Tuesday, October 23, 2012

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

Complete Series on Fact Checking Mark Bowden's Article HERE.

Continued from Part V....

Yes T&T readers, there's still more to write about Mark Bowden's Curious Stephanie Lazarus article.

Bowden’s article ran in the July 2012 issue of Vanity Fair.  Late last month, Craig Silverman at Poynter published a detailed story investigating my claims about Bowden’s article.   I am very grateful to Craig for backing up my findings and getting some answers on the record from Vanity Fair.  It was from reading Craig’s article that I first learned the name of Mark Bowden’s editor, Cullen Murphy.   Speaking for Vanity Fair, Mr. Murphy told Poynter, “We’re always grateful to have errors called to our attention . . . We take fact-checking very seriously, and when issues arise, we look into them carefully.”

Some of Vanity Fair’s other quotes seemed odd to me, and raised additional questions I wanted to ask the magazine. A few days after Craig’s story was published, I emailed him for Cullen Murphy’s contact information.  Since Craig was away, I didn’t receive a response from him until October 10th. Craig told me his initial contact at Vanity Fair was Beth Kseniak, the magazine’s Executive Director of Public Relations.  I immediately sent Beth an email, introducing myself and asking her to forward my questions to Mr. Murphy.  I explained to Beth that I wanted to give Vanity Fair plenty of time to respond, and if Mr. Murphy replied by October 15th, I would include his answers in my next post.  Beth wrote me back that she had forwarded my email to Mr. Murphy.

Here is the email I sent to Mr. Murphy on October 10th:

Dear Mr. Murphy,

I’m sorry not to have introduced myself to you sooner.  I only learned your name recently, when I read Craig Silverman’s piece for Poynter.

I was glad to learn that Vanity Fair is always grateful to have errors pointed out, and that you take fact checking very seriously. Now that I know you are Mark Bowden’s editor at Vanity Fair, I wanted to ask you a few questions, and give you the opportunity to comment in my next post. 

When Poynter first contacted you, you told them:

“The central charge made by T&T is that Mark Bowden does not accurately quote the interrogation of Stephanie Lazarus and in one instance even adds his own material. This is false... The author of the T&T post relied on a transcript of the interrogation. Bowden, rather than use some unknown person’s transcript—transcripts are notoriously unreliable—went to the actual videos of the interrogation to confirm his quotations. Further, to make sure the speakers were being identified correctly, the quotations were read back to Detectives Stearns and Jaramillo of the LAPD. When the article was published, Vanity Fair put the videos online to make the source readily available. On review, we confirmed that Bowden’s quotations are indeed accurate and that the transcript is not. (We did find that two sentences in a single quotation in the VF piece had been inadvertently transposed, with no impact on meaning.)”
Poynter verified that the official transcript matched the video perfectly.  You then admitted you were mistaken and apologized for “inadvertently introducing a red herring.”

My questions are below.

1. In what way was your initial statement “inadvertent?” 

2. When did Bowden speak to Detectives Stearns and Jaramillo to verify their quotations? Did Bowden also ask the detectives about their experience interviewing Stephanie?

3. Why did Bowden use some unknown person’s transcript of Stephanie Lazarus’s interview, rather than the official court transcript which Judge Perry made public in November 2010?

4. Have all the quotations in Bowden’s article been checked against the official transcript?

You also told Poynter:

"Having gone back again to compare it’s hard to see a substantive issue. Much verbiage and crosstalk has been cut out for concision and clarity—pretty standard when dealing with a long, rambling, and shaggy interrogation—but the quotations used in Bowden’s text correspond with relevant portions of the video. Some things are hard to make out, and there may be an occasional small variance, but a fair reading would conclude that the quotes track accurately and correctly capture the dynamic of the interrogation. There has been no distortion."
5. The primary focus of Bowden’s piece is Stephanie’s Lazarus’s 2009 interrogation. Can you cite another piece of journalism in Vanity Fair, or any other publication, in which a “long, rambling, and shaggy interrogation” was compressed in this way, without disclosure that it had been?

You also told Poynter:

“We take fact-checking very seriously, and when issues arise we look into them carefully.”
6. How carefully has Vanity Fair looked into Bowden’s article?

7. Did Vanity Fair fact check Bowden’s article before it went to press?

In his article, Craig Silverman said he raised two errors with you. But I noticed Vanity Fair corrected four errors online.

8. How did Vanity Fair decide which errors to correct, and why did Vanity Fair only correct four?

9. Are you aware there are at least five more significant factual errors in Bowden’s article that remain uncorrected?

Thank you very much for your time. I would appreciate it if you could please respond by Wednesday, when I plan to publish. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Betsy A. Ross, Owner
Trials & Tribulations Blog

On October 15th, I received a reply from Cullen Murphy, in which he requested to respond “privately and off the record.” I wrote Murphy back the same day:

Mr. Murphy,

Thank you for your response. I will honor your request not to publish what you emailed me. However, I am disappointed by your decision not to comment on the record.

To be clear, my sole intent in writing this series has been to keep the public record as accurate as possible, given the very serious circumstances of Sherri Rasmussen’s murder. I appreciate the background you provided, but it doesn’t acknowledge the scope of the problems with Bowden’s article, the factual errors that remain uncorrected, or your recent statements to Poynter. 

I hope you will reconsider, and answer my questions on the record. I think my questions are very reasonable. I will give you and Vanity Fair a few more days to decide. Please respond by Wednesday evening if you would like your perspective in the post.

Betsy A. Ross, Owner
Trials & Tribulations Blog

Mr. Murphy wrote me back two days later:
Dear Ms. Ross,

I'm sorry that you're unable to take up the offer to have a conversation with Mark Bowden, and I've passed that information along to him.


Cullen Murphy
I responded the same day, October 17th:

Dear Cullen,

I think you may have misunderstood my email. I'm perfectly willing to have a conversation with Mark Bowden about his article, but not off the record.  For transparency's sake, and so there's no confusion about who said what, I prefer to communicate via email.

To confirm, you have forwarded my questions to Bowden?

I know I had offered Vanity Fair until tonight to comment, but in case Bowden only received the questions today, I want to give him and the magazine plenty of time to respond. If you or Bowden answer my questions by Friday, I will include your comments in my next post.

Betsy A. Ross, Owner
Trials & Tribulations Blog

Later that day, I noticed that Vanity Fair added numerous additional corrections to the online version of Mark Bowden’s article.  Vanity Fair offered no explanation for the timing of these new corrections. I received one more email from Mr. Murphy on Friday, but again, he declined to speak on the record.

I have one additional question for Vanity Fair:

10. Are you aware that one of your recent corrections is factually inaccurate? John Ruetten and Stephanie Lazarus did not take a trip together to Hawaii.  Stephanie traveled to Hawaii with her friend Greg, and John Ruetten independently met them there. Stephanie discusses this in her interview (see pages 28-29 of the official court transcript).

Continued in Part VII.....

One Victim or Two: Judge Blackwood to Decide in Christian-Newsom Retrial

Vanessa Coleman, May 13th, 2010


Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood will decide whether Christopher Newsom will be treated as if he never existed in the November retrial of one of four defendants in the January 2007 torture-murders of Newsom and his girlfriend Channon Christian.

Vanessa Coleman's attorney, Ted Lavit, contends that because she was acquitted of charges directly relating to Newsom's kidnapping, rape, and murder, the prosecution should be barred from introducing any evidence relating to Newsom at her retrial.

Assistant District Attorney General Takisha Fitzgerald disagreed at Monday's hearing. "The state would disagree with Mr. Lavit of having been acquitted of all charges related to Christopher Newsom," she said.

Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Jamie Satterfield wrote: "Fitzgerald and prosecutorial partner Leland Price are hanging their legal hats on a single count of felony murder, of which Coleman was deemed a facilitator. That count involves the slaying of Newsom's girlfriend, Channon Christian, in the perpetration of the kidnapping of Newsom."

Fitgerald argues that Newsom's death is relevant to establishing the charge of kidnapping.

The jury in Coleman's first trial acquitted her of every charge relating to Newsom and found her guilty of facilitation only regarding Channon Christian's rape and murder. This verdict is the reason for the current situation. Coleman can only be retried on the counts she was found guilty of in the first trial because of double jeopardy.

Here is a video report from WBIR with comments from the victims' parents.

Coleman's hair has been dyed red in prison.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Kelly Soo Park: Pretrial 7

 Juliana Redding, date unknown.
Prosecutors allege Park strangled Redding to death in her 
Santa Monica apartment on March 15th or 16th, 2008.

October 17th, 2012
When I arrive on the 9th floor, both ends of the hallway are filled with people wearing juror badges as well as counsel waiting to get inside their courtrooms.  As I get to right outside Dept. 109, I see a familiar face.  It's a young, pretty reporter from local ABC Channel 7 named Christina, who I first met at the last Lois Goodman hearing in Van Nuys.  She's wearing her gold Channel 7 pin on her blouse. Standing next to her is a cameraman.  I ask her if Judge Kennedy approved taping this morning and Christina tells me that they put the request in, but the order hasn't been signed yet.  The TV show "Inside Edition" is also requesting to film.  (You can see Christina's story on the hearing HERE.)

Kelly Soo Park is standing with a group in the middle of the hallway that includes her defense counsel, George Buehler and Mark Kassabian. She's wearing an all black pantsuit with a silky looking light blue top underneath.  Park's relatively new fiance, recently retired Oxnard Police Watch Commander, Tom Chronister, is dressed completely in black and sitting with an older gray-haired Asian woman.  Oxnard Police initiated an investigation of Chronister just days before he retired.

Right around 8:30 AM the courtroom opens and people slowly start to drift inside to find a seat. Again, there are many people here to support Park. Some of the media sits in the second bench row, the rest take seats in the back near the door.  Park and her fiance, sit in the third row next to the aisle.

I believe it's Judge Kennedy's clerk, Lori (sp?) who informs the requesting media that Judge Kennedy signed the order for filming, but clarifies that only one camera can be inside the courtroom.  When a judge grants the media to have a camera inside the courtroom, they become the "pool" camera.

8:36 AM DDA Stacy Okun-Wiese arrives.  Defense attorney Kassabian confers with Okun-Wiese for a moment.  The defense hands a paper to Okun-Wiese stating, "Here you are."  "Thank you," she replies and then asks, "Is this my copy?" "Yes," the defense counsel responds.

As I look around the courtroom, I notice that there is a piece of artwork hanging on the wall behind Judge Kennedy's desk right where the sidebars are usually held.  It's unusual.  It's a series of lines in a wide "V" pattern \ /; alternating white, red and blue lines that start with red at the top, fading to light blue then dark blue.  I'm positive this piece of art was not here the last time I was inside Dept. 109.

More counsel arrive in the well for another hearing.  An Asian looking DDA sees Stacy and they exchange smiles and a quick hug.  Stacy is wearing a dark gray pantsuit with a black top underneath.  The jacket is short and fits her frame nicely.

The ABC Channel 7 cameraman sets up his tripod inside the jury box.  A dishwater blond defense attorney enters and sits at the defense table to change her shoes.  I'm drawn to the large crystal pendant hanging from a long cord around her neck.  Right next to the crystal I see a tiny silver cross.  To me, she looks a bit disheveled.  Her black pants and jacket are very form fitting; the stretchy gray top underneath presents a layered look since it's longer than the short-waisted jacket.

Okun-Wiese and Kassabian continue to confer over some papers.  Then Stacy and one of the defense attorneys go over to the clerks desk to review a large stack of documents.

More Park supporters arrive. When they enter they stop to give Park a hug.   A tall balding black man, obviously an attorney, enters Dept. 109. As he passes Chronister sitting on the aisle, he shakes his hand.  I'm guessing that this is probably the court appointed attorney, instructed to advise Park on her rights and the potential conflict of interest with keeping her current counsel that are being paid by Dr. Munir Uwaydah, Park's former employer.  (Uwaydah fled the country when Park was arrested back in June 2010.)  The bald headed counsel is wearing a light griege suit with a faint plaid pattern.

Stacy and George Buehler chat.  Kassabian and the new counsel go over a paper that appears to have come from the prosecution.  The black attorney hands a single sheet of paper to Park and says, "Take a look at this."  Park stands in the aisle beside this new counsel, takes the paper and they chat for a moment.  I see the attorney point to something near the bottom of the paper with his pen.

People chatter in the well.  Lori calls out to the blond attorney, "Ms. Greenberg, what's the status?"  The black attorney and Park's counsel go over the paper at the defense table.  I overhear a discussion, something about "time to reflect."  The black counsel calls out to Park in the gallery, "Can we meet Monday or Tuesday?"  Park, Buehler and the black attorney chat.

8:57 AM More people arrive to support Park.  Again, there are greetings and hugs.

Okun-Wiese and Kassabian go over possible scheduling dates for the next hearing.  Now I believe they are talking about Eric Harmon's appointment to the bench.  Several conversations are going on at once in the well.  The blond defense attorney and the Asian DDA; Okun-Wiese and Kassabian and the black attorney and Buehler.  In the row behind me, I can her Park and Chronister whispering with Park's supporters.

9:04 AM We're still waiting for Judge Kennedy to take the bench.  CBS 48 Hours Producer Greg Fisher arrived a bit earlier but only stays for a short moment.  If he came back in, I didn't see him.  Now, Judge Kennedy comes out from her chambers and chats with her clerk Lori for a moment.  Now the court reporter comes out and takes her seat at her machine. It looks like we're ready to start.

Another matter is called before Park's case. The blond defense attorney and the Asian DDA are up.  The defendant is not in the courtroom.  Judge Kennedy asks about the Dept. 95 status and it appears there is a backlog in that court.  Judge Kennedy states the criminal matter is suspended and held over until October 31st.  And that's it for that case.

Judge Kennedy asks if the next case is ready.  Park's case is called.  Counsel state their names for the record.  The tall black attorney is Franklin Peters, Jr., who was appointed by the court to advise Park on the conflict of interest issues.  Peters tells the court, "I met with Ms. Park in the hallway and went over (the) conflict matters .... and provided some (disclosure? discovery?). ... She has signed a waiver that I prepared."  Peters then states he was given today, a waiver that was prepared by DDA Eric Harmon.  The waiver prepared by Harmon comes directly from case law, but there is an additional statement (in that document) that Peters would like to go over with Ms. Park.  So, Peters is requesting more time to do that.

Judge Kennedy asks about the court calendar.  It's 15/30 as of today.  The next date that is agreed upon, Wednesday Oct. 24th, would set the court calendar at 22/30.  Judge Kennedy advises counsel that at the next meeting, they will need to do something about setting the court calendar.

The prosecution's motion to admit the non-charged 1101(b) witnesses, the defense is working on an opposition motion to suppress, but they indicate they will deal with that motion closer to trial.

And that's it. Outside in the hallway, I see local ABC Channel 7's Miriam Hernandez. I thought she missed the hearing but she and Greg Fisher must have been sitting in the back of the courtroom.  Miriam, Greg and myself chat a bit about the case. Greg tells me he has already written two stories for CBS Crimsider on the Park case.  When I heard the date, Oct. 24th, I originally thought there was a hearing in the Michael Gargiulo case on that date, but I was wrong.  Lonnie Franklin, Jr., the "Grim Sleeper" has a pretrial hearing on that date, also in Dept. 109, so I'll be able to attend both.

When I got home, I watched Good Morning America (GMA) because Christina indicated there was a story on local KABC Chanel 7, and I figured there would also be one on GMA.  Legal analyst Dan Abrams was talking about the case and he referred to Ronnie Chase as Park's "husband."  It's my understanding Parks and Chase were a couple at one time, but they were never married.

Now, the mainstream media is all a buzz about the motions that the prosecution filed at the last hearing, most notably, the motion to admit 1101(b) witnesses of other conduct. It's in this motion where the prosecution finally lays out what it believes to be the motive of Redding's murder.  I had these documents up on my SCRIBD account within a day of the last court hearing.


Note from Sprocket:
I am now "finally" all caught up with my pretrial hearing notes.  If I can get caught up with responsibilities around the house, I hope to have some time to work on a few other stories about events I attended.  I attended the DA's 2012 Annual DNA Awareness Forum (where DDA Shannon Presby and DDA Paul Nunez gave a presentation on the Stephanie Lazarus case).  In August, I attended one of the LAVA events at the Crime Lab where my favorite scientist, Dr. Lynne Herold gave a complementary lecture to author John Leake's talk about his latest book.  And I haven't forgotten about the story I promised from the perspective of people who knew Stephanie Lazarus.  I also have a surprise story planned related to the Lazarus case, centered around a little known member of Sherri Rasmussen and John Ruetten's family.  Only a few words were spoken about this beloved member at the trial.

Cameron Brown Thrid Trial: Pretrial #4

Lauren Sarene Key, 4. Date unknown.  
Brown is accused of throwing his four-year-old daughter off of
Inspiration Point, 120 ft. drop, in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, 
on November 8th, 2000.

 October 12th, 2012
It's 8:15 AM, and I'm on the 9th floor of the downtown criminal court building, aka the Clara Shortridge-Foltz Crimial Justice Center (CJC).  This end of the hallway is relatively empty.  Not long after I sit down, DDA Craig Hum arrives, says hello and takes a seat on the bench directly across from me.  As Hum opens up his newspaper, I ask him what his current assignment is.  Hum is now in the Organized Crime Division.  The Brown case is the only case he still has from his days in Torrance and in Major Crimes.

Patty Brown arrives in the hallway.  She's wearing a simple white (knit?) top and black pants.  She's wearing the gold lame ballet slippers again.  A few moments later her brother Ted Kaldis arrives.  He's wearing a casual short sleeved print shirt with ships on it and jeans.

When the courtroom opens, Patty and Ted sit in the first row nearest the aisle.  I take a seat in the first row closer to the jury box.  I'm father from the defendant than I would like, but hopefully I'll still be able to hear him if he speaks.

Mrs. Benson is at her desk and DDA Hum continues to read his paper in the well.  We are waiting on Aron Laub again.

A woman carrying a thin leather folder enters the courtroom who was in the hallway earlier.  She greets Patty and Ted and sits on the left side of the courtroom where defense staff usually sit.  I make a guess that she's either an investigator or paralegal for the defense.

8:36 AM Mr. Laub arrives.

Laub goes up to Mrs. Benson's counter and hands her a paper.  I believe Mrs. Benson asks Laub if this is for additional money and he replies, "Yes."  It's about funds for a paralegal for Laub that has already been appointed.  Laub tells Mrs. Benson, "Shes' in the courtroom today." I guess correctly.

Laub then shows a few pages to DDA Hum.  Ted says something I don't catch.  When he sees me writing in my notepad, I think he thought I was writing down what he just said, because the next thing he does say, "Don't tell me you're gong to write that," I believe is addressed at me.

I have in my notes that Laub says to Hum, something to the effect that he's going to ask the judge for a motion to compel.  Apparently, Brown is having trouble with the jail.  (This is not news.  Brown has claimed for years that he's having trouble with the jail.)  The only part of Hum's response I hear is "1054."  Laub replies, "I'm anticipating that argument."

Brown's wife leans forward on the bench seat and rests her elbows on the "bar" that separates the well from the gallery.  Patty asks Laub about glasses for her husband or trying to get glasses to her husband.  Laub says something to the effect that they won't accept (the one's she's brought?) because they have metal temples.  They have to be plastic all the way back.

Laub's paralegal moves from the gallery to sit with Laub at the defense table.  Court reporter Mavis comes out with her equipment.  She gives me a smile as she walks behind the defense table and then greets DDA Hum as she passes him on her way to her desk.

Patty is now leaning back on the bench seat and Ted is leaning forward with his elbows on the "bar."  I note that Mavis's fingernails are painted a dark, muted shade of red.

8:46 AM Judge Pastor comes out from the back private area. He looks over a paper and appears to make some notes at the sidebar area of his bench.  Judge Pastor then takes the bench but the defendant is not brought out yet.  Ted has his eyes closed and it appears that he might be falling asleep.

8:53 AM  Brown is brought out.  Before sitting down, he gives the same, tiny quick nod to his wife that I observed at the last hearing.  We go on the record in the Brown matter.

Pastor appears to be reading the document that Laub submitted.  Judge Pastor or Mrs. Benson confirm that it is the exact same document that the defense filed on May 15th (of this year?).  I believe Pastor asks why Laub is refiling.  It's the result, of a number of other matters Laub replies.  He states he will be filing a motion to compel discovery (for the LA Co. Sheriff's Dept. aka LASD) on matters in this letter.

Laub is going to make a motion to dismiss the case due to (a) process of ongoing (treatment?) at the men's central jail.  Laub believes his ability to prepare for trial is being impinged on (by the way?) Mr. Brown is being treated at the jail.

Laub continues to outline the problem.  (Many?) could interpret his (Brown's) complaints as paranoid, but it is possible to be paranoid and still have people after you.

Laub is asking the court to listen to arguments at a later date, that the defense and Mr. Brown's well being is being harmed.

Judge Pastor interrupts and asks about the "pro per" status.  Laub states that's not on the table after a talk with Mr. Brown, (he) is not going to go...

Judge Pastor asks Brown directly, "Is that correct Mr. Brown?" And Brown responds, "At this time, yes."

Laub continues, "I believe it's necessary to bring a motion to dismiss.... and ask the court to (present? (our?) motion to compel."

I believe Judge Pastor asks Hum or Hum speaks up and states, "A motion to dismiss? .... I do not have a motion to dismiss or compel."

Judge Pastor tells counsel that next Monday, he's going to be jammed through November.  He also remind them he's going to be changing assignments. He'll do as much as he can.   Laub states whatever date is convenient with the court.  DDA Hum offers that they previously had a discovery date of December 7th, before the defendant brought up the "pro per" status.

Judge Pastor states he wants to address this as quickly as possible.  "I think it deserves attention and I'm concerned about it," Judge Pastor adds.  Laub mentions that he has a case in Dept 106 that will take about a month.  By Dec 7th, he would have already filed a motion to compel (with the Sheriff).

Laub explains more about what he anticipates, as far as the motion to compel. ... He plans to serve subpoenas (in relation?) to this issue and other material to bring up to the court.

Judge Pastor then goes over when he would want these motions filed, the time needed for the prosecution and the sheriff's office to respond and if Laub wanted time to file rebuttal motions.

Hum is asking for at least two weeks to prepare his response.

With all the dates that are going back and forth, Judge Pastor goes past December 7th.  Tuesday Dec. 4th, Hums response will be due.  Judge Pastor tells Laub in his moving papers to the LASD, be sure to include the schedule (for motions to be due).  Laub will then have (I think) Dec 10th by 4pm to file his reply with the court.  The court hearing on the motions will be December 14th, which will give Judge Pastor time to review all the moving papers.  So the next hearing in the Brown case will be December 14th.

Judge Pastor cautions that everything (relates to) the budget issues, and those issues have a "domino effect."  He again reminds them that by the end of December, he will be out of Dept 107.

He asks again if there is any need to come back before December 14th?  No one speaks up.

Laub then brings up another issue to the court.  He states that Judge Pastor had signed an order for Mr. Brown to have (documents in his cell?).  Laub speaks about the "green bag" and the amount of legal papers that can fit in it.  This is a small soft canvas type bag that is the limit of legal documents that Brown is allowed to have in is cell.  

Laub tells the court, "The jail's position is that I can swap transcripts. .... One out of two trips to the jail end up with him being able to see Brown. ... It takes 1.5 hours to get Mr. Brown to the attorney meeting room. ... Mr. Brown is housed only a few feet away from the attorney room.  .... None the less, it supposedly takes 1.5 hours (to retrieve him?) as it did yesterday. ... Mr. Brown's (access?) (requires?) a Sgt. to accompany him. ... Sometimes, as yesterday, (they?) use a senior deputy.  ... We're fine with that.  (That's a?) ...step below a Sgt. (and we?) don't have to wait to summon a Sgt. .... Just to get Mr. Brown's legal papers swapped out would take a year. .... The jail is resistant to the courts order and his request. ...."

Laub continues, "Their (Sheriff's legal dept?) prior statement about paperwork (was that it was?) a fire hazard. ... Now the reason is the jail doesn't have control. ..."

Laub then explain the 'pro per" status and why those defendants are allowed all their paperwork in their cells, and that all pro per's are in single cells.

Laube states, "I will not be surprised if in the future, if there is an inmate at the jail that will provide information about Brown (that will be) used by the prosecution. ... Now the court knows, I'm as paranoid as my client."

Laub then goes over the various things that he believes support his accusations that Brown is being targeted by staff at the jail.  He mentions things he's tried to send Brown.  He used to be able to send him the Jumbo puzzle problems from the newspaper.  But now, Brown is not allowed to have newspaper clippings.  Another inmate provided Brown with a newspaper clipping, telling him, "You're being singled out.  Here's what they're letting me have."

Mr. Brown keeps getting a bill from National Geographic.  It's possible that the magazines were delivered to the jail, but he's never received them.  Laub tells the court that he's printed out orders from books from Amazon.com.  On October 10th, he ordered three books, and he lists the titles:
Standing Bear is a person; Colorado Trail; Practice Makes Perfect..(?)...  They were all returned undeliverable.  Another book (sent by?), In Search of Captain Zero, that book was delivered. (I believe he states this was sent by his brother, from a book store in Colorado.)  Laub then reordered two of the three books he previously ordered, taking out the true story book.  These two books were sent back again.

Laub states, "The legal department says they don't know what's going on. .... What I get is, (this is) not a concentrated effort. I suspect there is an employee in the mail room ... with the desire to make his life miserable."

Laub believes there same employee was on duty for the two instances where the books were sent back, and a different employee was on duty when the one book was delivered.

Laub continues, "Mr. Brown has attempted to me letters. ... Mr. Brown's legal mail is not reaching me. ... Other mail he's sent is not getting (out?). ...  Another inmate had received books. .... So what I intend to do is prepare a legal subpoena ... policies, regulations, legal documents and legal basis for what they have. ... I will also expand (the subpoena?) ... matters related to informal request for discovery."

"Unless the court will order Mr. Brown to have access to court transcripts in excess of what will fit in the green bag ..." Laub asks.

Judge Pastor states, "I am, in no uncertain terms... No non-pro per inmate receives any more space or anymore storage than policy. ... I'm in no position (to) order sheriff's from their long standing policy. ... I believe you have a paralegal and an investigator. Is one of them available to do that? (swap out transcripts?)."

Judge Pastor asks and his court deputy agrees to arrange for the defense paralegal to sit down with defendant Brown, and then states, "I don't know if Mr. Brown has been singled out.  I hear this exact same frustration (from other counsel?).  They are overwhelmed with people. ... It's a problem.  I don't know that I can do anything because of budgets, etc. ... I'm not going to deviate from that policy in regards to storage right now."

Laub replies, "I understand without some evidence. ... It's a violation of equal protection under the law because of the complexity of this case."

Judge Pastor again asks if there is anything else to discuss before the 14th of December.  Laub says no.  He will address the issue about the mail in the subpoena.  Judge Pastor asks again, any reason to regroup before that date in December?  Hum doesn't have anything. Hum states, "I eagerly anticipate any information Mr. Laub has."

And that's it. The hearing is over.

 The question I would ask is, why is it necessary for a Sgt. to accompany Brown when he is moved to the attorney room?  Does this mean the Sheriff's Dept. films Brown whenever he is moved?  (I've heard of this procedure happening with other inmates at the jail.) The only thing I can think of is, (and this is just a guess) there have been a large number of complaints leveled against the Sheriff's Dept. as to how Brown is being treated, and the Sgt. accompanying Brown (and possible filming) is to ensure that nothing happens to him whenever he is moved within the jail.  It's reasonable to opine that the possible high number of complaints triggered these precautionary procedures by the Sheriff's Dept.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

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

Continued from Part IV.....

Complete Series on Fact Checking Mark Bowden's Article HERE
UPDATE: 10/17: spelling of Murrow

Vanity Fair quietly added numerous corrections to the online version of Mark Bowden's article.

Stay tuned for more on this series...

UPDATE 10/2/2012 Correct VF November 2007, to September 2007

UPDATE 10/1/2012
A few developments to tell T&T readers.  Last Friday,  Craig Silverman of Poynter.org, a journalism watchdog site published a story about this five part series.  Today, someone at Advance Publications, the parent company of Vanity Fair, visited T&T again from a link on Silverman's story.  They also hit the Stephanie Lazarus Quick Links page and searched T&T for the words "Vanity Fair."

T&T's StatCounter® Page

Here's a little known fact that my long-time readers might remember.  If you search Vanity Fair's website for the words "Betsy Ross," you will find that the late writer Dominck Dunne mentioned me in his story Cheating on Phil With Paris that appeared in Vanity Fair's September 2007 issue.

UPDATE 9/26/2012
Today, Advance Publications, the parent company of Vanity Fair revisited T&T several times via a link on Mark Bowden's Wikipedia page.

Screen shot of T&T Stat Counter Page

Originally Published September 20th, 2012
Back in June, when I first wrote about Mark Bowden’s article on the Stephanie Lazarus case in the July issue of Vanity Fair, I never thought I’d still be writing about it. But three months and many posts later, here we are.  As legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow once said: "The obscure we see eventually. The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer."

Late last week, I noticed that Vanity Fair quietly posted some corrections to the online version of Bowden’s article. To find the corrections, you must click through to the seventh page and scroll down to the very bottom.  Here is what they corrected:
An earlier version of this story misidentified Sherri Rasmussen's alma mater. It is Loma Linda University, not U.C.L.A. The date on which Stephanie Lazarus was mentioned in the case file is November 19, 1987, not November 19, 1986. A cup and straw introduced into evidence were used outside Costco, and not inside, and the DNA from the sample was identified two days later, not three days later.
I applaud Vanity Fair for correcting a few of the factual errors that I pointed out back in June. But what about the other ones?

Oddly, Vanity Fair did not to correct what might be Bowden’s most egregious misstatement of fact, that John Ruetten and Stephanie’s relationship ended in Hawaii in 1989. (Page 146: “Their relationship did not outlast the vacation.”)

Actually, as John testified over two days in February 2012, he and Stephanie reconnected in Los Angeles in the early 1990s and were sexually intimate at least twice.  It’s hard to imagine how Bowden and Vanity Fair’s fact checkers missed this.  John’s testimony was extensively covered by the media.  The Associated Press, The Los Angeles Times, The Criminal Report Daily, and other news outlets reported it.  It was heart wrenching to watch John admit, in front of Sherri Rasmussen’s family and dozens of strangers, that he had sex with Stephanie during his engagement and after the Hawaii trip.  Given that Bowden's article was published in the July issue of Vanity Fair, more than three months after Ruetten testified, how did Bowden get this wrong?  How can his editors defend not correcting it?

There are at least four other significant errors that Vanity Fair has not corrected:

Page 124: "Before they entered the holding area, as a matter of routine, they checked their weapons." Stephanie Lazarus left her weapon at her desk and was unarmed when she entered the jail (which by the way was on the second floor of Parker Center, and not in the "building's basement jail facility," as Bowden described it).

Page 126:  "The saliva swab showed that whoever had bitten Sherri's left forearm had a different blood type from hers." The bite mark swab, which was the crucial evidence in the case, was never tested for blood type in 1986.  It wasn’t tested at all until 2004, when it was tested for DNA, not blood type.

Page 148: "What did 'PO' mean? When they guessed 'police officer,' they ran the name through the department directory and came up with their esteemed colleague in the art-theft division." Van Nuys Homicide detectives never "guessed" Stephanie Lazarus was an LAPD officer. They were told that fact by John Ruetten.

Page 148: Mark Bowden asserts in his article:
Whoever had come looking for Sherri had come to kill her. Sherri had apparently run downstairs, trying to reach the panic button on the security panel. The killer pursued, and stopped her before she got there. They fought savagely. Sherri apparently managed to briefly wrest her assailant’s gun away and place her in a headlock. The killer then bit Sherri’s forearm to break free, and picked up the heavy gray ceramic vase from the living-room shelf and crashed it hard into her forehead. The blow was enough to daze Sherri, if not knock her to the floor. The killer then retrieved the gun and fired the first shot that hit Sherri. It went clean through Sherri’s chest. She began bleeding internally and would have had only minutes to live. She was down now for good. Using the blanket to muffle the sound, the killer then fired two more rounds into her chest, finishing the job.
There was no evidence presented at trial about Stephanie Lazarus's state of mind the morning she killed Sherri Rasmussen, or that she went to Sherri's home with the specific intent to kill her. Former FBI profiler and crime scene analyst Mark Safarik testified during the trial that it is impossible to know for certain the exact sequence of events that transpired when Sherri Rasmussen was killed

How does Mark Bowden know Stephanie Lazarus's state of mind the morning of the murder?  How did he reach his conclusions? 

Continued in Part VI.........

Lois Goodman Case: Pretrial Hearing 5

UPDATED 10/3 7:00 PM additional notes and spelling corrections 

October 3rd, 2012
I apologize that my notes on this pretrial hearing are so late.  Responsibilities to Mr. Sprocket's business have kept me from writing in a more timely manner.  Note: This entry isn't completely finished. Sprocket.

When I get to the front steps of the Van Nuys Courthouse, I think I have plenty of time to get through security but I've forgotten about the long lines.  There is only one line for the public and press.  With moments to spare before 8:30 AM, I clear security.  I ask the first security office I see which floor Dept. 122 is on.  "Ninth floor," he replies.  I get to the elevators and quickly as I can. 

When I get up on the ninth floor, there is a large group of press and supporters for Goodman, as many as I've seen in the last hearings.

Local ABC 7's Miriam Hernandez looks lovely in a cream sweater top and a stripe skirt.  A younger, nicely dressed woman is with her.  I notice they are both wearing their gold number "7" circle pins on their tops. I note that Miriam has a lovely, tiny stranded gold necklace with spaced gold beads.

I spot Lois Goodman.  she's wearing a brown and cream horizontal striped top.  In my notes I have 'black pants' but I'm thinking that they might have been brown to match her top.

When Triessl arrives on the 9th floor, she openly hugs her client and they walk off together to chat.   There is a salt and pepper haired man with Triessl, that appears to be part of the legal team.

Another Ch 7 reporter joins our group and Miriam introduces her to me. Her name is Lisa and she's an investigative producer who is working on a story involving James Cohan, who also has an appearance today in Dept 122.  Lisa tells me a bit about Cohan, a serial plaintiff in federal court, who claims to be disabled.  However, Channel 7 filmed Cohan easily hiking up a hill.  (If I'm reading my notes correctly), Cohan is in court today on a probation violation, accused of collecting guns and ammunition.  Lisa also mentions another serial plaintiff, Alfredo Garcia.

When Dept 122 opens, it's tiny. There are three sections separated by two aisles. There are barely forty seats total.  I'm betting most of Goodman's support group will not get a seat.  The press sits on the far left of the room along with some witnesses.  I grab a seat in the left front row, right in front of the jury box.  The two center rows are reserved for counsel and the far right of the courtroom is reserved for defendants.  There are quite a few LAPD uniformed officers in the jury box as well as a few suited detectives.

Goodman's supporters are arguing with the bailiffs in the room about seating.  They are complaining that some of the seating is blocked off with yellow tape.  A bailiff is telling those who don't have seats that they can't stand.  They must wait outside.  There are at least 20 plus supporters for Goodman in this tiny courtroom.

I don't have my new glasses yet, so I ask the reporter sitting to my right if she can read the plaque on the judge's bench.  Dept. 122's judge is Jessica P. Silvers.  Judge Silvers is a tall, slender woman.  She doesn't have her robe on yet.  She's wearing a sleek dark blue sleeveless dress. (It's not in my notes, but If I'm recalling correctly, shes wearing a short strand of pearls.) I spot DDA Sharon Ransom. I don't see Lisa Tanner (she doesn't show up today).  Ransom and the defense counsel go back into Judge Silver's chambers.  It's 9:05 AM, and I'm betting it will take some time for this hearing to get underway.  With all the officers in the jury box, there must be many more cases being heard this morning.

Judge Silvers comes back out from her chambers, tidies up her bench and then goes back into chambers.  Either that or she was specifically looking for something.  A reporter behind me believes they are waiting for a detective.

Judge Silvers is back on the bench and a defendant is brought out for another case.  Judge Silvers has everyone stand and face the US flag.  It's not in my notes but I believe the pledge of allegiance is read.  Counsel for this current case chat with Judge Silvers at the bench.

Goodman's supporters get up to leave and give their seats to others who are waiting in the hallway.

It's a busy, bustling courtroom.  There's a lot going on.  Counsel come and go, checking in with Judge Silver's clerk.  The jury box is still packed with detectives and LAPD officers.  I observe some of the officers waiting for their cases to be called.  One officer is holding a file and looking bored.  Two officers are engrossed in their smart phones.  One is nervously rocking the chair back and forth.

At 9:50 AM I step outside to return Mr. Sprocket's call, who is demanding to know why I'm not answering my phone.  I patiently explain to him that I can't answer the phone inside the courtroom.  In the hallway, I notice DDA Ransom and Triessl are sitting on a bench in deep conversation.

Back inside the courtroom, there are other attorneys that appear to be joking in the well.  Judge Silvers is not on the bench.  This courtroom reminds me a bit of Dept. 30 in downtown.  A female prosecutor handling other cases releases some of the officers in the jury box.  She then asks a few other officers what cases they are here on.

One of the reporters identifies for me who the salt and pepper hair man is with the defense team.  His name is Scott Ross (no relation) and he's the investigator for the defense.

Several officers have no left the jury box.  One of the reporters asks who the third attorney is working on Goodman's case.  It's Kelly Gerner.  I take my earlier opinion back.  The bustle in this courtroom is worse than Dept. 30.  It's obvious the court calendar today is full.  It's now 10:05 AM.  A few moments later, the bailiff finally lets the rest of Goodman's supporters inside the courtroom.

10:07 AM DDA Ransom and the rest of the defense team (Alison Triessl, Kelly Gerner Robert Sheahen) is now all back in the well, sitting in the row of chairs against the "bar."

10:15 AM Judge Silvers calls the Goodman case.  I believe it's the defense who states they are asking for another 30 days before setting a 'set' date.  They are still asking for disclosure from the prosecution.  The defense has received voluminous amounts of discovery, They (have?) received the murder book.  They are asking for more discovery.  They are half way through what they've received so far.  They are working the with prosecution on getting all the discovery.

Something is said about detectives providing (other? discovery?) within the next couple of days.  The next pretrial hearing date asked for is November 8th, and on that date, they will set a preliminary hearing date.

The defense states they are focusing on one area of discovery, the original notes of the LAPD who determined that Alan Goodman's death was an accident.  They are also asking for the notes of any SID (LAPD Science Investigation Division) people on the scene in April or May.  The defense has not yet been provided those original notes in the initial discovery.

Judge Silver asks the defense if they are requesting the "original" notes of the detectives or a copy of the original notes.  The defense clarifies they are asking for a copy of the original notes.

The next hearing date is set for November 8th.  Triessl then tells Judge Silvers there are two additional small matters.  Sheahen then gets up to speak to Judge Silvers about the DA requesting a DNA sample.  Sheahen states the defense did seek a writ of mandate in Dept. 100 that was denied without a hearing.  They want to make it perfectly clear that the DNA will be submitted today.  (It's not in my notes but I have a memory that Sheahen mentioned the defense did appeal that ruling to a higher court.)

Triessl then asks the court again for their client to be able to travel to her offices.  She mentions that there is a lot of discovery in this case.  Seems like a waste of the courts time to meet every time to get a waiver. The prior ruling in Dept. 100, the judge stated Triessl had to go to Goodman's home to prepare her defense.  Goodman is on home confinement and ankle monitoring.  She is only allowed to leave her home for religious services and doctor appointments.

Judge Silvers addresses the people, stating there is no danger to the public at this time, and seems to be a reasonable request.  The people have no objection.  So Goodman's ability to leave her home increased a bit.  She can now go to her attorney's office.

And that's it. The press and Goodman supporters slowly file out of Dept. 122 and into the hallway.  While I'm standing around outside Dept. 122, waiting to see if the defense will speak to the press in the plaza,  A very petite older woman approaches me with curly gray hair.  She's asks me, "Are you the T&T lady?"  I reply, "Yes."  She then makes a few statements in defense of Goodman.  "What will give her back her name and economic stability?"  I ask her if she is a longtime friend of Goodman's.  "Yes," she replies, and then adds, "And Alan's." 

I hear that the defense is going to speak to the press so I head down the hallway to the elevator bay.  As I'm standing there, I notice a familiar face that also recognizes me about 12 feet away.  It's one of the Van Nuys Cowboys, Homicide Detective Pete Barba.  Barba was one of the detectives that solved the murder of Sherri Rasmussen and led to the conviction of Stephanie Lazarus.  I smile and head towards him.  He asks me what I'm here for and I tell him the Goodman case. We ride down the elevator a few floors together until Pete gets off on sixth.  It appears he's got another case to check in on. In my surprise at seeing Pete, I totally forgot to personally thank him for the surprise present the Cowboys gave me back in June.

Out on the plaza, the defense is setting up to speak to the press.  Many of Goodman's supporters stood with Lois and her counsel to face the cameras.
More to come...


Out on the plaza, I took this photo with my old phone. I apologize for the poor quality of the photo.

Goodman's counsel speaks to the press with supporters standing by.

I believe it's Alison Triessl who speaks first.  "Mrs. Goodman has so many loving friends.  Some drove as far as Reno to be here today."  Triessl tells the press Goodman's friends know that Lois did not do what she is being accused of.  I believe it's Robert Sheahen who talks about the provided DNA sample, and that they "kicked up" their appeal "to a higher court."

Goodman's defense talks to the press about asking for the detectives original notes. The defense also said, "We hope the public and the media will stay with this case. "This woman did not do this," Triessl continued.

Many of Goodman's friends stood up with Lois and appeared on camera in support.

I stood back and watched the mainstream media do it's job.  Miriam asked Sheahen about several of the prosecution's allegations. She also asked him about the prosecutions allegations that there were several areas, pools of blood, and that someone injured would have (in passing the phone) would have called for help. Sheahen deflected her questions.  I believe Miriam asked him about the autopsy report, and Sheahen responded, "We will have plenty to say about the autopsy."

The defense still talks to the press.  "We're asking for notes.... first draft (notes) .... the first impressions at the scene.... The next set of notes... from subsequent search.  (snip) We think the (criminalists?) notes will show a lot of things in our favor."

Sheahen then addresses the autopsy.  "Why is the LAPD in with the medical examiner?  ....telling the medical examiner..."

(I don't have a clue what Sheahen is implying here.  It's my understanding that detectives observe autopsies of their cases all the time, and there's nothing unusual about that. Sprocket.)

Then in speaking directly to Miriam and the Associated Press reporter, I hear Sheanen say, "I appreciate you guys.... because you take the time to get it right.... some of your colleagues (don't) .... I really mean that." (I agree that Miriam is an excellent reporter. Sprocket)

And that was it. I made my way home.  Next pretrial hearing is November 8th in Dept. 122 at 8:30 AM.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Gerhart Becker Dept 30 V, and Brief Notes on Lois Goodman

October 10th, 2012
On Wednesday, there was a pretrial hearing in the Gerhard Becker case in Dept. 30 that I was unable to attend.  It's been quite busy with Mr. Sprocket's business and I've had to help out.

One of Mr. Sprocket's specialties is engineering, maintaining and repairing refrigeration systems on commercial fishing boats. He was down at the San Pedro Harbor since last Friday, working almost 24/7 on a couple of "squid" boats.  These boats have 55 ton holds that need to keep their catch at a certain temperature.  To keep the work going (and get the boats back on the water as soon as possible) I helped out by picking up parts and delivering them to the harbor.

At the last court date in September, the preliminary hearing was supposed to start on October 10th with an assigned courtroom.  I heard through the grapevine that the prelim would be delayed again for another 30 days  Many thanks to Elizabeth Martinez of the court's Public Information Office who obtained the next court date for me.  Next pretrial hearing (and potential preliminary hearing) is November 13th, at 8:30 AM in Dept. 30. It's expected a courtroom will be assigned on that date.

Lois Goodman
Because I've been helping Mr. Sprocket, I have not had the time to write up my extensive notes on the Goodman October 3rd hearing in Dept 122 at the Van Nuys Courthouse. As you may have heard on the news, Goodman's attorney, Alison Triessl told the press that her client passed a lie detector test.  I believe she has also said she passed the information onto the district attorney's office.

While I was waiting on boat parts, one of the supply houses had a TV on in their lobby.  Alison Triessl, Goodman's daughter Allison Rogers, and a man whose name I missed hearing, were in studio on Anderson Cooper's show, Anderson Live on Tuesday, talking about how Goodman passed a lie detector test given by a former FBI agent.  I believe Triessl also stated the test was re verified by another former FBI agent.  Triessl told Cooper that her client was asked by police to take a lie detector test but Goodman was advised by different counsel at the time not to take it.

Goodman is out on a $500,000.00 bond, confined to her home with ankle monitoring and limited travel.  I'm wondering if Goodman's travel restrictions were more lenient, would she have been in studio with her counsel.

When I do find the time to write up my notes on this hearing (probably over the weekend) I will share my thoughts on why I prefer the accuracy of truth wizards over lie detector machines.

The next pretrial hearing is scheduled for November 8th, where a pretrial hearing date may be set.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Cameron Brown Third Trial: Pretrial 3 and Kelly Soo Park News

UPDATE: 10/10/12 add Mayer link

UPDATE: 10/5/12: for clarity, accuracy

October 2nd, 2012
Real life responsibilities to Mr. Sprocket's business have kept me from posting as timely as I would like.  Also, a special event bit into my regular writing time Tuesday evening.  I was very lucky to have the opportunity to attend a dinner lecture at the University of Southern California (USC) organized by Oliver Mayer, Playwright, and tenured professor at USC.  Afterward, everyone was invited to continue the conversation at Mayer's campus residence where his wife Marlene Forte (an actress on the new Dallas series) served some amazing desserts.  I am envious of students today, who have the opportunity to learn in such a rich, supportive environment.

I was hoping that I would be able to attend both the Park and Brown hearings Tuesday morning, but the best of plans can still be waylaid by things out of one's control.  The day started out well.  I arrived on the 9th floor of the downtown criminal court building at 8:21 AM.  That's not bad for leaving my house at 7:15 AM.

The Cameron Brown hearing in Dept. 107 is at 8:30 AM at one end of the 9th floor hallway.  Dept. 109 is at the other end of the hall and Judge Kennedy usually starts her day a little after 9:00 AM.  I'm hoping the Cameron Brown hearing is over quickly so I can rush down to the other end of the hall and catch some of the Kelly Soo Park hearing.

While I wait on a stone bench, there are two fit detective-like individuals on the hallway end bench. One is a man wearing a suit, the other is a woman with her hair in a ponytail and her badge attached to her belt.  Two other people, an older, short balding man and a trim Asian woman approach.  The woman tells the detectives, "They are delaying; sorry to have to tell you."  The group now tries to set up dates for return.  One of the detectives asks, "So, when do I have to come back?"

8:27 AM  Dept. 107 opens and the five of us go inside.  Court reporter Patricia McNeal arrives, greets Judge Pastor's clerk Mrs. Benson and sets up her equipment.  Right after Pat, DDA Craig Hum arrives and goes up to the counter at Mrs. Benson's desk to check in.  While Hum is at the counter, Mrs. Benson has put a call on speaker.  It's the defense attorney Aron Laub.  He's stuck in traffic and will be late.  Hum jokingly addresses Laub about Judge Pastor, "He's very displeased Mr. Laub!"  I can hear Laub laugh at Hum's comment.

It's a good guess that all that's going to happen today is to pick a new date for the next pretrial hearing.  I debate in my mind whether or not to go down to Dept. 109 and check back in here later, but I decide to stay.  Mr. Benson had said Mr. Laub will be about 20 minutes late.  Hum is still at Mrs. Benson's counter, looking though a clear plastic box filled with some type of candy that reminds me of fruit strips.  Mrs. Benson tells Hum that Dept. 107 currently has a jury deliberating.

Several more attorneys arrive in Dept. 107, possibly for another pretrial hearing before the court.  The DDA that arrives is a tall, slender blond woman.  After she drops off her heavy briefcase, the detectives I first saw in the hallway and the blond prosecutor step outside the courtroom to chat.

At 8:37 AM Ted Kaldis, Brown's brother-in-law arrives and sits in a bench row behind me.  I wondered why Kaldis and his sister had missed the last two court hearings.  I guess his sister is still married to Brown.

Craig keeps getting up from the prosecution table to raid Mrs. Benson's candy box.  The female prosecutor in the other case returns and takes a seat in the well directly in front of the jury box.  She's wearing a matching gray skirt suit with a deep green top.  She's got gorgeous gray pumps on her slender feet. I haven't been able to wear heels higher than an inch or two ever since I broke my ankle in four places over twenty years ago.  I miss high heels. I will have to continue to admire them from afar.

DDA Hum utilizes this wait time to work.  He appears to be going over a motion and attaching tiny post-it notes to various pages. The other counsel in the room check their smart phones for messages and schedules.  The Asian attorney and the prosecutor chat about scheduling.  Over on the benches to my left, I note that the female detective is wearing a dark blue plastic band on her right wrist.  As the minutes tick by I'm grateful there are seat and back cushions on the wood benches.

One of the two defense attorneys gets up and speaks to the family sitting behind me to my right.  Brown's wife Patty shows up and takes a seat in the bench row behind me.  In the brief glimpse I got of her, I noted that her hair is completely gray now.  Patty is about ten years older than her husband and her attire today is very casual.  She's wearing bright red capri pants, a simple white top and gold lame flats.

We go on the record in the other case before Judge Pastor.  Two defendants are brought out, both in blue jumpsuits.  The both look to the gallery, and one of them winks, most likely at the people behind me.

As the attorneys are working out the next pretrial hearing, Judge Pastor tells the attorneys something that wakes me up.  "As of January 1st, I'm not going to be in this court.  Judge George Lomeli (will be taking over)."  I'm quite sad.  I really like Judge Pastor.  I wonder if he will stay in this courthouse or move to another location.

Right after the hearing ended, Judge Pastor warns the attorneys and those in the gallery that there is a sitting jury just outside and to not discuss the particulars of the case until they've passed security.  Judge Pastor asks Mrs. Benson that the jury room door be opened and about Mr. Laub.  He then asks or makes a statement, something to the effect of, 'I always want to know what freeway...' (possibly wondering where Mr. Laub is coming from).  Mr. Hum gets up from the prosecution table for another trip to Mrs. Benson's candy box.

It's 9:00 AM and we're still waiting for Mr. Laub.  Judge Pastor waits at the bench and then gets into a discussion with his deputy about phone service in Canada.  Behind me, Ted speaks up and asks if he may offer some advice to Judge Pastor about phone service providers.  Ted tells Judge Pastor that he used to be a telecommunications engineer for ATT.  He then rattles off the 'formats' for Sprint and Verizon, stating they are both "CDMA."  Judge Pastor is going to Canada, and he's wondering if he will have phone service with his carrier there.  Judge Pastor's deputy asks Judge Pastor what phone service he uses.

9:15 AM Court reporter Mavis Theodorou comes out from the back rooms and goes over to Pat at their shared desk.  Pat tells her, "I've got some good news and some bad news.  He's leaving."

Ted then addresses the bailiff, asking him if he was here during the Conrad Murray trial.  I believe the deputy responds that he was.  Ted tells him, "I saw you on TV."

Mrs. Benson approaches DDA Hum, telling him that jurors were asking her a question about what the various areas of the courtroom are called.  He tells her that the wall dividing the gallery from the well is called "the bar."  When he describes the prosecution and defense table I thought I heard him jokingly identify it as "counsel chambers" but he probably said "counsel table."

I'm terribly bored and regret not bringing my laptop with me to court. I try to figure out what one of the various items is on the corner of the court reporter's desk.  It sort of resembles a hand puppet of some sort, or a partially stuffed animal, possibly a turtle.  There is a reclining elephant on the corner of the counter of Mrs. Benson's desk. Craig Hum continues to work at the counsel table.  I start to rub my arms since the courtroom is freezing. Either Patty or Ted yawns heavily behind me.

9:43 AM Aron Laub finally arrives.  He greets Patty and Ted with, "How are you guys?"  Patty responds, "Okay."  Laub then goes over to explain to Mrs. Benson about his traffic problems.  They discuss traffic for a bit and the recent accident with the Blue Line train.  From his seat, Craig jokingly says to Aron, "Do you think I have nothing better than to wait for you Mr. Laub?"  Mrs. Benson tells Laub, "I'll let the judge know you're here."  Laub goes over and sits beside Craig and the chat for a bit.  Not long after, Craig goes over and raids the candy box again.

Now that Laub is here, Brown is brought out.  He gives an almost indiscernible head nod to Patty and Ted.  Brown is in the standard orange jumpsuit.  Underneath, he has on the white long john undershirt.  There are black deck-shoe like slippers on his feet. Since I'm a bit closer to the well this time, his beard looks longer to me,  It's down to the middle of his chest.  His hair is still quite long down his back. I hear Brown say something to his attorney that sounds like, "The jail is making (?) again."  Brown and his attorney talk.  I believe Patty leans forward behind me, watching her husband.  Craig is still utilizing the time to work.

At 9:55 AM, Judge Pastor comes out and asks to see counsel at the bench.  I hear Judge Pastor ask Mr. Laub what was the problem.  Judge Pastor then tells Mr. Laub what Mr. Hum heard earlier, that he is out of Dept. 107 as of January 1st.  There is another statement Judge Pastor made about his leaving but I did not hear it clearly.  They continue to talk off the record about coming back before the end of the year.  I hear Judge Pastor ask Laub, "You're saying 'Spring;' what does 'Spring' mean?"

When the attorneys leave Judge Pastor's bench, Brown speaks up and asks Judge Pastor one more moment with his attorney.  Judge Pastor replies, "Sure."  While Brown and Laub whisper, Judge Pastor asks Hum to remind him where they are at in the court calendar for the case.  "Eleven of 120," Hum replies.

Judge Pastor finally calls the case to order.  BA255206.  Laub informs the court there is massive discovery they are still waiting on. It's not from the prosecution, but from the prior firm of Geragos & Geragos.  Laub learned a couple of weeks ago that the prior firm overlooked sending him 19 boxes of materials.  He received 25 boxes a year ago and a hard drive containing what was in the 25 boxes. Geragos's firm located 9 more boxes in the office and 10 boxes in storage with a professional storage company.  The files were discovered during a recent housecleaning at Geragos's firm.

I believe Laub informs the court that he has a lengthy matter in Dept. 102 with that trial set to start on December 7th.

For the record, Judge Pastor states that he informed counsel he's not going to be assigned to this courtroom after the first of the year.  When they come back in January, it will be with Judge George Lomeli, whom counsel are both familiar with, for scheduling.

They are about to set a return date, and then Brown speaks up, making a shocking statement that could throw a wrench into the proceedings. "I'm considering going pro per." I'm shocked and astounded that Brown, would make such a drastic decision about his fate after being in custody for almost nine years.

By the tone of Judge Pastor's voice, it appears to me that he is not happy with what he is hearing.  Addressing Brown, he speaks passionately and authoritatively, telling Brown, "This will be the stupidest decision you would make in your life." (snip) "You're not going to be getting any more time than I would give Mr. Loab. (snip)  Talk to friends. Talk to your family."  Judge Pastor goes on about thinking long and hard about this decision. Brown says something else that I miss and Judge Pastor responds, "You're the one who raised the Faretta issue."

I believe Brown asks to come back sooner, like next week.  Judge Pastor is happy to accommodate that request but adds in an irritated tone, "Not the way I want to begin my October." Judge Pastor asks about the 9th through the 12th next week. (I want to) "..give you enough time to contemplate.... If you even think..."  October 12th is chosen for Brown to return, and the case calendar is set at 0/180 on that date.

Mr. Laub tells Judge Pastor that he's been to see Mr. Brown (three?) times in the past month and two of those visits the jail was on lock down.  Another time, there was insufficient time to bring him out. "He sent me three letters, none of which have arrived," Laub states. "I've sent him three books, outdoors type books, and they were sent back."  The Sheriff's office has refused to let Laub bring a large amount of transcripts to Brown in jail.  If Brown was pro per, they would allow it.  Because he's represented by counsel, he's not allowed to have all that documentation.

Laub continues, "I can work with the jail not bringing him 25 boxes of material.  I wanted to bring three boxes. (snip) I was told no; only what would fit in the little green bag. (snip) It's essential .... because it's hard for me to get into (see) him. (snip) Chance for me to see him weekly... (it's not happening). (snip) The trial prep is held up by everything I've just described. (snip) (There is a) difficulty of seeing him at the jail."

Judge Pastor responds, "I can't address the issue of lock downs (at the jail). (snip) I don't know what he can or can't ask. (snip) Can I see the order?"  I believe it's Judge Pastor who states the Sheriff does have security concerns.  He asks Mrs. Benson if she has a copy of the order.  There is some confusion as to whether or not Mr. Laub gave the order to Mrs. Benson last week to be signed, and Mrs. Benson tells Mr. Laub that she handed it back to him.  He still has it and it's never been signed by Judge Pastor.

Laub explains that he inquired about bringing Brown three boxes and he was transferred to the legal department.  I believe this is where Brown speaks up and tells Judge Pastor that he was told by jail legal that if he is in pro per status, he can have it all.  The jail legal department said if he wanted to have it get a court order.  Brown goes onto explain that there are other people in jail that have all of their documentation and they are not pro per.  He feels he's being singled out.  I'm amazed the Brown, upset by how he's being treated at the jail would jeopardize his future by wanting to go pro per.

The calendar is set at zero of 180 on October 12th of next week.  Judge Pastor states he will sign the appropriate motion and Laub tells Judge Pastor he will bring it tomorrow.  Pastor states we will call legal and request the number of boxes.

Judge Pastor then addresses the issue of 'pro per' again.  "He should know that pro per is the penultimate (in regards to being at a serious disadvantage) ... and with the sophisticated legal issues involved... yikes."  Judge Pastor states that he will get with the jail's legal department.

I believe Laub tells Judge Pastor that prior, Brown did have transcripts in his jail cell. Not complete transcripts but some.  Sheriff's seized his paperwork.  The jail eventually agreed to release the paperwork back to Laub but not back to Brown.  The Sheriff's said it was a fire hazard.

Judge Pastor talks about the said paperwork falling into other defendant's hands, and that is extremely (concerning?).  Judge Pastor explains to Brown, that there is concern with his safety, having the trial transcripts in his jail cell, and the sensitive nature of the information in the transcripts.  (The only thing I can think that Judge Pastor is referring to, is that Brown is alleged to have killed his four-year-old daughter, Lauren Sarene Key, and that witnesses have testified as to Brown's demeanor and alleged indifference that they observed immediately after her death.)  Laub tells Judge Pastor that he has advised his client of the risks involved.

Judge Pastor advises Brown again on the issue of pro per.  "Mr. Brown you are a smart person. You've been through two of these trials. (snip) Especially one with such complex legal issues such as this (case). (snip) You will be at a terrible disadvantage if you (decide) to represent yourself.  It will be a bad move. (snip) I will do what I can to lessen your frustration."

Brown tells Judge Pastor, "I've had thousands of pages in my cell for years. (snip)  I'm being singled out."

DDA Hum brings up a technical issue to Judge Pastor, that Brown has a right to a "trial in 109 days of today's date." Judge Pastor ensures that the court record is correct on that issue.  Laub informs the court that he will see Mr. Brown tomorrow.

As I get up to leave, Ted tries to speak directly to me, possibly in an attempt to intimidate me. He says, "Make sure you write it all down."  Ted did the exact same behavior in the second trial I covered.

I go out into the hallway to wait for DDA Hum to come out so I can ask him a question.  As I'm waiting, I go over in my mind the irritation in Judge Pastor's voice when Brown raised the possibility of going pro per.  He was not happy.

(It's my opinion that if Brown does make the fateful decision to represent himself, it would truly be a suicidal move on his part. Sprocket.)

Kelly Soo Park
As I'm waiting on the bench for DDA Hum to exit Dept. 107, I see a man at the far end of the hallway, waving an arm over his head.  Is he signaling at me?  Who could that be I wonder, since I can't make out who it is.  I cannot wait to get my new glasses so I can see distances again. I'm hoping they will be ready by the end of the week.  I get up and slowly walk towards the other end of the hall as the man makes his way towards me.  It's CBS 48 Hours producer Greg Fisher, who I met last year covering the James Fayed case.

As I walk with Greg down to Dept. 109, I explain why I missed the Park hearing.  When I get down to that end of the hallway, I see that all the attorneys are still there as well as some of Park's entourage.  Park's new boyfriend ( former Oxnard Police Department Patrol Watch Commander, Tom Chronister) is standing in the hallway chatting with some of Park's supporters.  As I step inside Dept. 109, Park is right there, standing inside the courtroom.  I ask Greg when the next pretrial hearing is and it's Kelly who answers my question with "October 17th."

When DDA Eric Harmon and his new co-council, Stacy Okun-Wiese, step out into the hallway, the reporters (two Dateline producers, Fisher and myself) surround him to ask him about the hearing.  Harmon basically tells everyone to read the three motions that were filed because the moving papers will explain everything.

I was able to obtain copies of the motions and upload them to my SCRIBD account.  You can access them via the Kelly Soo Park Quick Links page under the heading 'Documents.'

One motion is about presenting 1101(b), prior bad acts witnesses to testify about uncharged conduct by the defendant.  This motion is interesting.  The prosecution is asking Judge Kennedy to admit testimony from two other witnesses that they allege Parks and Ronnie Chase intimidated and threatened that had ongoing disputes with Dr. Uwaydah.  What's interesting about this motion (for me) is that part of the arguments use the California Appellate ruling in the Phil Spector case.

The second motion is asking Judge Kennedy to initiate an inquiry of Park's new counsel regarding a possible conflict of interest.  According to the moving papers, "As the people have previously alleged and proven, there is reason to again believe that the defendant's representation in this matter is funded, at least in part, by her former employer (and possible suspect) Dr. Munir Uwaydah."

The third motion is an opposition to the defendant's motion to compel discovery.