Friday, August 31, 2012

Los Angeles Magazine, Stephanie Lazarus Case: 'In Plain Sight' by Steven Mikulan

September 2012 issue of Los Angeles Magazine

UPDATED 5/13/19
Corrected old broken links to Mikulan's story. Sprocket
UPDATED 11/1/13
For those die hard fans that are still interested in Stephanie Lazarus, there is a new article out in Los Angeles Magazine's September 2012 issue, by my good friend Steven Mikulan.  The eight page article is now online.

Along with writing for Los Angeles Magazine, Steven is the editor of Frying Pan News, an online web site that describes itself as “a blog on the current economy” providing, “...original content on politics, business, labor, jobs, the environment, culture...”

I initially met Steven Mikulan back in December 2004, at the Robert Blake trial.  He was the first journalist that I got to know while attending a trial, and has always been most kind, supportive and encouraging of my trial coverage efforts.  Steven was instrumental in saving a space for me in the second row at Phil Spector’s first trial and it’s how I got to know the late writer Dominick Dunne.  The four of us, myself, Steven, Dominick and the Daily Journal's Ciaran McEvoy became a tight knit group during that long drawn-out trial. Ciaran, Steven and I have been friends ever since.

Steven wrote for the LA Weekly for 25 years, mostly covering the local theater scene.  It was later in his career there that he also covered the criminal beat and local politics for the weekly paper.  Steven has a style of putting words together like I’ve rarely seen another writer do so successfully.  For example, he labeled the Lazarus story “media crack.”  I know that Dominick loved reading Steven’s pieces that I printed out for him during the Spector trial.  I’ll never forget when one of Spector’s defense attorneys, Bradley Brunon came over and complimented Steven on the latest story he wrote and asking him about a German term he used in the piece, verfremdungseffekt. Steven’s striking wit is often insightful and at the same time, he has an ability to capture what's most important in a way that can pluck at your heart strings.

What I found refreshing about Steven’s reporting is, he attended some of the trial, did original research on the case and reveals information we haven’t heard about the LAPD’s secret preparations in the hours before Stephanie's arrest.  He also brings new information about Lazarus via interviews with her former partner, Detective Don Hrycyk in the Art Theft Detail Unit, as well as from Stephanie's younger brother, Steven Lazarus. In addition, Steven also scored key interviews with DDA Shannon Presby,  Sherri’s father Nels Rasmussen, and a friend of Lazarus’s who attended UCLA with her.

It’s my opinion that it’s difficult to tell the Lazarus story and do it justice in a magazine article, where others control how may words you get to write.  I thought the article was very good considering the limited amount of space Los Angeles Magazine gave Steven. I should note there are a few errors in the printed magazine version.  However, I believe Steven’s editor is in the process of making corrections to the online version.

I spoke to Steven about his article and he gave me this response:
“Reporting on a story this complex was difficult, because as a writer I know that what got published would become part of a public archive that will be consulted by people in the future. Such readers must always trust a writer to be accurate, they have little choice but to rely on his or her story to be historically true, and yet making sure every factual rivet of any story is secure is no easy task. Throughout this effort I knew that no matter how many times I played back an interview, read a transcript, studied a Thomas Guide, deciphered my trial notes or looked at weather reports from 26 years ago, some little thing could escape my attention." 
 (Note: To view the article online, click on the link in the bottom of the online excerpt that says "subscribe now" and from that page, click on the link to preview a digital copy of the magazine for free.  The article begins on page 152. Sprocket.)

LA Magazine - In Plain Sight

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lonnie Franklin, Jr.: Pre-trial Hearing.

 Lonnie Franklin, Jr., at an earlier court proceeding.
Photo credit and date unknown.

UPDATED 9/23/13: spelling Ms. Rizzo's first name
There was a very quick hearing in Department 109 in downtown Los Angeles today in the Lonnie Franklin, Jr., case, aka the "Grim Sleeper." The prosecutors assigned to this case are Beth Silverman and Marguerite Rizzo.  Franklin is being represented by Seymour Amster and Louisa Pensanti.

Silverman had on a stunning, form fitting suit; the jacket had a bit of flair around the hips. I kept going back and forth in my mind how to describe the color.  It was a deep plum with raspberry tones.  Rizzo was wearing a black suit, white lace top that was accented with a couple strands of large pearls.

Before Judge Kennedy takes the bench, counsel for both sides talk about scheduling then next pretrial hearing and it looks like they are already settling on a tentative date from what those of us in the gallery are overhearing.

At 9:10 AM Franklin is brought out.

Judge Kennedy quickly takes the bench and asks counsel where they are.  Discovery is proceeding now without any glitches.  The case it put over until October 24th, 2012.  Judge Kennedy asks if that is agreeable to the people.  It is.  Judge Kennedy advises the defendant who waives his right to a speedy trial.

Right after that, Ms. Rizzo speaks up and advises Judge Kennedy about another issue, working out the details of having the defense ballistics expert test/examine evidence.  Rizzo states they will ask the court to sign individual "DR numbers" for each case.  The prosecution will talk with (defense?) counsel for a time frame to keep things moving.

Judge Kennedy sounds pleased, responding. "That sounds good. (snip) Thanks very much."

And that's it. Judge Kennedy leaves the bench and Franklin is taken back into the jail area.  It's over so quickly and most in the gallery are still sitting in their seats, almost like they are dazed at how quick the hearing was.  There were at least seven or eight members of the victims families in the gallery that I recognized during the last hearing in July.  The group likes to sit beside each other in the second row, and I moved to the back row to give them room so they could all be together.

When Silverman walks out of the courtroom, I look down at her feet to see what type of shoes she wore with that dark suit.  Very classy, closed-toe snakeskin pumps.

From Wikipedia, list of Franklin's known victims in chronological order of attack:

Name, Sex, Age, and the date remains were found.
1 Debra Jackson F 29 August 10, 1985
2 Henrietta Wright F 34 August 12, 1986
3 Thomas Steele M 36 August 14, 1986
4 Barbara Ware F 23 January 10, 1987
5 Bernita Sparks F 26 April 15, 1987
6 Mary Lowe F 26 November 1, 1987
7 Lachrica Jefferson F 22 January 30, 1988
8 Alice Monique Alexander F 18 September 11, 1988
9 Enietra "Margette" Washington‡‡ F 30 Survived
10 Princess Berthomieux F 15 March 19, 2002
11 Valeria McCorvey F 35 July 11, 2003
12 Janecia Peters F 25 January 1, 2007

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

LOIS GOODMAN: Arraignment & Bail Hearing

Lois Goodman, at her arraignment August 29th, 2012
Photo credit: Al Seib, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE August 30th: removed link. Sprocket.

The LA County Sheriff's web site indicates Ms. Goodman's next court appearance is scheduled for October 3rd, 2012, at Van Nuys Courthouse, Department 122.

Goodman's family is currently trying to raise the funds for her defense.

UPDATE August 29th: for clarity, spelling, by Days Like This

I wanted to get to the Van Nuys Courthouse a bit early because I wanted to pick up a copy of the defense motion at the clerk's office before I entered Dept 100.  A big thanks to Elizabeth Martinez of the court's Public Information Office for getting me that motion so quickly.  You rock, Liz!

Lois Goodman is to be arraigned today on murder charges and her attorney will present a motion to reduce Ms. Goodman's bail.  The prosecution alleges Ms. Goodman repeatedly stabbed at her husband with the the shards from a broken coffee cup.  Although I've never heard of a judge (or commissioner) reducing bail on a murder charge, that doesn't mean it can't happen.

Up on the third floor outside Dept 100 were a mass of people who had come to court in support of Lois Goodman.   I see a friendly face in the rotunda, local ABC 7's on-air court reporter, Miriam Hernandez, and I get to chat with her a bit.  Miriam is a beautiful woman and always looks sharply dressed.  She was wearing a deep berry red top and a geometric patterned skirt.

When the courtroom is finally open, the friends of Ms. Goodman fill half of the center area of the gallery.  I take a quick head count and there appear to be at least 25 or more people here for her.  A few minutes after I take my seat, my friend Katie arrives and gets a seat right beside me.  Katie attended quite a bit of the Lazarus trial with me and it's nice to see her.

A pretty, trim blond officer wearing a form fitting light blue blouse and dark skirt walks by and enters the well of the court.  Her badge is attached to her waist in the front but behind her, attached to a belt in the center of her back are a pair of handcuffs.  A few of us in the gallery joke that the handcuffs hanging there might be attractive to some.

The prosecutor I saw at the first hearing arrives, Lisa Tanner.  She's also accompanied by a second DDA, Sharon Ransom.  Both women are dressed in dark, conservative suits.

At 9:00 AM, Lois Goodman's attorney, Alison Treissl comes out of the detainee area.  She was probably visiting with her client.  One of the reporters tells me Ms. Goodman has three daughters who are all standing by her.

Making small talk, I mentioned that I had attended a LAVA event at the Crime Lab (Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center) on Sunday where author John Leake spoke about his latest self-published book, Cold A Long Time: An Alpine Mystery.  My favorite scientist, Dr. Lynne Herold also spoke at the lecture about ligature knots in relation to an Austria case, the murder trial of Jack Unterweger, that Leake also wrote about in Entering Hades: The Double Life Of A Serial Killer.  (I'm behind on stories, and I hope to put up an entry about this lecture, soon. Sprocket.)

Miriam then shared with me that one of her co-workers at the station, Kevin Warner, also wrote an e-book that he self-published called Bungalow Heaven.  Miriam says it's a combination of mystery and comedy.

9:05 AM, we're still waiting for the hearing to get underway.  Five minutes later, the center gallery is packed.  The still photographer and the video cameraman are in front of me, but I notice that the cameraman doesn't have his heavy video equipment on the tripod yet.   I mention this to Miriam and she wonders too.  She then gets up to check, I think to see what the delay in setting up might be.

9:17 AM, the court reporter takes her desk to the right of Commissioner Mitchell Block.  Katie then mentions to me that she saw Lois for just a moment through the mesh on the door to the detainee section.  There are a few reporters behind me, working away on their laptops and iPads, reading documents and E-mails.  As I watch the detainee area, I see Goodman for just a moment, briefly lean her head to look out the big plate glass windows.  Moments later she is brought out into the courtroom.  She was wearing an orange jumpsuit, with a white long-johns type shirt underneath. This is exactly like what Stephanie Lazarus wore at her pre-trial appearances.

The prosecution and defense identify themselves for the record.  Alison Triessl and Robert Sheahen.  Commissioner Block asks the prosecution if they have had time to read the defense motion.  They have.  Commissioner Block asks the defense if there is anything else, new, they want to put on the record before he rules?  He tells her he does not need to hear argument that he has already read.  Triessl states that they do, and that they will be brief. 

Unfortunately, I don't have in my notes who from the defense speaks first.  This is not a case of pretrial (contation?) (We?) do not have a case of (premeditation?).  "We simply ask the court to reduce bond.  Reduce it to a more reasonable figure." The defense goes on to say, it's beyond the reach of the defendant for this (circumstance?).  (Requesting?) an amount sufficient for her to appear in court.  (The public? standard? there is) no evidence of premeditation.  (The police believe/stated) ...she snapped.  (Then this is a) manslaughter case.

The defense requests a bond of $100,000.00, and something to the effect that this is where bond for a manslaughter case gets filed.  (It's?) already been stated it will come out as a 192 (penal code), (a manslaughter case).

Then the defense argues that if Ms. Goodman is in jail, she will lose the right to a fair trial. The defense needs to help to get to (various?) neighbors..... need her out to....

Triessl goes on the record to give her word as an officer of the court that her family does not have the collateral to meet the 1 million bond.  Her daughters are willing to put up their homes as collateral.  They will not have the collateral for 1 million.

Triessl then describes the concerns she has for Ms. Goodman's health, and her access to needed medical care.  She tells the court that Ms. Goodman has a spinal cord stimulator implanted in her body.  It's been in the constant "on" position since her arrest.  There is a remote device that needs to be in contact with her body to turn it off.  She has not been able to sleep because she can't adjust this device.

Triessl tells the court that Ms. Goodman was cooperative with the police investigators.  She met with them three different times, on April 21st, April 23rd and May 3rd.  She let them know she would be going to New York.  She was willing to cooperate.  She drove herself to the police station, as required.  "I've been assured she will be brought to each and every court hearing. (snip) She will comply to every court instruction.

Then DDA Sharon Ransom addresses the court. She speaks for the victim, Alan Goodman.  Alan Goodman was 80 years old.  He had diabetes and (heart?) condition.  He was a helpless man.  The defendant used (the shards from a coffee cup) to stab the victim at least ten times.  (This was a very violent act?) She left him lying in bed to bleed and die.  She left to officiate a tennis match and to get her nails done.

Ransom continued, "There is evidence of premeditation.  There were two areas of assault (found in the home).  (snip)  There was an assault on the (stairway?) landing and where he lay dying. (snip) Also there were multiple areas of (stabbing? injury? that) show (the defendant) was trying to kill him.(snip) The next day, she spoke to potential witnesses, trying to create an alibi.  (snip) We have evidence she spoke to witnesses the day of the event, the next day and the following week, (snip) telling them different stories as to what might have occurred. (snip) (She was) trying to manipulate potential witnesses. (snip) There are medical facilities in the jail to deal with these (her?) health issues."

DDA Ransom continues to argue that bail should not be reduced in this case.  The recommended bail of 1 million is given to anyone that commits a murder.  This (amount? of) bail given to anyone. It doesn't matter whether they live in Beverly Hills or Compton.  Ransom speaks about her age, and another factor that I miss and asks the court to leave the bail amount at 1 million.

The court asks the prosecution, "Why do you believe she is a flight risk?"

DDA Ransom responds, "She was in New York.  She has connections all over the US... (snip) (as the letters support? show?) I think she is a flight risk."

The court and the prosecutor discuss electronic monitoring and if that would change their position.  The prosecution responds that people can get around electronic monitoring. "I don't think it's an (ultimate?) deterrent (to fleeing?)."

The court then makes it's ruling.  Commissioner Block states, "I have read the moving papers and attached letters.  I disagree with the argument of the defense that because the LAPD detective opined the defendant snapped and this should be a manslaughter case.  The (LAPD) are not the charging agency.  (snip) I don't think the district attorney should be held to what charge can be filed because of what the LAPD said in the newspaper."

"I don't agree with the defense argument that it would be difficult to get witnesses to assist in the defense.  That flies in the face of all the letters she received. (snip) Whether the defendant has the resources, that's not something this court is concerned with. It's concerned with the nature of the charges and setting appropriate bail."

The court then opines on why and when the court should deviate from presumptive bail.  "The court also has to consider the circumstances surrounding each defendant.  In this case the court finds that presumptive bail is justified .... (the defendant's age?), the lack of a criminal record, and ties to the community, the court leans against presumptive bail. (snip) The court does not believe $100,000.00 is appropriate. (snip) There was additional information provided by the prosecution surrounding the incident.  The conclusion I've reached, .... I believe the presumptive ..... set bail at $500,000.00."

Commissioner Block states he took into consideration the seriousness (of the crime) and also took into consideration the lack of criminal acts and ties to the community, (that the bail) will be sufficient, subject to electronic monitoring.  The defendant will have reasonable access to medical appointments and religious services.  Those will be the only exceptions to (home confinement).  He invites counsel to list any other (needed exceptions?).

The defense asked that she be allowed to come to their offices, but then conceded that they could meet her at her home.

The court states that no bail will go into effect until electronic monitoring has been set up.

The court then asks what date to set for the preliminary hearing.  After a bit of back and forth, the date for the preliminary hearing will be October 3rd.  The court calendar is set for that date at zero of 30.

Commissioner Block asks the defendant for her plea.  She waives and pleads not guilty.  Commissioner Block is clear in asking the defendant if she gives up her right to a preliminary hearing within (10?) days and that she will have her preliminary hearing on October 3rd 2012, or 30 days there after.  Ms. Goodman answers, "Yes."  The court asks, "Counsel join?"  The defense join and the prosecution agrees.  And that's it.  (I'll be surprised if the preliminary hearing is held that quickly. Sprocket.)

Everyone files outside to see if the prosecution and the defense will speak to the media.

When I get outside, one of the supporters in the gallery for the defendant is speaking to the media.  It's Sid Kulberg, who knew Ms. Goodman through the tennis community. In his statement, Kulberg tells the press, "I don't know her that well personally... (snip) ...and she has been a friend in the tennis community."

First the prosecution team speaks to the media.  Nothing new was said that wasn't already said in court.  Although DDA Sharon Ransom remained composed in accordance with the seriousness of the charges, DDA Lisa Tanner was still nervously smiling when answering questions from the press.  Below is a photo I took of the prosecutors with my cell phone. I'm sorry the image is not that great quality.

DDA Sharon Ransom, left
DDA Lisa Tanner, right

After the prosecution spoke, Alison Triessl spoke to the press about her client's innocence. She mentioned that it was a testament to Ms. Goodman's ties to the community due to the support (snip) (number of people?) the community here today.  She states her client is very confused and that she told Ms. Goodman it may take some time and to please be patient.  I believe she also spoke about her client's many health issues and that she is innocent of the charges.

I've read some news reports that said Ms. Goodman cried while seated at the defense table.  I did not see it. I overheard one of the photographers say they thought she was going to cry, but they did not see tears.

I have uploaded a complete copy of the defense bail reduction motion.  Although the defense motion states there are over forty letters attached, (and that's what many media outlets reported) when I picked up my copy of the defense motion, there were only twenty-two letters of support from Ms. Goodman's family and friends, along with a statement from Ms. Triessl. Several support letters stated they have known Ms. Goodman for up to 30 years and that she is not a violent person.  For privacy, I have deleted E-mail addresses, personal addresses and phone numbers that appeared in the letters.

It should be noted that an anonymous poster left comments on my prior entry about the defendant's first appearance at the Van Nuys court, claiming Ms. Goodman had several physical ailments.  Every single one of those statements by the anonymous poster were also detailed in the defense bail reduction motion.


ABC GMA's August 29th Story
LA Times Now
LA Times Now Earlier Story

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

LAPD Van Nuys Area Police Station

Here is a nice little video about my local police station, put together by Josh Rubenstein of local CBS 2 and KCAL 9.  Thank you Josh!  This is the home of the Cowboys, (Det. Pete Barba, Det. Rob Bub, Det. Marc Martinez, Det. James Nuttall) my favorite detectives.  I understand the video promoted the community organizations mentioned, Van Nuys Community-Police Advisory Board and the Mid-Valley Community Police Council, but it would have been nice to feature other Van Nuys LAPD departments that also inter-act with the community besides the patrol officers.

Friday, August 24, 2012

LOIS GOODMAN: First Court Appearance

 Defense counsel Alison Triessl next to her client
Lois Goodman at her first court appearance.
Photo credit: Nick Ut, AP.
Lois Goodman, Case # LA071714

Friday, August 24th, 2012
I got the E-mail notice about 10:30 AM that 70-year-old Lois Goodman, professional referee for the US Open would be arraigned today in Department 100 at the Van Nuys Courthouse.  Lois Goodman is charged with felony murder in the death of her husband, Alan Goodman.  Alan Goodman died in his Woodland Hills home on April 17th, 2012.  I had predicted to my friends Katie and Matthew that I thought Goodman would be arraigned at the Van Nuys Courthouse, but I didn't think it would happen until next Monday.  There was no time included on the District Attorney's E-mail, other than it would not happen before 11:30 AM.  I was still in my jammies and rushed to get dressed and drive the couple miles to court.

As I’m exiting the parking structure behind the Van Nuys Courthouse, I see about five media vans parked in parking slots on Delano Street.  Taking the short trip up the walkway to the front of the courthouse brought back memories of attending the Robert Blake trial back in 2004-2005.  After I cleared security, I took the escalators to the third floor.

In the rotunda on the third floor were several video photographers.  I wondered if they drew straws to see who would tape the proceeding.  Once inside Department 100 I saw the famous Associated Press reporter already there, sitting on the far left side of the gallery.  Maybe they received an advance tip to make it out to Van Nuys so quickly.

I've been in Department 100 back in 2009, when I attended a couple of hearings in the Hossein Shirazi case, which looked like an interesting case to follow. Shirazi was accused of the murder of his brother, whose body had never been found.  I dropped out of following it and Shirazi eventually pled to involuntary manslaughter.

Dept. 100 is large modern courtroom, with about 150 seats in the gallery.  The judge's bench and all the paneling is in a very light, golden oak color.  There is no jury box or witness stand.  To the left of the bench is a large desk/area for the court clerk that sits slightly lower.  There are many photographs on the wall behind the clerks desk area that I remember seeing when I was last here.  To the bench right is another slightly lower desk area for the court reporter.  There is a long continuous table in front of the bench for the defense and prosecution.  The gallery seating is separated into three sections by two long aisles.

In the far left area of the well is a glassed-in, defendant holding area.  There is a door with what appears to be a glassless window opening and metal bars over it.  Over on the right side of the gallery, there was a video camera set up and quite a few reporters on that side of the room.  I took a seat on the center left aisle, because I wanted to hear the defense attorney if she stood by her client to speak.  The plaque on the bench indicated it was Commissioner Mitchell Block presiding over Van Nuys Dept. 100, who was not currently on the bench when I walked in.  Jane Robison from the District Attorney's office was talking to a reporter when I walked up and got a copy of the DA's charging document.

At 11:32 AM Commissioner Block took the bench in another case and then quickly left the bench.  A tall slender man sitting at the defense table, clearly knows the AP reporter.  He gets up and goes over to them and gives them a book.  I can see the book cover from my seat, Democrats Big Day.

While the commissioner is off the bench, the courtroom gets a little boisterous with the chatter from the gallery and the well.  I feel quite like a fish out of water since I don't recognize any of the other reporters except photographer Nick Ut, with the AP.

Two women enter the courtroom and I can immediately tell they are defense attorneys.  The AP reporter appears to recognize one of them.  One of the defense attorneys (that I later find out is Alison Triessl), comes back to the gallery and speaks to the woman who was sitting directly in front of me.  Seeing that I had a notepad in my lap, when she speaks to the woman, she is very careful to cover her mouth with her right hand as she speaks into the person's left ear.  The woman in front of me was about my age, I believe wore glasses, had very short cropped hair with a touch of gray, and was wearing a blue and dark greenish horizontal striped polo type shirt.

Two DDA's enter Dept. 100.  One is a beautiful, slender woman with medium length hair and dark skin.  She's quite attractive.  I could swear the other DDA was James Garrison, the tall, stunningly handsome man who channeled the voice of criminalist Lloyd Mahaney in the Stephanie Lazarus case.  Did Garrison get transferred from JSID?  Apparently he did.  He is now the Assistant Head Deputy of the DA's Van Nuys Office.

Just a few minutes before noon, Commissioner Block takes the bench and calls the Goodman case.  

DDA Lisa Tanner goes on the record as for the people.  Alison Triessl and Kelly Gerner for the defense.  Triessl asks that the the arraignment be held over until next Wednesday, August 29th, if that's agreeable to the people, so that the defense can file a formal bail motion on that date.  The people have requested in their charging papers that bail be set at 1 million.

Commissioner Block asks Triessl if she plans to present witnesses.  He states his courtroom is very busy and not set up to take witness testimony.  If she has witnesses, verses just moving papers and argument, he would need to move the case over to the preliminary hearing department.  Triessl states she is just going to present moving papers.

The motion is granted to holdover the arraignment and bail motion to next Wednesday at 8:30 AM.  Goodman is remanded to custody of the LA County Sheriff's until that date.  And that was it.  The bailiffs kick everyone out of the courtroom because it's past noon.  The prosecution and the defense are going to make a statement to the press outside on the plaza.  As the reporter's make their way down the escalators, everyone was very helpful, exchanging notes with each other on the correct spelling of the defense counsel's names.

One reporter asked me if my news organization ever sent me out to the Van Nuys Courthouse.  I told them that I'm not with anyone, I'm independent, and that I happen to live close by.

Jane Robison and the young, attractive DDA Lisa Tanner get in front of the cameras to address the media.  Robison speaks first and tells the press that there's not much that they can talk about since it's an ongoing investigation, but they will answer a few questions.  Then Lisa Tanner answers a few questions.  She smiled quite a bit, and seemed a little nervous.  One reporter asked her to explain what just happened in court.  (I'm wondering to myself, did that reporter sleep through the hearing?)  DDA Tanner explains that the defense asked for the arraignment to be postponed for time to prepare a motion on the bail hearing.  Tanner was asked what the murder weapon was. Smiling, she replied, "A coffee cup."  The coffee cup was broken and sharp pieces were still attached to the handle and Alan Goodman was stabbed.  "He died of lacerations," Tanner added. 

After the prosecution, defense attorney Alison Triessl spoke. She states that she is representing Goodman along with co-counsel Kelly Gerner and Robert (Chin?). "As you will learn when (this unfolds in court?) these charges are outrageous, and completely unfounded. (snip) The LAPD should be ashamed for arresting a woman in New York when she lives in Los Angeles. (snip) She made herself available (to police?) at every point in the investigation. (snip) She had been represented by counsel. (snip)" She cooperated fully with police.

Someone in the press asked if she was still in civilian clothing while in LAPD custody, and Triessl stated Goodman was.  (Sources tell me that the LAPD does not put defendants in orange or blue jumpsuits.  Those are courtesy of Sheriff Baca.)

Triessl continues in a very passionate voice about her client. "She is distraught!  This is outrageous!  She is in shock."  The press asks if her daughter and family are rallying around her.  "That is correct," Triessl responds.  And that was it. It was over pretty quickly.

One of the reporters asked Nick Ut if she could see the photo Nick was able to get of Goodman, through the bars of the window in the door of the holding area.  Nick was crouched down on the ground, and I was able to look over his shoulder at the screen on his camera and see that he got a pretty decent shot of Goodman's face through the bars.

Earlier, taking the escalator down to the lobby, I asked Triessl if she would identify what members of Goodman's family were in the courtroom.  She declined at that time. Via the AP the Washington Post reported that it was her sister and daughter who were in the courtroom.

Since the Clerk's Office on the second floor also closes at noon, I walked across the street to have lunch at the Chinese restaurant the Cowboys affectionately call "Dead Chicken," and update Matthew on what happened.  At 1:30 PM, I head back over to the courthouse and pay $5.00 for a copy of the search warrant.  At the time I started this story, I did not see where any other news organization had put search warrant or the DA's charging document online, so these might be a first for T&T.  I called the Coroner's office to try to obtain a copy of the LA County Coroner's report on Alan Goodman, but alas, a security hold has been placed on it which means they won't release it.

A bit of info about where Lois Goodman slept last night after she was flown back from New York. It’s a tiny jail in the basement of Van Nuys Police Station.  I've never seen it personally, but it was described to me. There’s a little reception area with a wooden bench with a half-dozen or so handcuffs attached to the bench. I believe there’s a women’s section and a men’s section.  I'm told it’s usually quite busy during the evening hours on the weekends.

New York Daily News
The Los Angeles Times
CBS Video Report from the hearing 8/24

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Christian-Newsom Torture Murders: Judge Blackwood Refuses to Step Down From Retrials


Judge Refuses To Step Down From Christian-Newsom Retrials
David In Tennessee

Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood on Monday declined to recuse himself from the retrials of the individuals convicted in the torture-murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom. The crimes took place in January of 2007 in Knoxville, Tennessee. No end of the legal proceedings is in sight.

According to WBIR, Knoxville's NBC affiliate, "Blackwood's decision was swift and without explanation."

Knox News reported, Knox County Assistant District Attorney General Leland Price made what a defense attorney called an "unrelenting attack" on Judge Blackwood's fitness to preside over the case

Last December Blackwood ordered new trials for the four defendants. This resulted from a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe which revealed former Judge Baumgartner was buying drugs from probationers in his own court while presiding over the Christian-Newsom trials. Baumgartner was forced to resign from the bench and is now facing trial in federal court.

The state appealed and the Tennessee Supreme Court narrowed the grounds for new trials but left the door open for Blackwood to opine that he could not act as "13th juror." Blackwood has indicated he might uphold the verdicts in the first two trials because there was overwhelming DNA evidence against those two defendants, Letalvis Cobbins and Lemaricus Davidson.

The third defendant, George Thomas, has asked for a retrial on the original date in October. Blackwood has yet to rule on the matter. The state does not contest the ruling for a new trial regarding the fourth defendant, Vanessa Coleman. Baumgartner's impairment was caught on camera during Coleman's trial.

In an unusual move, Price personally attacked Blackwood . He argued Blackwood was so upset by Baumgartner's  conduct that he ruled for new trials without considering the state's argument that Baumgartner gave the defendants a fair trial.

Thomas' defense attorney, Robert Lillard, said the prosecutors were "not used to losing." Dillard noted Blackwood had granted new trials in two other cases formerly handled by Baumgartner and the state had not asked for recusal in those.

WBIR interviewed the victims' parents.

From the WBIR article and video:
"I cannot, I will not let that man sit on my daughter's trials without a war," said Gary Christian, Channon Christian's father.
"This is 283 times we've been here, standing right here," said Hugh Newsom, father of Chris Newsom. "It'll be six years in January of next year. Right now, what do we have?"
"Our kids need the justice, that's what we promised them we would do for them, and it's just been a rough road, and it seems like it's getting rougher, taking a toll on these families. Every single day we think of our kids and hope that they will get the justice that they deserve," Mary Newsom said. "It's just hard to keep coming here over and over again and not accomplishing anything, not getting done what we want to happen. It's depressing, it makes you feel bad when you leave, nothing seems to go your way."

Prosecutors will now discuss the issue with the state attorney general to decide whether to appeal directly to the appellate court.

Also, Cobbins asked the judge to remove his attorney, Kim Parton from his case. This will likely happen. Parton was all smiles. She will be glad to leave Cobbins.

The only thing that looks likely at the moment is that Vanessa Coleman's case will be retried as scheduled this fall.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Fact Checking Mark Bowden's Curious Vanity Fair Article on Stephanie Lazarus, Part IV

Continued from Part III.....

Complete Series on Fact Checking Mark Bowden's Article HERE.
UPDATE: Monday, August 20th, 2012 11:30 PM
I had lots of traffic on the blog today from Advance Publications, the parent company of Vanity Fair.

T&T StatCounter® Screen Shots

As  you can see above, someone at Advance Publications and/or Vanity Fair reread Part I of this series on Monday at 10:48 AM PT.  A few minutes later,  someone read Part II. Shortly after noon, Part III and Part IV were  also read.  All told, between 10:48 AM and 3:44 PM, T&T received 26 visits from Advance Publications.

This puts to rest the question of whether Vanity Fair is aware of  the errors and fabricated quotes in Mark Bowden's article. Bowden and Vanity  Fair owe their readers an explanation.  

UPDATE: August 15th, for clarity

August 13th, 2012
With all the recent journalism stories about plagiarism and fabrication in the news, I thought it was time to revisit this series, Fact Checking Mark Bowden’s Curious Vanity Fair Article on the Sherri Rasmussen case.

Bowden’s story, A Case So Cold It Was Blue, appeared in the July 2012 issue of Vanity Fair, which hit newsstands in early June.  A week and a half later, the entire lengthy article – more than 9,500 words –went up on the Vanity Fair website, where it’s still online.

A few days later, on June 20th, I posted Part I of this series. Part I detailed numerous factual errors in the Vanity Fair article. Considering the subject, a murder committed by a LAPD detective, these were not insignificant mistakes. Among the facts Bowden gets wrong is what year Stephanie Lazarus’ sexual relationship with John Ruetten ended, as well as when lab testing was done of the bite-mark swab and what that testing revealed. None of these facts were late-breaking news. Stephanie Lazarus’ trial ended on March 8th, 2012, almost three months before Bowden's article. Part I also documented numerous places where Bowden misquotes Stephanie Lazarus’ June 2009 videotaped interview. In at least one instance, Bowden fabricated a line of dialogue that is never said, and does not appear in the video or transcript. The video and transcript have been public documents since November 2010.

In Part II, posted on June 26th, I questioned how Bowden was able to describe Lazarus’ private thoughts and feelings during the interview, and how he arrived at his characterizations of Lazarus' personality and career.

On July 2nd, Part III revealed that Bowden never interviewed any of the individuals involved in the case before publishing his article.

The August 2012 issue of Vanity Fair came out soon after the 4th of July.  Below is an image of page 47 of the August issue. Vanity Fair did correct one error from the July 2012 issue but nothing regarding Bowden’s article.

Vanity Fair August 2012, published corrections

To me, getting the facts right in a story involving the murder of an innocent woman by an active-duty police officer seems more important than some book title. But maybe that's just me. Since Vanity Fair is a magazine that has a long lead time, I thought it might take them a bit longer to verify all the errors I pointed out in Part I and run a correction.  So I waited for the September issue.

The September 2012 issue of Vanity Fair hit newsstands August 2nd.  Below is an image of page 152.  This time, Vanity Fair corrected another story from the July 2012 issue, but still nothing on Bowden's piece.

Vanity Fair September 2012, published corrections

Two issues of Vanity Fair have been published since Bowden’s article ran. In each one, corrections were made to other articles in the July 2012 issue. Neither of those corrections approach the seriousness of Sherri Rasmussen's case.

Does Vanity Fair Know?
Since I began this series six weeks ago, a few T&T readers have suggested I write a letter to Vanity Fair’s editor, pointing out the errors in Bowden's article.  The problem I have with that is the magazine’s letters policy, which you can read in the above images. I believe the best platform for my reporting is right here where it's always been, on my blog.

Besides, within a day of publishing Part I, I knew there was no need to send a letter to Vanity Fair, since they are well aware of my blog.

Part I went live on June 20th at 9:00 PM PST. Below is a screenshot of my Statcounter® log showing a visitor from "Advance Publications" the very next morning, to my first post on Bowden's article.  The parent company of Vanity Fair is Advance Publications. As the image shows, there have been other visits from Advance Publications since then.

T&T StatCounter®

Since it's clear that Vanity Fair is aware of the factual misstatements in their Lazarus article, when will the magazine acknowledge them, and offer an explanation as to what went wrong? How did those altered quotes make it into print? Did Vanity Fair's fact checking department drop the ball, or did Bowden overrule them?  This Vanity Fair reader is waiting to know.

Stephanie Lazarus Trial Quick Links -- Complete Case Coverage

Continued in Part V.....

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

LA County District Attorney Race: Debate Tonight

 Chief Deputy District Attorney Jackie Lacey; 
Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson
Photo credits: Lacey- Mae Ryan, KPCC;

There will be a debate tonight in the race for LA County District Attorney.

Date: Today, August 7th, 2012
Where: Deaton Civic Auditorium
Address: 100 West 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA
When: 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM

I'll be attending the debate and will write a review within the next few days.

Full disclosure here.  I support DDA Alan Jackson for the District Attorney position.  I am not being paid by him or his campaign to blog about the race.  I have a personal connection to Jackson, whom I consider a friend.  Jackson was instrumental in getting Judge Fidler to apologize to me on the record in the first Phil Spector trial.

It was an interesting debate.  The candidates were asked about many of the same issues they talked about in previous debates, so I heard a lot of the same positions on issues.

There was one point in the debate where the gloves came off and the candidates started swinging at each other.

The moderator asked about the federal lawsuit that the Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) that named Jackie Lacey, was brought up and discussed.  Jackie Lacey's interpretation of her "corrected" testimony was quite interesting.  Jackson told the crowd that what they need is a top prosecutor that when it comes to raising your hand and swearing an oath, you want (that person) to tell the truth.  Jackson also stated he would wipe the slate clean when it comes to the DA's office working with the ADDA.  He's not someone who believes in "union busting" which he told the crowd, "is illegal."

Right after that, Lacey questioned how Alan Jackson represented himself on the primary ballot as a "Gang Prosecutor."  Lacey accused Jackson of misleading the public with that description; that he really was the Deputy Head of Major Crimes; he wasn't a gang prosecutor.

This issue went back and forth for a bit.

.Jackson replied that Lacey could have challenged how he appeared on the ballot, but she didn't.  He brought up the fact that the last trial he tried was a murder-for-hire case (James Fayed) where a man hired three gang members to kill his wife.  That was a "gang trial."

Jackson also said something to the effect to Lacey, 'So, now I'm the administrator, and you're the prosecutor in the field?'

Both candidates have strengths and weaknesses, and at various times came across strong in their presentations.  It's going to be an interesting race.

KPCC Announcement

LA Times Report

Local ABC 7 Report

KPCC Report

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cameron Brown: Pretrial Hearing 1, Third Trial

 Cameron Brown, at his second trial in 2009.

Short Case Background
Sometime after 12 Noon, on November 8th, 2000, Cameron Brown picked up his four-year-old daughter Lauren Sarene Key from preschool earlier than usual.

Lauren Sarene Key, 4.

It was a regularly scheduled, court ordered visitation.  Hours later, Lauren ended up dead at the bottom of Inspiration Point, a dangerous 120 foot cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

Side view of Inspiration Point where Lauren fell.

Brown was arrested three years later on November 16th, 2003 and charged with 187, felony murder.  He's been in the custody of LA County Sheriff's ever since.  He's had two trials that ended in hung juries and is awaiting his third trial. The first trial was held in the Torrance courthouse and ended in August 2006. The second trial was in downtown, Judge Pastor's courtroom that ended October 2009.  In each trial, every juror voted guilty, however they could not agree on the degree of Brown's guilt (first degree, second degree or involuntary manslaughter).

The prosecution alleges Brown, a baggage handler for American Airlines, threw his daughter off a cliff for several reasons: he hated Sarah Key, Lauren's mother; he never wanted children --tried to pressure Sarah into an abortion-- and for financial gain.  The monthly court ordered child support, amounting to 40 percent of his salary was crippling him.

The defense contends that this was a tragic accident and Brown did not kill his child.  Brown's defense says he loved his daughter and wanted to spend more time with her.  The defense presented in his previous trials has been that he was sitting down near the cliff edge when Lauren accidentally fell to her death.

On the last day of her life, little Lauren Key started crying inconsolably when she learned that her biological father would be picking her up from school.  Her continued crying so alarmed her teachers that after a few hours, they called Sarah so that Lauren could talk to her.  It didn't appear to help.  A few minutes after that conversation, Sarah decided to ignore the court order and take her daughter home.  When she called the school back to tell them she was coming to get Lauren, she was told it was too late.  Brown had arrived early for his daughter and they were already gone. 

Friday, July 27th, 2012
There was a pretrial hearing in the Cameron Brown case in Judge Pastor's courtroom this morning. I had been keeping my eye on this case for some time, watching the LA County Sheriff's Inmate Information Center for the next time Brown was scheduled to appear in court.  I covered the second trial, but became ill during the start of the defense case and missed many of their key witnesses.  I have always been disappointed that I wasn't able to provide for T&T readers both sides of that trial. Sprocket.) This case was originally scheduled to go for it's third trial in late February 2011, but  right before that, Dr. Conrad Murray did not wave his right to a speedy trial, and that caused a massive hiccup in Judge Pastor's schedule.

On my walk up Broadway from the parking lot, construction workers were putting the finishing touches (more benches) on the section of Grand Park behind the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center.  I ran into DDA Craig Hum in the building lobby and rode the elevator up to the 9th floor with him.  (Hum was the sole prosecutor on the past two trials and is still on the case.)

On January 20th of this year while covering the Lazarus case, I had bumped into Hum in the elevator bay and asked him if Brown was being represented by a public defender.  Hum told me that the court appointed Aron Laub.  In the first trial his defense attorney was Mark Geragos.  Second trial was Mark's long-time associate Pat Harris.

When I enter Dept. 107, I get my first glimpse of Aron Laub, who is in a jovial, yet respectful conversation with DDA Hum.  There is a new sheriff at the deputy box speaking to the tiny female sheriff, Parra.  Mrs. Benson, Judge Pastor's clerk is not here today.  (I'm hoping she wasn't part of the recent layoffs at the end of June.)  Mavis Theodorou is the court reporter, already working at her desk.  I really like Mavis.  She's always been kind to me and she's got a very pleasant voice.

Laub is wearing a light gray suit.  It goes well with his salt and pepper mustache and nicely trimmed beard.  Cameron Brown's wife, Patty Brown and her brother Ted Kaldis are not here. I'm not surprised about that.  They probably know when this case will get closer to trial, and if there were no important motions to be argued, why drive in from Ventura County (if Patty still lives there).

There are several other attorneys waiting in the well area of the court for their cases to be called.  A man with weathered-looking tattooed arms, who looked like he just came off a difficult bicycle ride, came into Dept. 107 carrying a backpack and headed for the back door beside the jury box.  The attorneys in the well all seemed to know who he was, and at first I thought he was a juror on a current trial.  But several minutes later he emerged from the back area of the courtroom.  His hair was combed and he was nicely dressed in pants, long sleeved shirt and a tie.  The three women attorneys in the well are chatting with him and I realize that he's an attorney also.

Brown is finally brought into the courtroom from the jail area wearing an orange jumpsuit. His starting-to-gray light brown hair is long, falling down his back to about in between his shoulder blades.  His mustache and beard reminds me of the ZZ Top band members.  I had heard from a reporter at the Raul Lopez press conference that Brown looked like a wild man, and one of the reasons I wanted to drop in on this case was to see Brown in person, three years later.  I had hoped that artist Thomas Broersma might be able to come to this hearing so he could sketch the defendant but unfortunately for me and fortunately for Thomas, he's been busy with several projects.

Before the hearing starts, Brown appears to be going over some papers with his counsel.  Judge Pastor takes the bench and wants to know where this case stands.  Loeb wants to set the next hearing date for September 21st, 2012.  He has two other big cases he's involved in.  One in Department 102, Judge Marcus' courtroom, the "Subia (sp?)" case and the other in Department 108, Judge Otha's courtroom the "Burns" case.  Loeb tells Judge Pastor that both judges have indicated they will not allow any more continuances on those cases.  The case in Dept. 108 had 8 defendants but it's now down to four, and it's a multiple event case.  The case in Dept. 102 is three years old and has two defendants.

Judge Pastor inquires about the age of the other cases, and how they compare to this case.  I believe Judge Pastor clarifies, meaning how long from the actual crime to today.  Loeb responds he thinks Brown is the oldest case (the superior court? in Judge Pastor's court?).  Judge Pastor replies that they have older cases (cold cases) that occurred in the 1980's.  Pastor asks the prosecution where they stand.

Hum states that his trial schedule has become more complicated as well.

Judge Pastor wants to keep the trial on a shorter leash, but Loeb asks for 120 days.  He states something to the effect of, '..once it gets to zero of 60, the pressure is on both counsels to be prepared."  The pressure is on him and on his five other cases, and apparently, both of those other two cases mentioned are supposed to start sometime in September.

Judge Pastor then outlines the concerns that he has regarding his upcoming schedule.  Without naming names, Pastor indicates that in January 2013, he has a big case, a three-month case scheduled to begin.  Judge Pastor also mentions something about how they do things in the state of Massachusetts, "out-of-town attorneys" that come in his courtroom stating they want a specific date to start a trial, and that's not the way things work here, in his courtroom.

Hum tells the court, "My concern is, this was not a case to go over the holidays."

Judge Pastor then addresses Brown about waiving his right to a speedy trial and to return to court on September 21st.  Brown replies in a clear voice, "That's a fine day. That's my birthday."  Judge Pastor inquires again, "Do you want it on that date?"  "Sure," Brown replies.

Judge Pastor orders the court calendar to be put at 0-120 on September 21st.  Right after that, Brown speaks up and addresses Judge Pastor. He asks for "...a court order to see a doctor. I need to renew my medication."  Judge Pastor replies, "Sure," and then adds something about Brown (or his counsel) filling out the proper paperwork.  And that was it.  Over before 9:00 AM.

My take is, the reason this case has taken so long to get to a third trial has been both counsel's schedules in other trials.  It's just the nature of an over-burdened court system in LA County.  It's my understanding that when a case is set at 0-120, that gives counsel four months to review the case right before trial.  Is it possible this case will go to trial 120 days after September 21st?  Anything's possible, but I would not be surprised if there are more delays in store for this case.

As I was walking down Broadway back to my parking lot, I happened to see DDA Shannon Presby, deep in conversation on his cell phone, walking across the mid-street cross walk towards CJC.  He gave me a big smile and waved.