the Criminal Court building and not the Stanley Mosk. I finally got the courage up to ask them which courtroom they were in. They said it was Dept. 105, Judge Bob S. Bowers. The gentleman was in the gallery and the woman was in the jury box for a time until the woman prosecutor excused her and a jury was finally picked. The mentioned that it was a gang related murder case and the defendant was claiming self defense. They also mentioned that lots of the potential jury pool were excused (for cause) because they already had a prejudicial opinion about gangs.

What was surprising to me is that they both didn't realize, they were not aware that the courtrooms were open to the public. They didn't know that anyone could come into a courtroom on any floor of the building and observe the proceedings. They asked me how they could find out about cases. I directed them to the Superior Court's Public Information Office.

It's one of the wonderful things about the justice system in the US. Most proceedings are public record. I've heard of some family court hearings being closed to the public, but for the most part almost any courtroom in the US, anyone can walk in and attend a trial. In this criminal court building, I've occasionally seen the bailiff's ask people who come in and sit in the gallery who they are and why they are here but other than that there is nothing to prevent the average American from attending a trial. You just have to have a free day or two. I believe my trial watching friends Lisa and Katie have sat in on more trials on the 9th floor of the Criminal Court Building than I have.

8:59 am: A defendant in jail blues is brought out and I believe he is going to take a plea.

9:01 am: Defendant, Tores (Torez? or Perez?) Found guilty of premeditated attempted murder. Prosecution dismissed prison priors. A woman is in the gallery with a very young, adorable little girl. Mr. Rios (sp?) is in the gallery. Something about restitution to him. He addresses the man who shot him and almost killed him. All over some dumb thing like pot...

JK: Mr. Rios in terms of medical bills...

Mr. Rios: Yes mam, I was insured but there were a lot of out of pocket bills. I didn't bring those today.

The victim states he was broke at the time he was shot.

Judge Kennedy rules. The defendant is ineligible for probation. Therefore prob. is denied. Count 1, attempted murder ordered to serve time for life in prison sentenced to life with eligibility for parole. Other charges, other sentences. Ordered to pay restitution fines. Ordered to provide DNA sample.

This man was very lucky he survived.

9:08 am: One more juror enters the courtroom and quickly heads to the jury room. BUZZ! The jury has started deliberating.

The woman in the gallery with the child doesn't appear to be related to the shooting victim. She's still here in the courtroom. I'm wondering if she's waiting for the female defense attorney whom I'm guessing is a public defender.

I exchange smiles with the shy little girl sitting with her mother. Her mother is intently engrossed in her smart phone. The defense attorney is still at the court clerks desk.

I was correct. The woman and her child walk out with the defense attorney.

9:19 am: I hear the bailiff tell Lori the clerk that Mr. Werksman is in the building. I don't how he knows. Maybe he saw him earlier or maybe he called in.

9:33 am: The ticking of the courtroom clock echos loudly throughout the room.

9:39 am: Mr. Werksman drops by. He sits at the defense table and starts to chat with the bailiff.

I overhear him say that he was in the building, so he just dropped by. He says he's going to head back to his office.

9:50 am: The pretty Dateline producer with the blond hair, Michelle is here. She smiles and gives me a wave as she came in. Two men come from out of the back area behind the court clerk's desk. Apparently one of the men just fixed the employee elevator. The court staff are very happy about that.

10:20 am: For those of you following the Casey Anthony case in Orlando, Florida, it appears that Casey's brother Lee Anthony has shown up at court. Talking heads are speculating that he is the next prosecution witness. The other theory is, he could be there to support his girlfriend Mallory who was on the stand this morning.

10:42 am: It's still all quiet in the courtroom. I would say this is more the norm for most criminal trials across the country. It would be impossible for the press to report on every case being tried in every courtroom. In Los Angeles County, we have the largest courthouse in the nation with the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. It is a civil courthouse just a few blocks over from the Clara Shortridge-Foltz Criminal Justice Center.

10:52 am. The jurors have not yet taken a morning break.

10:54 am: Lori returns from her filing errands and Sean leaves his desk for a moment.

11:04 am: A woman in a black pant suit I don't recognize and don't think I've seen before comes in to sit in 109. She sits on the plastic benches near the door. She opens up some papers and starts reading. She has blond hair, it's up in a bun and she's wearing what look like from here, black framed glasses and black high heels.

11:08 am: I find out that in the Anthony case in Florida, Simon Burch, the tow-truck manager is now on the stand. The unknown blond woman who came into Dept. 109 left. Maybe she came in just to sit down and look through some papers.

11:10 am: The prosecution's clerk drops by. Sean greets her and mentions he hasn't seen her in a few days. They chat. She drops off some papers with Lori. "Eric found these, lying around in his files." She then leaves.

11:21 am: BUZZ! BUZZ! The jurors either have a question or they are taking a break. Sean heads back to the jury room to inquire.

11:22 am: The jurors file out for a break.

11:33 am: I got up to stretch my legs and take a quick walk to the left wing end of the hallway. The hallway is deserted except for some of Dept. 109 jurors. Down at the other end of the hall, I see a notice on Judge Pastor's courtroom that they are dark May 26th and 27th. On Judge Fidler's courtroom, they are dark until June 3rd. Judge Fidler must be on vacation. On Judge Perry's courtroom door, there are signs that if the bailiff's even SEE a cell phone out during court it will be confiscated.

11:37 am: The jurors file back in.

11:4o am: BUZZ! The jurors are deliberating again.

11:41 am: Desiree Goudie comes in and sits in the third bench row. She starts looking at her smart-phone.

11:45 am: Sean is on the phone with someone about the jurors just taking a break. He also mentions when he will close the courtroom for lunch, but I miss hearing the time.

11:49 am: Sean has gone over to Lori's desk to speak more privately to her. I can not overhear their conversation. Lori gets a phone call. I hear the words, "break" and "nothing." The court reporter is working on her computer.

11:57 am: Sean goes into the jury room and comes back out. The jury is going to lunch in five minutes. While I was reading the web, (and not paying attention) Desiree Goudie left the courtroom.

I wrap up my computer power cord and get my things ready to get lunch. Just waiting for the jurors to emerge.

Judge Kennedy is out by her clerk's desk and asks Sean if it's okay for her (the court reporter) to go. He informs Judge Kennedy that they just want two more minutes and then they are going to lunch. Judge Kennedy goes back inside her chambers.

12:02 pm: The jurors emerge and file out of the courtroom.

12:54 pm: I'm in the cafeteria. I was able to get on the court's free WiFi, the CNN feed of the Anthony trial and I've been watching that for the past 45 minutes. However, since the room is so loud with people eating and the hum from the two big reach in coolers (for drinks) I can't "hear" the trial. George Anthony is back on the stand and defense attorney Jose Baez is cross examining Anthony about the smell in his daughter's car.

1:32 pm: BUZZ! The jurors are deliberating again.

1:42 pm: Michelle makes it back into Dept. 109.

1:47 pm: Greg Fisher, the producer from CBS 48 Hours arrives. I note that he wears comfortable sports shoes like I do.

1:59 pm: The California Court of Appeal rejected Phil Spector's request for a re-review of his appeal. It looks like Phil will just have to get comfortable and do the time. He can look forward to those weekly visits from his trial bride.

2:22 pm: Court reporter Lynn is on the phone, the Dateline producer has stepped out and Greg is busy working on a project. Sean is over at Lori's desk chatting for a moment.

2:49 pm: Either Sean or the court clerk has a bit of opera very faintly playing. It's a famous piece, but I don't know the name of it.

2:58 pm: BUZZ! BUZZ! The jurors are taking a break.

3:20 pm: I think they are all back in the jury room, but haven't buzzed yet. One juror came out and was carrying a container of what looked like pastries and left the courtroom.

3:21 pm: Now he's back. I think they are donut holes. He goes in the jury room. BUZZ! They are back to deliberating.

3:22 pm: Judge Kennedy came out for just a moment, spoke to Lori. Lori got on the phone and is speaking to possibly to the counsel. Lori is telling them that Judge Kennedy recommended that "they make their way down here, just in case."

3:34 pm: Alan Jackson and Eric Harmon arrive. Alan Jackson and Greg Fisher chat about a story Greg did years ago.

3:36 pm: Sandi Gibbons from the DA's office and Terri Keith arrive. Nothing is going on; it's just in "case" the jury does come back.

3:40 pm: Mr. Jackson has come over to say hello to me.

3:46 pm: Werksman and Meister arrive. Desiree is here and Jackson is sitting with her.

4:01 pm: I chat for a bit with Terri Keith about how many cases she covers in a day. She said today was light; only fifteen cases. She's amazing!

4:05 pm: With all the people in here, it's getting a bit boisterous. Jackson and Werksman are jokingly conversing.

4:06 pm: Judge Kennedy comes out and says, "I think I gathered everyone here for nothing."

She also adds something to the effect that just in case, she wanted everyone here so no one would have to wait, just in case the jury did come back with a verdict this afternoon.

4:10 pm: There are many conversations at once. Greg and Terri are chatting; Judge Kennedy is talking with her clerk. Meister and Harmon are chatting. Jackson, his clerk and Desiree are talking.

4:11 pm: BUZZ! BUZZ! The jury hangs on that buzzer a long time, each time they buzz. Sean goes to check. 9:00 am Tuesday morning! That's it folks.

4:12 pm: As they file out, Judge Kennedy says, "Have a nice holiday ladies and gentlemen."