Thursday, September 27, 2012

Michael Gargiulo Case: Pretrial Hearing 3

 Michael Thomas Gargiulo booking photo, date unknown


Previous pretrial hearing 9/5/12

September 26th, 2012
Mr. Sprocket needed the car today so he dropped me off in front of the downtown criminal court building quite early.  I passed the next half hour in the building cafeteria before I headed up to the 9th floor.

The hallway outside Dept. 108 was virtually empty.  Sitting across the hall from me was youngish looking bald man with black framed glasses, wearing a dark brown ill-fitting suit, blue striped tie and tennis shoes.  He had a large tattoo on his neck that was partially covered by his shirt collar.

Promptly at 8:30 AM the bailiff opens Dept 108.  I'm the first person inside the courtroom.  I take a seat in the second bench row next to the aisle.  The benches in Judge Ohta's courtroom are completely covered in cushions. Over on the counter by the clerk's desk next to the wall I notice there is a large plastic container of Red Vines® Licorice.

8:35 AM The pretty court reporter comes out from the area behind the bench and starts to set up her equipment.  A few moments later DDA Daniel (Dan) Akemon arrives and goes up to the clerks desk.  From the paper's he's shuffling around, I'm guessing he might be filing a motion.  Akemon is wearing a very dark colored suit, almost black with a white shirt.

Judge Ohta comes out from his chambers and goes up to the bench for a moment.  He's wearing a very light baby blue shirt with a striking pink tie with matching blue stripes. He's not in his robes yet.  DDA Akemon sets a copy of his motion on the table exactly where the defendant will be seated when he's brought into the courtroom.

DDA Akemon then passes where I'm seated in the well, smiles and says hello.  We introduce ourselves, and I make sure to check with him that I'm pronouncing his name correctly.   After I explain to him who I am, Akemon tells me, "I thought you were a witness." I tell him that I'm very interested in this case and that if he knows DDA Paul Nunez, Nunez knows about me and my work.  Right then the defense investigator Christian Filipiak arrives and Akemon asks him if he's met me.  I remind Filipiak that I met him two hearings ago when I asked for his business card.  Filipiak is wearing a very nice suit.  I can tell from where I'm sitting that the exact color is hard to describe.  When the harsh fluorescent lights hit the weave, it gives a hit of dark olive threads and occasional burnished gold.  He's wearing a geometric patterned tie that matches perfectly.

The counsel for the current case being tried in Judge Ohta's court arrive and set up their computers and files.  Judge Ohta's clerk, Gloria, comes out from the back area.  Judge Ohta casually chats with the current case attorneys about the problematic NFL call by the alternate referee's on the field.

Akemon and Filipiak continue to chat amicably in the well while now Judge Ohta reads a document related to his current case.  Judge Ohta says something to the effect that he doesn't think the document is a declaration against penal interest.

8:53 AM Judge Ohta, who is now in his robe, asks Akemon and Filipiak if they are ready for the defendant to be brought out.

8:57 AM  Gargiulo is brought out.  He's in waist chains and he's cuffed to the chair.  He's wearing an orange jumpsuit with white long johns on underneath. His hair is still trimmed short and he's wearing the new glasses that Filipiak had obtained for him. He's carrying the green canvas looking satchel again.

Gargiulo hands some papers to the deputy who looks over the papers and hands them back.  Gargiulo then hands the papers over to Filipiak.

As I take one last look around the courtroom I notice two suited gentlemen sitting on the right side of the gallery.  I make a guess they are detectives in the current case.

We go on the record in the Gargiulo matter.  Judge Ohta records who is present, Akemon, the defendant representing himself and his investigator Filipiak is sitting beside him.

Judge Ohta states the issue concerns discovery and whether or not limitations can be placed on what the defendant is able to have on his person, in his cell at the LA County, Men's Central Jail facility.

Judge Ohta states he has read the prosecutions motion to limit discovery.  He's taken a look at the defense opposition motion titled "Defense Demand for Discovery."  Judge Ohta has also read the (decision? letter? statement?) of the LA County Sheriff's Dept., dated September 21st.  He's also read the very first motion (and the?) people's discovery motion.

Judge Ohta states, "I am prepared to rule."  He also mentions a motion the prosecution filed under seal containing autopsy (and? crime scene?) photos.

Judge Ohta states that Mr. Gargiulo had received some discovery.  There was some black and white material (photos?).  "I've seen what he possessed."  The main question (is) whether those (documents?) contain (names?) and addresses of those victims.  "I went through the entire (?) in camera and (found that?) there were addresses given over to the defendant.. (snip) In those (thousands? of pages?) There were photographs... (snip) given over to counsel prior to pro per (status).

Akemon states his motion under seal was for the judge to review.... and Judge Ohta basically states that he's already seen the photos (via that review).

Akemon continues, "Our position..... if counsel turned over previous discovery... our position is he not have (that)."  Ohta responds, "I don't know what he's had previously."

Judge Ohta asks each side if there is any further argument.  Both Akemon and the defendant have no further argument.  Judge Ohta states his ruling in the matter before the court. The prosecution seeks to place a court order of.... Judge Ohta is now reading directly from the prosecution's opposition motion.

When I hear the words from the prosecution's motion, I stop taking notes.  Judge Ohta first addresses that his responsibility is not the policing of the jail facility.   His job is to supervise the trial.  He reads from trial court procedure his "inherent power to act" to supervise the trial, and whether or not it's appropriate to act (specific to?) the prosecutions motion.

Judge Ohta states that the protection of victim's rights "seems to fall under that parameter."  I believe he then reads from a prior court ruling and also states that the defense motion did not present any arguments as to why he needed the photographs "twenty-four seven."

Judge Ohta did mention that although the defendant is in a cell by himself, there was a possibility that the photos could be lost or stolen while in his possession.

Judge Ohta rules, "For those reasons.... the photos of victims will be kept in the possession of the (defense) investigator."  Mr. Filipiak will make the material available to the defendant as he needs it.

His order may be amended (in the future) if (I believe he says if other arguments are presented).

Judge Ohta states his order covers photos depicting victim's bodies.

Gargiulo asks a question whether this covered "all photos."  Judge Ohta replies, "Photos depicting victim's bodies."

DDA Akemon informs the court that they have made great strides in the discovery process.  They have turned over to Mr. Filipiak a hard drive containing most of the discovery.

The next item that's discussed is the subpoenaed discovery that has been delivered to the court.  He's asking for permission to open the discovery, make copies for the prosecution and defense and then return the discovery back to the court.  There are "132 items on the list" of subpoenaed discovery.

I believe Akemon states he has turned over digital media. "I don't know if Mr. Gargiulo has any other written discovery...."

Gargiulo then tells Judge Ohta that he objects to having all his discovery on yellow paper in his cell.  "The issue being.... it's very hard to see... hard to read through it."  As far as the deputies searching his cell.... "I'm the only person with yellow paper..."  Judge Ohta responds, "I don't know if it's an entitlement issue..." Gargiulo states, "There's no safety issue."  DDA Akemon informs the court, "The sheriff required the yellow paper. (snip) The (order was?) signed by the commander of (the jail)."  Judge Ohta responds, "Then the sheriff's office needs to come here."

Gargiulo tells the court that he's being singled out.  Other pro per's don't have their court documents on yellow paper.  Akemon tells the court he would stipulate to that.  I believe Judge Ohta asks a question and I believe Gargiulo responds that he doesn't see anything in the custody manual (about) having his court papers on 'yellow' paper.  Gargiulo states he's "...just trying to be treated like any other pro per."

Judge Ohta informs Gargiulo, "Unless you have a fundamental right at issue, or ... (snip) important interest at issue...."  (My notes are not clear, but I believe it's Judge Ohta that continues with) "So, if they have a reason with ... in your case.... they probably would be able to show a need..."

Judge Ohta states hes not ruling on that.

Gargiulo tells the court, "There is a rule in the manual.... we are to have all paper in a separate place at all times for search purposes. (snip) And all paper is bate stamped to be able to identify it as legal (court documents)."

Akemon interjects, "I think this is also something that protects Mr. Filipiak. (snip) Also designed to protect him as well."

Judge Ohta tells the parties, "I'm not here to sit over (the?) trial on every single little dispute that could arise. (snip) It should not (ought) to be before me. (snip) If you object to yellow paper (policy) .... then (the) sheriff deputy needs to come here ... if they are able to persuade me. (snip)  As I said in (the) ruling I made regarding.... (snip) This court is not the police over jail policy. (snip) I'm not a civil court. (snip) That's not my job. (snip) My job is to oversee aspects of this trial. (snip) What goes on in the jail regarding what color of paper is outside my duty.  (snip) So, I'm not here to deal with anything and everything to deal with this case."

Judge Ohta asks the defendant if there's another color of paper that he could have his discovery printed on.  The defendant asks for "white."  Then Judge Ohta comments on whether "white" is a color in the color spectrum.  After a bit more back and forth between all parties, Judge Ohta tells the defendant to do what he wants. Print his discovery on any color he wants, however, "you run the risk" that the Sheriff's Office will confiscate it again.

Akemon tells the court that he has conducted an inventory of the subpoenaed materials and if Mr. Gargiulo is in agreement to release the evidence.  Judge Ohta explains in painstaking detail to the defendant that the prosecution will take the subpoenaed documents, photograph them. The original will come back to the court file.  The prosecution will make copies and one for you.  Gargiulo agrees.

Now, they just need a new pretrial date to work on more discovery issues. Monday, October 29th is selected and the case calendar is set at zero of 90 on that date.

Mr. Filipiak asks the court his position for bringing photographs to the jail since he ruled the photos contraband.  Judge Ohta is clear to Mr. Filipiak.  He has not ruled the photographs as contraband.  My guess is, that Filipiak could get into trouble with the Sheriff's Office if the photographs were ruled "contraband."

Akemon asks that the photos in his motion today remain sealed.  Judge Ohta agrees.

Gargiulo asks Judge Ohta about the other motions he's filed that Judge Ohta said last time he would look at.  These were his requests to have one hand free in the attorney room at the jail and getting boxes to have in his cell to keep all his discovery separate.  Judge Ohta quickly looks over the motions.  Judge Ohta states he will take input on these issues from the Sheriff's Office to check on their policy.  Judge Ohta tells the defendant that they will address this at the next hearing and he will make a ruling on it.

And that's it.  I wait outside Dept. 108 in the hopes of speaking to DDA Akemon, but he exits the courtroom in deep conversation with Mr. Filipiak and then goes directly into Dept. 104, Judge Perry's courtroom.  Christian Filipiak and I take an elevator down together.  He asks me a few questions about my blog and how long I've been writing.  I find out that Filipiak usually works as an investigator in federal court where he has had the experience of being an investigator for defendants who decide to represent themselves.

Next hearing date is Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

Stephanie Lazarus Case: Sherri Rasmussen Family Civil Suit, Part II

California Courts of Appeal, Second District
300 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA
UPDATE 9/25/12: spelling, clarity

September 20th, 2012
Continued from initial post....

When I first arrived at the building I cleared security pretty quickly. I was startled by the guards question asking if I was wearing a belt.  If I had a belt, it had to be removed before I walked through the security scanners.  Once you enter the plaza, you see that the building is structured with an open atrium center that has large animal statues, seating areas and trees.  There are open walkways around all four sides of the upper floors.  You can see the entrance to the third floor courtroom from the open plaza.

I headed up to the cafe on the second floor to grab something to eat.  I skipped breakfast since Mr. Sprocket had to get out the door early and I worked on household projects until it was time to leave for downtown.

As soon as I entered the seating area, I saw Nels and Loretta Rasmussen sitting with their attorney, John Taylor of Taylor Ring Law Firm. Also sitting at the table was a pretty blond woman, Holly Boyer.  John Taylor mentioned to me that Holly was "very sharp" and she would be the one presenting arguments to the court.  I exchanged smiles and hugs with Nels and Loretta and then went to get a banana from the cafe.

Holly told me that she has argued before the Courts of Appeal before, so this would not be her first rodeo.  Most of the conversation from Nels and Loretta centered around their great-grandchild, Hannah, 4, who I previously saw at the sentencing hearing.  (Hannah is the daughter of Rachel, who is the daughter of Connie, Sherri's older sister.  During the trial, we saw 1985 Christmas photos of Sherri with Rachel as young baby. Sprocket.)

This appeal that has been filed by Taylor Ring is not the typical sort of appeal in front of the court, since there has been no trial with a verdict.  I believe it is Holly who states that what the LAPD filed is called a demurrer.

There were seven cases on the court's calendar, and it was not listed when the Rasmussen case would be argued.  As it got closer to 1 PM, we made our way to the third floor and the single appellate courtroom.

Security to get inside the courtroom is tight.  No electronics whatsoever are allowed in without prior approval from the court.  (For example, during the Spector oral arguments, Harriet Ryan of the Los Angeles Times received special permission to use her laptop to cover the hearing.) Once you pass through security, your electronic items are taken from you and you are given a plastic clip-on badge with a number.  Those numbers correspond to drawers in a special cabinet right outside the courtroom where they are stored by security.

You enter the courtroom from the very back of the gallery on the right.  The judge's bench is along the back wall.  In the center of the courtroom is the well area, with gallery seating on all three sides.   We are the first people to take a seat in the gallery and are able to get seats front row center.  Holly enters the well, checks in with the clerk and takes one of the several extra seats in the well, where only attorneys are allowed.

One of the officers demonstrates to all the waiting counsel how to raise and lower the podium so that the microphone is at the proper height for the individual presenting arguments.  There is no court reporter.  The arguments are tape recorded.  I do not know if it is possible to obtain an audio copy of the proceedings before a decision has been rendered, or even at all.

Four justices sit on Division Eight of the Second District.  Any three of the justices will be assigned a case for review.  A majority of two makes the decision.  The Justices are: Tricia A. Bigelow, presiding justice,  Laurence D. Rubin, Madeleine I. Flier and Elizabeth A. Grimes.  When the justices come out,  Justice Rubin is not with them.  Justice Bigelow explains that Douglas Sortino has been (temporarily) assigned by the court system to help out while Justice Rubin is away.  Justice Sortino is a former prosecutor.  He was the original prosecutor assigned to the Phil Spector trial.  DDA Alan Jackson took over the case when Sortino was appointed to the bench.  During the first Phil Spector trial, the defense called Sortino as a court witness to testify outside the presence of the jury.

Justice Bigelow advised counsel that the proceedings were tape recorded.  For those cases where Justice Rubin was one of the deciding voices, counsel had the right to have their case argued when Justice Rubin was available.  Otherwise, he would be listening to their arguments via the audio recording.  Bigelow also advised counsel that they have read all the briefs and issued for each case a "tentative opinion," so that counsel can tailor their arguments.

 The first case argued was an individual representing themselves, suing Kaiser Permamente over an emergency surgery performed on her.  The courts of appeal tentatively affirmed the lower court's verdict.

The second case argued was a divorce case where the husband was appealing the lower court ruling that he had to pay his ex-wife's legal fees.  The courts of appeal tentatively affirmed the lower court's ruling.

The third case, the courts of appeal tentatively reversed the lower court ruling.

The fourth case was the Rasmussen case, and it would be heard by Bigelow, Rubin and Grimes.  The tentative ruling was to affirm the lower court's dismissal on the basis of statute of limitations.  The court felt the latest the Rasmussens could have filed a claim against the LAPD was in 2000, since their last contact with the LAPD was in 1998.

Holly Boyer passionately argues the Rasmussen case, and against the court's tentative ruling.

Boyer argued there was no way for the Rasmussens to know the police conduct was intentional until the arrest.  They only learned in 2009 that the LAPD knew all along Lazarus was Sherri's killer.  Boyer argues the statute of limitations should not begin running until 2009.

Boyer states, "It doesn't become actionable until the motive behind it becomes known to the Rasmusssen family."

Then the Bane Act is discussed.  The Rasmussens allege they were intimidated by the LAPD to give up their pursuit of Sherri's killer, whom they suspected all along to be Stephanie Lazarus.

Not long after the Bane Act is discussed, Justice Bigelow reminds Ms. Boyer that these are only tentative rulings, and that's the purpose of oral arguments.  Justice Bigelow then expresses her condolences to the Rasmussen family, "I'm sorry for the loss that they have suffered."

There is some more argument about whether the operative date is when the plaintiff's knew. Boyer points out a section of the Bane Act regarding intimidation.  How can the statute of limitations begin when the LAPD was successful in intimidating the Rasmussens to give up their pursuit of justice for Sherri.  "These plaintiff's did not know the true facts," Boyer argues.

Boyer also mentioned to the Justices, something to the effect of, what would the family have sued the LAPD for back in 2000? They didn't know why the LAPD was intimidating them until 2009.

Then a slender, petite woman, Blithe S. Block, the attorney for the City of Los Angeles, addressed the court.  Probably because the Justice's tentative ruling was in the city's favor, her argument was brief.  Boyer had a few more minutes for rebuttal argument.  And that was it.  We left the courtroom and regrouped back in the second floor cafeteria for drinks.  Boyer was hopeful that her arguments were heard.

The California Courts of Appeal has ninety days from the end of this month to publish their ruling.  However, I believe Holly states they can request more time.

It's still amazing to me that Nels and Loretta, who just celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary, have not missed a single court hearing involving Sherri's case.  After the hearing, I walked the Rasmussens to their car, for their long drive back to Tucson.

Once I obtain copies of all the arguments, I'll put them up on T&T.

Rasmussen appeal filing on California Courts of Appeal web site.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cameron Brown Pretrial 2, Third Trial

Updated 9/24/12 2:33 PM: Correct spelling of DDA Arisa Mattson's name, victim Rudy Delatorre's name, and add description of all six charged and convicted counts against defendant Giovanni Hernandez.

Updated 10:02 PM: add Lauren Sarene Key's name

September 21st, 2012
Today was Cameron Brown's 51st birthday.  In less than two months, he will have been in LA County Sheriff's custody for nine years, waiting for his third trial in the alleged murder of his four-year-old daughter, Lauren Sarene Key.

8:21 AM I'm in the hallway on the 9th floor.  The drive into downtown was slow but I lucked out when I got to the criminal court building; there was no security line and I was able to get an elevator pretty quickly.

After I arrived on the 9th floor, DDA Craig Hum arrived and we exchanged smiles.  There was a young, pretty Asian woman with a short pixie haircut sitting on the bench across from me.  She had a some sort of blue badge clipped to her shirt.  Hum went up and spoke to her.  From the way she is dressed, I'm guessing she is either clerking or interning on the case.

Dept. 107 opens up at 8:30 AM and we all trek inside.  Judge Pastor's clerk, Sammie Benson is at her desk and Pat McNeal is at the court reporter's desk.  There are two sheriff's looking over the courtroom and I overhear one say to the other, "They waxed our floors."  Craig Hum goes up to Mrs. Benson's desk to check in with her.  A few minutes later, Sammie and Pat talk about a CBS 48 Hours show.

Judge Pastor steps out into the courtroom as he's getting his robe on.  He's wearing a white shirt and a very dark tie.  It might be black.  He speaks to Mrs. Benson for a moment.  The other court reporter, Mavis, comes out and repositions her equipment.  There are a few people in the gallery and I make a guess that they are either here for the current trial in progress or for a sentencing hearing.  I overhear something about a death penalty case.

Another female deputy enters the courtroom so now there are three deputies besides the assigned bailiff.  I'm guessing there will be a formal sentencing.  The female deputy and another sheriff talk about the job and different assignments.

We're waiting on Mr. Laub who might be down in Dept. 102.  Mrs. Benson can't seem to get her computer to come up.

8:45 AM, DDA Hum chats with the Asian woman who is sitting in the well with him.  More people file into the gallery.  Now I'm certain it's a sentencing hearing, as more and more people show up.

There is a bit of bustle going on in the well.  Judge Pastor takes the bench.  It appears we will no longer wait for Mr. Laub, and go forward with the sentencing hearing.  A very young looking man is brought out. He's in a blue jumpsuit.

8:55 AM Mr. Laub shows up and he and DDA Hum smile and shake hands.  I observe Hum and Laub in the well.  Hum is listening to Laub and occasionally shaking his head or nodding his head.  At the bench, the defense counsel for the sentencing hearing defendant asks for an off the record conversation with the judge.  The prosecutor on that case and the defense attorney go up to the bench.

More people enter Dept. 107 for the sentencing.  DDA Hum leaves for a moment and Laub chats with Mrs. Benson as Judge Pastor and the other counsel privately conference at the bench.

Laub chats with the new female deputy, shakes her hand and then leaves the courtroom.  Mrs. Benson speaks to the deputies in the gallery.

Giovanni Hernandez
9:00 AM DDA Hum reenters Dept. 107.  The sentencing case is called to order.  The defendant is Giovanni Hernandez.  The court has reviewed a considerable sentencing memorandum.  Ms. Mattson  the prosecutor on the sentencing case tells Judge Pastor there are three individuals for the victims who wish to speak.

Gloria Ortiz (sp?) gets up to the podium to speak.  She starts off by saying, "Gary Ortiz is my grandson..."  But she could not continue.  She was too emotional.  Her sadness and crying affects me.

A young, sharply dressed woman (I believe the woman states her name is Patrica, and is a sister to one of the victims.) gets up to talk about a second victim, Rudy Delatorre.  Rudy suffered three gunshot wounds, one of them was to the head.  He is no longer capable to speak clearly or read.  He's now 19 years of age and has had eight surgeries.  She speaks about all of Rudy's health issues, and the fact that his health is still precarious, and he could die at any time.  He still suffers from seizures that affect his cognitive abilities.  It's quite sad to hear how disabled Rudy is from being shot in the head.

Another individual gets up to speak, a cousin of one of the victims. Then Mrs. Ortiz decides she can get up the courage to speak.  She states she didn't know about Felecia.  "I didn't know about that girl." (snip)  She heard that "someone got killed."

That's it for victim witnesses.

The defense counsel, Mr. Schwartz (sp?) introduces two letters to give to the court.  A Sister Claudia Romero (sp?) steps up to the podium to speak for the defendant. She got to know the family well.  I note that the defendant turns his head slightly toward the speaker, but he does not turn his head to look.  I don't know if that's because of the way he's shackled or not.

Sister Claudia states, "I knew him to be honest with me.... good with the staff. (snip) He did receive confirmation."  She goes on to talk about Hernandez's good qualities that she observed.

The next witness to speak on the defendant's behalf is his older sister, Jessica (sp?) Hernandez.  She speaks about juvenile hall.  "He was hanging around the wrong people.  That's true, but that's not been his (whole?) life." She talks about how Judge Pastor spoke at the first trial that this courtroom is a "temple of justice."  He was "fourteen-year-old the time of the crime. (snip) Especially when that fourteen-year old kid is innocent.  Hernandez's sister speaks for a long time on his behalf.  At one point, I remember Judge Pastor telling her that he does not wish to hear the evidence in the case.

I don't recall if it was his sister, or Sister Claudia that spoke about all the positive influences in Giovanni's life, and some of the good things he had done before the incident as well as while in juvenile hall.

 Then the defense attorney gets up to argue for leniency for his client.  The defense maintains this was a case of mistaken identity.  Schwartz speaks about how if Giovanni had been one year younger, he would not have been certified to adult court.  Hernandez is facing a sentence where it is a certainty that he will die in prison.  There were two victims in this crime.

DDA Mattson then gets up to argue sentencing.  "There are four other attempted murders that he was convicted of."  When I hear Mattson say that it shocks me.  She makes a recommendation about one of the sentences.  If I'm remembering correctly she states something to the effect that the defendant had many opportunities, many positive people in his life, but he still made a wrong choice.

Then Judge Pastor speaks.  "This is the most unpleasant part of being a judge.  Even though I may not like it, I must follow the law."  There have been US Supreme Court and California Courts of Appeal rulings that puts the court in the appearance of an actuary. "This is quite honestly, the most difficult sentencing I've ever done. (snip) I invite appellate sentencing in this regard."

Then Pastor rules on each count.  He rules on the murder, 25 years to life.  He mentions about (indetem?) that makes the sentence 50 years to life.  I'm betting this is either a gun use enhancement or a gang affiliation enhancement.

In regards to count two, three, four and five, "I want very much to sentence to (consecutive?) (snip) but I can't do it because of (prior court rulings?)...  Judge Pastor mentions what he would like to do in regards to these counts, but he states he can't do it.  For these charges, he sentences Giovanni to concurrent terms of 50 years to life.  Judge Pastor talks about the sixth charge but I miss the sentence.  He then stays that sentence.  "If it was up to me, (I'd sentence you) to 160 years to life."

There's a bit more about court costs the defendant owes and then it's over.  The deputies are ordered to get the gallery cleared one row at a time.  Judge Pastor makes it clear to those in the gallery to wait until they are out in the elevator bay to talk about the case since he has a jury out in the hallway waiting now and he doesn't want them contaminated by this (sentencing hearing).

Additional Note: The defendant was convicted of 1 count PC 187(a) first degree murder of Gary Ortiz; 4 counts of attempted murder,  PC 664/187(a), against Rudy Delatorre, Vanessa Garcia, Sophia Garcia, Victor Garcia; 1 count PC 246, shooting at an occupied vehicle. All special allegations were found to be true. Sprocket.

Cameron Brown
At 10:20 AM, Judge Pastor asks to see counsel on the Brown case.  They appear to be going over calendar dates.  Judge Pastor is behind.  His current case, counsel has arrived and he's 1/2 hour behind the scheduled start time for today. Pastor goes on the record, but Brown is not brought out.  He's received a (defense?) motion, (having to do with documents?) but he's not able to deal with it now. A new court date is scheduled, October 2nd at 8:30 AM.  (I'm bummed about that date since there is also a hearing for Kelly Soo Park in Dept 109.) On that date, Brown's case calendar will be set at 11 of 120.  He's signed an order for temporary release of exhibits so they can be digitized.   Judge Pastor will release the exhibits on September 25th.  Laub told the court that he had received many boxes from the firm of Geragos & Geragos, (I missed hearing how many)  but I believe he then said, there were "nineteen more" still to be received from the prior law firm.

This tells me several things.  Laub has probably not reviewed a single prior trial transcript on this case yet.  It's a good bet that this case will not go to trial until next spring at the earliest.  I don't know what I'm going to do about October 2nd.  I sometimes wish there was a way to clone myself when it comes to competing hearings.  On a side note, no one from Brown's family showed up for this court hearing or the prior one on July 27th.  I wonder if Patty Kaldis Brown is still married to Cameron, or if she has taken a job and couldn't get time off.

LOIS GOODMAN Case: Emergency Hearing

On Wednesday, September 19th, 2012, Local ABC Ch. 7's Miriam Hernadez reported there was an emergency hearing in the Lois Goodman case.  The prosecution was requesting to obtain a DNA sample from Goodman.  According to the report:
DNA was taken at the time of Goodman's arrest, but that sample was sent to a state database. Prosecutors said they needed a separate saliva sample.
The defense argued that prosecutors had not shown probable cause that Goodman was involved in the homicide, and that taking the saliva sample was an unnecessary intrusion.
The prosecution won their motion.  Goodman was ordered to provide a DNA sample.  According to the report, Goodman's defense has five days to file an appeal. As of today, I could not find a filing for Goodman with the California Courts of Appeal, although the defense still has three days left to file.

Goodman remains out on bail confined to her home and wearing ankle monitoring.

I did not attend this hearing since I didn't know about it. Kudos to Miriam Hernandez for attending the hearing and having a camera inside the courtroom.

I am at a disadvantage covering cases where the defendant is out on bail and where the preliminary hearing has not commenced.  When a defendant is incarcerated, I can always check the LA County Sheriff's web site for the next date a defendant is scheduled to be in court.

But when a defendant is out on bail, it's in these instances where the mainstream media does a great job.  I do not have the years of building relationships within the DA's office, or with defense attorneys to get advance notice when motions have been filed or there are emergency hearings.  My only other alternative would have been to call the clerk of the assigned courtroom every day to see if any motions had been filed and when they would be argued.

What I do have to offer my readers is copies of the motions filed by the prosecution and the defense for this hearing.  Special thanks to Elizabeth Martinez of the Public Information Office for helping me obtain and purchase these documents so quickly.  (Documents purchased from the court cost fifty-cents a page. Sprocket)

I have uploaded the following documents to my SCRIBD account:

Prosecution's Motion for DNA Sample.

Defense Opposition Motion for DNA.

If I continue to follow this case, I will start a Quick Links page.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stephanie Lazarus Case: Sherri Rasmussen Family Civil Suit

Several of T&T readers have asked me about the Rasmussen family civil suit against Stephanie Lazarus and the LAPD.

Here is what I know so far:

The original suit was filed in July 2010 by the law firm of Taylor & Ring and is two-fold.  Stephanie Lazarus is being sued for the wrongful death of Sherri Rasmussen and the LAPD is being sued for violation of Sherri Rasmussen's civil rights.  The LAPD made a filing, basically saying that they are immune from these types of claims.  The court granted the motion to strike the complaint against the LAPD on the immunity argument.  The Rasmussen family appealed that ruling in January 2011.

Later today, oral arguments will be heard in the California Courts of Appeal on the immunity ruling. Sherri's parents, Nels and Lorretta Rasmussen are expected to attend.  I will be attending the hearing and will have a full update on T&T tonight or tomorrow.  The last time I was in this stately courtroom was at Phil Spector's appeal for his second degree murder conviction.

If I am able to obtain the briefs for both sides without too much cost, I will post them on my SCRIBD account.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Upcoming Cases & New Uploaded Documents

UPDATED Sept. 16th, 2012: spelling

After a verdict was reached in the Stephanie Lazarus case, I've been searching for another case to attend in 2013.  There are several on my radar where I've attended a few of the pretrial hearings.  It's very unlikely that I will be able to attend all of these cases.  I'm only one person and I can't be in two courtrooms at once.  I'd really appreciate hearing from my readers which cases you are most interested in seeing covered on T&T.  One of the things I take into consideration when deciding on covering a trial is the defendant and victim's families and their loved ones who may not be able to attend the trial.  At the bottom of this entry you will find a list of cases I'm following and a poll you can vote in to tell me your top two picks for cases you'd like me to cover.

Recently added documents.
Recently, I've become more proficient at scanning in documents and uploading them to my SCRIBD account.  I also invested in a "watermark" application for the documents I've uploaded.  The reason I've added a watermark is because I'm using my own funds to purchase many of these items. I'm independent. I don't have the backing of a news organization that has a budget for purchasing court documents. You also have to consider it takes time and energy to go to the courthouse to obtain the documents and put them online.

Stephanie Lazarus Quick Links Page.
Stephanie Lazarus juror questionnaire.  The names of potential witnesses at the end of the jury questionnaire have been redacted to protect the privacy of those who were not called to testify.

Stephanie Lazarus jury instructions.  This is the list of instructions that was read to the jury by Judge Perry.   If you recall, there was an issue with jury instruction #520 or #521, having to do with a line missing defining second degree.  The defense objected to the line being added and Judge Perry ruled in their favor.

Kelly Soo Park Quick Links Page.
Kelly Soo Park Charging Document & Statement of Probable Cause.  This is an interesting document outlining how Santa Monica Police detectives tied Kelly Soo Park to the murder victim, Juliana Redding.

Kelly Soo Park Prosecution Motion Request for Court Inquiry. (incomplete document)

All of the above items have been added to the Quick Links page for that particular case.  I'm also in the process of uploading copies of motions in Phil Spector's first trial.  These documents are readily available on the Los Angeles County Superior Court's web site but I thought I'd make it easier to access them.  As I get them uploaded, I'll add links to the Spector's Quick Links Page.

Potential Trial Coverage

Cameron Brown Case.  Department 107, Judge Michael Pastor.  Brown is facing his third trial in the death of his four-year-old daughter, Lauren Sarene Key.

Kelly Soo Park Case.  Department 109, Judge Kathleen Kennedy.  Park is on trial for the alleged murder-for-hire in the death of a woman she did not know, Juliana Redding.

Gerhard Becker Case. Preliminary hearing set for October 10th, 2012.

Michael Gargiulo Case. Department 108, Judge Sam Ohta. (Note. CBS 48 Hours is following this case. They have already produced an episode titled The Boy Next Door. Sprocket.)

Lonnie Franklin, Jr. "Grim Sleeper" Case. Department 109, Judge Kathleen Kennedy.  (There is a network following this case but I'm not sure which one it is specifically. Sprocket.)

Lois Goodman Case. Preliminary hearing set for October 3rd, 2012, Department 122, Van Nuys Courthouse.

Christian Gerhartsreiter "Fake Rockefeller" Case. Department 107, Judge Michael Pastor.  (Note. I have not yet attended any pretrial hearings in this case.  I'm waiting to find out if TruTV's In Session will be covering the case. Sprocket.)

Park and Franklin are in the same courtroom so those trials would not overlap each other but could overlap other cases.  Brown and Gerhartsreiter are also in the same courtroom.  It is unknown what courtroom Becker will be assigned after the preliminary hearing.  It is unknown if Goodman's case will stay at the Van Nuys Courthouse after the preliminary hearing.

Here is the poll where you can vote on the top two cases you'd like to see covered on T&T.
(Note. I'd also appreciate hearing why you are interested in a specific case.  What questions do you seek answers to in the upcoming trial? Post a comment or E-mail me. 9/16/12 Sprocket.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11 Eleven Years Later

The first World Trade Center

UPDATED 8:44 AM: Photo essay from The Daily Breeze

UPDATED 7:48 AM: added new link
Mr. Sprocket and I will be attending the 9/11 Memorial service in our city.  I hope you will take a moment today to remember all those who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001.  Never forget.

9/11 Memorial Fountain
5101 Sepulveda Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
6:30 PM
Parking next door at Castle Park

The Most Striking Front Pages Since 9/11

Nation Remembers 9/11 Attacks

One World Trade Center rises at terror's void at Ground Zero .... bathed in light.

World Trade Center.

WTC Memorial comes at a steep price.


National Park Service Flight 93 Memorial

Biden Speaks at 9/11 Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville

Pentagon 9/11 Memorial

Friday, September 7, 2012

Going to Court: Dept. 30 IV, Gerhard Becker Case

September 6th, 2012
I was late getting out the door and traffic into downtown Los Angeles was bumper to bumper almost the entire way.  I made it onto the fifth floor, Department 30 right after 8:30 AM.  Fortunately, I didn't need to rush.  The courtroom didn't even open their doors until about 8:47 AM.

Although I didn't realize it, I rode the elevator up with Becker's defense attorney, Donald Re.  It had been two months since I'd seen him and I had forgotten what he looked like.

In the fifth floor hallway, Becker is standing next to his attorney, along with the same woman I saw him with at a prior hearing. The woman was wearing white pants with a matching jacket and a dark turquoise top.  Becker was dressed in a medium toned grayish looking suit. Since his back was to me most of the time from where I was sitting, I believe his shirt had a faint hint of champagne color to it that went well with his tie.  Becker, his companion and Re, appear to be relaxed and often smiling while chatting.

When the courtroom is opened, I grabbed a seat in the section reserved for media, police and counsel. The pretty Latino sheriff who assisted in Judge Perry's courtroom during the Lazarus case is at the bailiffs desk.  This is where defendant's who have appearances but no counsel line up to check in with the court.  Counsel go directly to the clerk's desk to check in with Judge Shelly Torrealba's clerk. When Donald Re enters the courtroom, he takes a seat on the bench directly in front of me.

The well area of the court has many desks and many are empty.  Over by the clerk's desk, I see Judge Torrealba standing without her robes.  From where I'm sitting, I can see that she is wearing a comfortable running or walking type sports shoe with her form fitting beige suit.

DDA Sean Carney arrives and shakes Donald Re's hand and they have a very amicable chat.  I overhear that they are discussing the next possible court dates.  Both counsel go up to the clerk's desk.

9:04 AM: DDA Frances Young arrives. She always looks perfectly put together.  She's wearing a berry-pink form fitting jacket with a bit of flair at the hips matched with a black skirt and three short strands of large pearls around her neck.  When she enters the well area, I see her give a big hug to a handsome black DDA whom I've seen in Judge Perry's courtroom months ago, who reminded me of the actor Blair Underwood.

It's 9:10 AM and Judge Torrealba hasn't taken the bench yet.  The group of attorneys who are now sitting in the row in front of me and beside me are chatting about a case but I don't really catch much of what they're saying.

Young and Carney leave the courtroom for a moment and at 9:13 AM Judge Torrealba takes the bench.  I turn around in my seat to see if I can see Becker but I can't find him in the packed gallery.  Re, who is now sitting back in the gallery, tries to stifle a yawn.

Young and Carney are back inside Dept. 30 now and sitting on the benches across the aisle to my left.  Young is showing a paper to Carney as they chat.  I note that Young's nails are painted a deep red color.

The Becker case is called.  Donald Re has filed a motion for continuance.  Judge Torrealba asks if there is no objection by the people.  Carney responds, "That is correct."  I believe it's Carney who goes onto say that "Counsel and I have tentatively scheduled the preliminary hearing for October 10th."  They expect the preliminary hearing to take two to three days.  They expect to go forward (with the prelim) on that date.

Judge Torrealba then addresses the defendant, explaining to him that he waives his right to have his preliminary hearing today, and that he will have his preliminary hearing within two court days of that (October 10th) date.  Becker responds, "Yes I do."  Torrealba states the electronic monitoring and bail is still in effect.  And that's it.  Young, Carney and Re all shake hands in the well as they leave.

After the hearing I made my way down to the second floor to get copies of motions filed in the Michael Gargiulo case.  (I will have links to those documents up on T&T momentarily. (Note: These documents can now be found on Gargiulo's "Quick Links" Page. Sprocket.)  It still amazes me that with all the advances in technology for hosting documents in digital form, the Los Angeles County Superior Court is still in the age of paper files.  As inconvenient as the process of requesting documents is, sadly, I understand that the State budget for keeping courtrooms staffed and open continues to shrink. The good news is, it's my understanding that a contract has been signed to upgrade and install 21 new elevators in the downtown criminal court building.  The project will take a few years, but at least the money has been found to upgrade the antiquated lifts.  Waiting for an elevator in the lobby can easily take 20 minutes or more, depending on the amount of traffic.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Michael Gargiulo: PreTrial Hearing 2

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, date unknown.


Prior pretrial hearing 8/21/12  

UPDATE Sept 14th: Catching my dyslexia errors; edited for spelling, Judge Ohta. My apologies.
UPDATE Sept. 6th:
A QUICK LINKS Page has been set up for this case.  On that page you can find links to several motions that have been filed by the defendant as well as the prosecution. Sprocket.

September 5th, 2012
I'm waiting out in the hallway for Department 108 to open.  Judge Kennedy's bailiff, Sean (sp?) is in the hallway chatting with an attractive female LAPD officer in uniform.  She's reading a several page typed document.  Attorneys make their way down to this end of the hallway and one of them is Deborah Brazil, who was one of the prosecutors on the Conrad Murray manslaughter case.  Brazil heads into Dept. 107, Judge Michael Pastor's courtroom.

8:35 AM: Department 108 is opened by the bailiff from the inside and I take a seat in the second bench row.   A few people from the general public enter and sit in the back row.

Judge Ohta steps out from behind the private chambers area and comes up to the counter of his clerk's desk.  Judge Ohta's bailiff is showing another bailiff the ropes.  The bailiff introduces the new sheriff to Judge Ohta who shakes his hand and says, "Nice to meet you."

8:45 AM: Judge Ohta's clerk, Gloria, comes out and greets the deputies.  Although the courtroom is rather quiet, I'm betting Judge Ohta does have a case in progress and the jurors were told to come in later.  As I wait for court to start, I can hear the radio calls come in over the bailiffs radios.  Shortly after, defense attorney Mr. Rubin enters and greets the people in the back row.  During the last Gargiulo hearing, there was an issue as to whether or not Mr. Rubin could represent another defendant in another matter, because Rubin had represented a co-defendant in that case.  I guess the bar panel got that all sorted out for Judge Ohta.

Gargiulo's investigator Christian Filipiak enters, greets Rubin and they sit in the well and chat for a bit.  With their backs to me, I note both gentlemen are wearing suits with a faint, half-inch spacing white pinstripe. Rubin's suit is light gray, Filipiak's suit appears to be black.

8:53 AM: The pretty court reporter arrives and sets up her equipment at her desk in front of the witness stand.

There are now several conversations going on at once for a moment.  The court report and court clerk exchange a few words, Rubin and Filipiak are still chatting and the two deputies are going over procedures.

A slender woman with thick short hair enters and sits in the first row on the 'defense' side in line with the bailiff's desk.  I'm guessing she is here for the case that is currently in trial.

8:56 AM both bailiffs go back into the jail area.   A few moments later, Akemon arrives with two other people who I guess must be from the DA's office.  One is a very young looking, almost rail thin woman wearing black pumps and a black suit.  The other is an older silver-haired man with a nicely trimmed mustache and small goatee.  He begins explaining a few things about the Gargiulo case to the young woman as well as court procedure.  I overhear that she is currently in (law?) school.

I see Akemon and Filipiak chat in the well.  I overhear the clerk Gloria say on a phone call, "Yes, we're in trial."  I guessed right.

Judge Ohta comes out again for a moment.  He's wearing a gold, tan and white shimmering striped tie with his light blue shirt.

Rubin comes out of the jail area and when he sees Akemon he shakes his hand and they chat for a moment.   Filipiak tells Judge Ohta, "Afterwards, Mr. Gargiulo has several motions he'd like to sign."

Judge Ohta, with a smile on his face jokingly chats with Mr. Rubin, "I thought you didn't take state cases, only federal?"  Mr. Rubin responds, "My creditors want me to take everything."  Judge Ohta then initiates a conversation with the parties in the well, something about all cases having issues relating to commerce statutes to bring cases into federal court. I don't really follow what he's saying.

The DDA who is trying the current case in front of Judge Ohta arrives, along with several other attorneys.

It's after 9:15 AM, and Gargiulo is finally brought out.  He's wearing the new glasses Filipiak obtained for him and he's carrying a large green, canvas looking satchel.

Judge Ohta brings the case on the record by stating that Mr. Gargiulo is self representing and that Mr. Filipiak is seated next to Mr. Gargiulo to help him with matters.

JO: The issue before the court is whether the court as the authority to place orders on certain discovery issues....  (snip) The people filed a motion indicating their position as to why they believe the court has the authority to issue (restrict the defendant from access to crime scene photographs).

The prosecution's motion was filed on August 29th.  Judge Ohta asks the defendant if he received a copy of the motion.

MG: Yes, I received it on August 31st.

Judge Ohta asks the defendant if he is prepared to litigate the issue.  He replies that he's not prepared.

MG: I'm sure there are inaccurate statements in there. (snip) I've had very little time to prepare a response.

JO: I will give you time.

Then Judge Ohta speaks to the parties as to what his thoughts, preliminary are so far, and where he thinks the issue will fall.

JO: It will fall on the victim's constitutional rights.  (snip) I recognize you are presumed innocent. (snip) The prosecution (argues that you are guilty).  (snip) As related to (sec? secondary?) issues those might not have standing.

From my notes, I'm seeming to remember Judge Ohta was referring to the prosecution's arguments that relied on the defendant being guilty...

JO: ....the privacy of the victims is a strong possibility.  (snip) ...1054 statute doesn't provide under (that?) issue

Judge Ohta goes onto theorize that under 1044, his responsibility to supervise the trial process, that he may be able to (rule for the prosecution on this motion) under 1044, because this would fall under the court's "inherit authority." Judge Ohta has to balance the victim's constitutional rights under (the victim's bill of rights bill...)...  In order to protect the victim's rights.  The victim must be treated with respect and dignity...  The balance is, since the defendant has been provided with discovery, does the trial court limit your access to it in jail?

Judge Ohta states the photos are very graphic photos.  They could be stolen, lost. The court probably has the authority under those guidelines.

JO: If you do any research....(snip) focus on that.

Judge Ohta states that the prosecution has done extensive research on the issue and their motion is well written and gives a lot of (gr..?)....

MG: I think I've been singled out. I've spoken to many.... (in the jail? other people who are in cells by themselves)... (snip) I pretty much.... I'd be the only one with yellow paperwork... (snip) and not allowed to have photographs and (be able to determine?) which photographs (go with what documents?) setting and notes.... (snip) I'm having a hard time putting things together... (snip) There's inaccurate info based on this information.  (snip) I can't.....

JO: You've been given discovery.  You have access to it.  Whether you possess it in your cell.... (snip) (I've? The prosecution?) ...ask (your) investigator to keep items...

MG: If I could put something together and respond back...

Filipiak leans in to speak to the defendant and recommends three different dates to him, September 24th, 25th, 26th.  Gargiulo then presents those dates to the Judge and Judge Ohta asks the prosecution. Akemon states any of those dates are fine.  Judge Ohta selects September 26th as the next hearing date.

Judge Ohta asks the defendant if he would like to waive time again, or stay on this zero of 90?  Gargiulo asks to waive time again, so the next court date, the calendar will be at zero of 90 again.

JO: Were you able to resolve issues with Department 122?

MG: Yes, monetary issues.

Gargiulo asks the judge to order the prosecution to turn over discovery without the redaction's. Gargiulo states (he? his investigator?) is not able to do the job because he doesn't have witness (resolutions?)...

JO: If you feel the district attorney has not complied with 1054, (discovery) file a motion.

Akemon mentions that the prosecution is working on putting all the discovery on a hard drive for Mr. Filipiak, and hopefully it will be done by that date (Sept. 26th).  Akemon asks Judge Ohta to inventory the discovery that is still under seal.  There were numerous documents that were subpoenaed.  He spoke to Mr. Filipiak, and wants to know if it's okay with the defendant and the court.

After more questions from Judge Ohta, Akemon explains that he isn't requesting to "open" the envelopes, just go through them, see what the outside of the envelopes say, and make an inventory list.

The defendant, not really understanding, Judge Ohta explains to him that Judge Ohta will not be here. That the defendant needs to say whether this would be alright with him or not.  I believe he gives his consent that the prosecution can inventory the subpoenaed documents that have come back.

Gargiulo asks Judge Ohta if he's looked at his other motions he's filed, something about the law library I believe and Judge Ohta states that he has not.  He will go over all the motions at the next court hearing.

Now Filipiak gets his client to sign, I think, new motions to present to the court.  Possibly these were prepared for him by Filipiak... I don't know.  Judge Ohta asks the deputies if Mr. Filipiak has access to the 14th floor (possibly to sign these papers there instead of taking up the court's time).  The bailiff indicates Filipiak does not.

The documents get signed, Gargiulo is led back to the jail holding area and that's it.  As I write up my notes, I'm remembering that Judge Ohta addressed the defendant that he understands that he has recently began representing himself.  He would like to get this case moving along.

I checked in with Elizabeth at the Public Information Office, and I will be able to pick up copies of the motions tomorrow.  This is perfect since I'm going back to court tomorrow for the Gerhard Becker arraignment in Dept. 30.  Once I have copies of the defense and prosecution motions, I'll put them up on my SCRIBD account.

I will be inquiring to see if there is an updated photo of Gargiulo at the Los Angeles County jail and if the prosecution released any photos of the victims.  This will be an interesting case if the defendant does represent himself all the way through trial.  Whether I am able to attend it or not will depend on which case I'm following comes to trial first.  My priority so far is the Cameron Brown case, then Kelly Soo Park.

Next hearing is September 26, 2012

Monday, September 3, 2012


 Lois Goodman at her arraignment on murder charges.

UPDATE: Sept. 16th, 2012
Defense Motion to Reduce Bail

Local NBC 4 is reporting that Lois Goodman, charged with the bludgeoning death of her husband, Alan Goodman on April 17th, posted bail and walked out of jail yesterday on September 2nd.  The photo at NBC 4 shows a big smile on Goodman's face.

Goodman was initially arrested in New York on August 21st, and flown back to California to face charges.  She was in jail a total of thirteen days.

On August 29th at a bail hearing, Commissioner Block reduced Goodman's bond from $1 million to $500,000. A condition of Goodman's bail is ankle monitoring and confinement to her home address.  Exceptions to that were for doctor appointments and religious services.

Goodman's family and supporters used a web site and Facebook to solicit the 8% needed (reportedly $40,000) for a bail bondsman to bail her out. Goodman's preliminary hearing is scheduled for October 3rd in Department 122 at the Van Nuys Courthouse.

Personally, I will be surprised if the preliminary hearing does go off as scheduled on that date.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Michael Gargiulo Case: Pretrial Hearing 1

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, date unknown.


UPDATE Sept 14th: Catching my dyslexia errors; edited for spelling, Judge Ohta. My apologies.
This case is one of several I have my eye on of possibly covering when it comes closer to trial.

Case History
Defendant: Michael Thomas Gargiulo, (currently 36 and self-representing)
Prosecution: DDA Daniel Akemon
Judge Ohta

California Victims:
2001 Ashley Ellerin, 22
2005 Maria Bruno, 32
2008 Michelle Murphy (age at time of attack: 28)

Illinois Victim: 1993 Tricia Pacaccio, 18

Michael Gargiulo was arrested on June 6th, 2008 for the attempted murder of Michelle Murphy in her Santa Monica home on April 28th, 2008.

While in LA County custody, on September 4th, 2008 he was also charged in the brutal stabbing deaths of Ashley Ellerin, 22, on February 21st, 2001 in her rented Hollywood Hills home, and Maria Bruno, 32, in her El Monte apartment on December 1st, 2005.

In total, there are seven counts against Gargiulo consisting of felony murder (PC 187a), attempted murder (PC 664/187a), first degree burglary (PC 459) and attempted escape (PC 664/4532(b)(1)). He has been in LA County custody ever since his arrest.

Gargiulo is also the suspect in a 20-year-old cold case murder that happened in the early morning hours on August 14th, 1993 in Glenview, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago and Gargiulo's home town. Sometime after 12:30 AM, 18-year-old Tricia Pacaccio was stabbed to death just steps from her front door.  Gargiulo, a family friend and neighbor was 17-years-old at the time.  On July 7th, 2011, the State of Illinois charged Gargiulo with Pacaccio's murder.

The Chicago Sun Times reported Los Angeles County Sheriff's Detective Mark Lillienfeld (who testified in both Phil Spector trials) indicated that Gargiulo could be connected to the murders of ten women.

Sometime recently, Michael Gargiulo made the fateful decision to represent himself.

August 21st, 2012
This morning there was a pretrial hearing in the Michael Gargiulo case and the short proceeding was pretty interesting.  You might be familiar with this case since the CBS show 48 Hours did a story on the case, The Boy Next Door, that recently re-aired August 18, 2012.

I had been tracking this case for some time, missing earlier opportunities to attend pretrial hearings that happened to fall on the same day as other cases I'm interested in.  When I get downtown, I get to the 9th floor and enter Dept. 107.  I see Mavis at her desk in front of the witness box.  There are attorneys waiting for their clients to be brought out.  Mavis, gets up from her desk to leave the courtroom to retrieve something and as she walks by, she says hello and asks what case I'm here for.  I tell her Michael Gargiulo.  She responds that she's not familiar with that case.  Immediately, I know something is wrong if Judge Pastor's court reporter doesn't know about a case.  And then I remember.  The case is in Judge Ohta's courtroom right next door, Department 108.  Kicking myself internally, I tell Mavis, "I think I have the wrong courtroom. It's 108 not 107."  I tell her that it was nice to see her regardless, and I get up to go to Dept. 108.

I've never been in Judge Ohta's courtroom before, however, it is laid out exactly like Judge Fidler's courtroom, with the entrance doors on the far gallery right and the jury box on the far left in the well.  I'm pretty sure Judge Ohta hasn't been assigned to the 9th floor that long, since he wasn't in Dept. 108 when I was covering the second Phil Spector trial. The courtroom is virtually empty except for a black gentleman in the well.  An older looking attorney comes in and speaks to the clerk.  He needs a single document on a case.  There is a large file box sitting on the counter at the clerk's desk.  BA129067.  I'm thinking that must be an old case, since the filing number is so low.    Something is said about the Ninth Circuit's opinion.

Judge Ohta steps out from the back private area into his clerk's desk area.  He's not in his robes.  He's a very young looking judge.  A woman with a seeing eye dog enters, greets the courtroom bailiff and sits in the chair directly in front of his glassed-in desk area.  I've seen her around the courthouse before as well as on one of the grassy plazas at lunch when I was covering the Stephanie Lazarus case.  I don't know her name or what she does at the court.

Department 108 has seat cushions and back cushions.  It's a welcome relief.  The court reporter comes out to her desk and I notice how tall, slender and pretty she is.  She has slightly dark skin and beautiful dark brown, almost black straight hair pulled back into a ponytail.  She's smartly dressed in a gray pantsuit and wearing black framed glasses.  There are several tchotchke figurines on her desk.  Judge Ohta comes back out and puts on his robe right at his bench.  He has on white shirt and striking baby pink tie.

A defendant is brought out.  There is some sort of mix-up with the attorney.  The attorney who was called to be here in court --I think from the alternate public defenders office, but I'm not positive about that-- had represented a convicted co-defendant; not this defendant.  Judge Ohta, the older looking attorney and the clerk are all trying to figure this out.  Judge Ohta asks the defendant who he is represented by.  It's not the attorney who is here in court today.

I have a note that Judge Ohta greeted the woman with the seeing-eye dog, asking where her dog is. I believe the dog was under her chair and he couldn't see him from the bench. Judge Ohta said something to the effect of, we missed him/her.

Judge Ohta calls the defense attorney and prosecutor to the bench where they talk off the record.  The older defense attorney is explaining something to Judge Ohta.  It's possibly about a change in defense counsel for the defendant at the defense table brought in from custody.  Judge Ohta says, "That's okay. Mistakes happen."

Judge Ohta goes on the record, and addresses the defendant and explains another attorney was called to represent him by mistake.  The attorney here in court, cannot represent him because of a conflict of interest.  The defendant Judge Ohta, "Can I ask Mr. Rubin to defend me?"  Judge Ohta explains that, "Habis can be filed at any time." Judge Ohta sees that as a potential problem.  Although the other defendant was convicted, there could be a potential conflict of interest down the road via (appeals?).  Judge Ohta states that he will need to contact the Bar Panel and leave it up to them to decide on the defendant's request.

Judge Ohta states the case is 0-60 as of today, and we don't need a time waiver.  He will call the Bar Panel and see what the situation is and let them deal with it.  Still, Judge Ohta asks the defendant on the record if he wants to waive his right. Then Judge Ohta addresses the defense attorney, "Sorry to inconvenience you Mr. Rubin."

There is a short period where Judge Ohta leaves the bench and then Michael Gargiulo is brought out.  There is an impeccably dressed be-speckled man sitting with him, Christian S. Filipiak, a criminal defense investigator. Filipiak's jet black hair looked slicked-back from where I was sitting.  Gargiulo's tall.  The LA County Sheriff's web site lists his height at six feet, two inches and his hair is closely shaved to his head.

Judge Ohta takes the bench and we go on the record.  Prosecutor Daniel Akemon for the people and I believe it's Judge Ohta who states that Gargiulo is "self represented."  The DA's office tells me that DDA Akemon, who joined the DA's office in October 1999, was recently transferred to the major crimes division from the hardcore gang division.  I did a search of the DA's web site for Akemon's name and came up with 20 articles where he is mentioned.  Unfortunately, my notes do not say who speaks first but I believe it is DDA Akemon.

"The last few appearances have been (with?) due to discovery issues, and today.... zero of 90."

There's a discovery motion first sent (prior?) by the DA to the defendant. The prosecution released a CD disc containing 17,319 pages of discovery to Mr. Filipiak, investigator for Mr. Gargiulo.  At this time the prosecution is working on (wit? witness?) discovery issues.  One of the issues is, getting the materials in printed form for the defendant and who pays for that.  I believe Akemon states that the DA's office has calculated that it will cost about $2,000.00 to copy all the material.  The DA's office can do it at Mr. Gargiulo's expense.  I believe DDA Akemon states, "I can't confirm what Mr. Gargiulo has, since (his attorney left)..."

Mr. Filipiak will apply for finances (to pay for the copying?).  A copy service will be found.  The copies must be on yellow paper.  And (Filipiak?) will work or, working with the legal advisor at the jail.

Gargiulo speaks up and states "I did have a motion filed today to have a paralegal, to get a DNA expert...."

I see Judge Ohta is now looking over some white lined papers that Gargiulo apparently had wrote his motions on.

Judge Ohta quickly looks over the motions the defendant has written.  One motion is for an order to receive law library privileges , another motion is for an order for the defendant to receive boxes of various documents (in his cell?) ant the men's central jail.  There's a third motion about, I think not being handcuffed while using the law library, but I'm not positive.  I will try to obtain copies of these motions and put them up on T&T.

Judge Ohta tells the defendant these are "sheriff policy issues.  "I can make orders, but (they are?) subjective to the Sheriff's Office policy.

Gargiulo tells the judge that (someone?) said it would be okay.

Judge Ohta responds something to the effect of, this is more of the issue of inmate security. (It's? totally?) in the sheriff's control.  The court can't step in and tell through....

One of the issues debated is whether or not the defendant can receive (color?) copies of the crime scene photos.  I believe Judge Ohta says, he's not positive he can "order" the DA to print copies of crime scene evidence photos .  "Not sure the law requires color copies be given to you."

Judge Ohta explains to the defendant what the prosecution is required under the law to provide to him. The prosecution is required to give you copies...that they plan to use at trial. (snip) and any exculpatory evidence (they collect/discover?). They're required to provide you with exculpatory evidence.

DDA Akemon tells Judge Ohta that the photographs (and other evidence?) was transferred to digital format, on a CD and given to Mr. Filipiak. It was put on an external hard drive.  The issue is Mr. Gargiulo's physical possession of those photos.  The people object to Mr. Gargiulo having physical poession of the photographs.

I believe Judge Ohta states that Mr. Filipiak has copies of the photographs. What's to prevent him from giving those to the defendant?  Unfortunately, it's not clear in my notes if Akemon asks the judge to order Filipiak not to give these photos to the defendant.

Judge Ohta states that both sides need to litigate that.  Judge Ohta states something to the effect that he knows he has the power under 1057, but that's specifically to witnesses.  But whether or not the (sue? suspect?) is entitled to color photos.... He's entitled to photos, or copies of photos. He's entitled to that.  But (this? is?) one step beyond that.  I believe Akemon responds, "It was our expectation that this would be litigated.

Gargiulo speaks about (? snip) "I don't think .... there will be other experts that will have to review those photos with me."

I believe Judge Ohta answers something to the effect of, I don't know that (the defendant?) has physical access.... not your constructive access.  The issue is can you (defendant) have it on your person. (snip) I don't know what role of (?) that come(s?) into play.  (Whether?) it would be under 1054 PC.....

There is some back and forth about the prosecution making a motion preventing the defendant from having color photos of the crime scenes in his cell, and the defendant having the opportunity to present a response.  Judge Ohta gives two weeks for each side to file motions and replies.

Judge Ohta rules they will come back in two weeks to receive the motion(s), on September 5th, and set the case at zero of 90 on that date.  All parties agree and Judge Ohta makes sure Gargiulo makes his waiver and that Gargiulo will be given an opportunity to respond.

At this time, Mr. Filipiak speaks up and tells the court that Gargiulo has not had new glasses in four years. He had new glasses made for him.  Judge Ohta authorizes Filipiak to give the glasses to him.  He also states that the law library(?) at the jail has two law books, but they are from 2005. He has two brand new copies of those books to give to Gargiulo, and Judge Ohta authorizes the transfer of those books to Gargiulo.

It's ordered that the paper copy of the case file that is going to be made for Gargiulo be on yellow paper.  I gather that any legal document the defendant has in his cell, must be on yellow paper otherwise it's confiscated by the Sheriff's Dept.  Judge Ohta tells the defendant he understands that Gargiulo has already had one such confiscation already.

Gargiulo asks if he could get something about filing a motion and Judge Ohta responds, "Your investigator could help you with that."

And that's it.  Outside the courtroom I ask Christian Filipiak for one of his business cards to ensure I get his name spelled correctly.

Understand that my budget is tight, but I hope to get copies of all the recent motions filed by the defendant and the prosecution after the September 5th pre-trial hearing.

What is that old saying about representing yourself in court?  Something about, having a fool for a client? Sprocket.

Next court hearing is September 5, 2012

TruTV Crime Library
Michael Gargiulo Wikipedia
Chicago Sun Times
CBS 48 Hours The Boy Next Door (six part video of episode)
CBS 48 Hours Extra Michael Marguilo's Screen Test (video)