Friday, November 30, 2012

Kelly Soo Park: Pretrial 9

 Defense attorneys George Buehler, Mark Kassabian 
with defendant Kelly Soo Park

November 27th, 2012
I arrive on the 9th floor a few moments before 8:30 AM.  DDA Eric Harmon and another gentleman are sitting on the bench facing me on the opposite side of the hallway.  A few feet from me Park’s fiancĂ©, Tom Chronister is standing, wearing a black suit and chatting with Kelly’s defense attorneys, Mark Kassabian and George Buehler.  Park’s is wearing a hip length tan jacket and black pants.  Many of her supporter’s are here.

Lisa Tomaselli from ABC 20/20 arrives and says hello. I know she missed the last hearing and it’s nice to see her.  Santa Monica Detective Karen Thompson steps outside the courtroom to speak to a slender, nicely dressed Asian woman.

Harmon was here for a moment and then he left.

In the well, Kassabian and Stacy Okun-Wiese go over a scheduling calendar.  A few moments later, I hear Okun-Wiese say to Buehler, “Once the 1101b motion, we’re done, unless you have some discovery for us.”  This leads me to believe that the prosecution has no more motions they are going to file before trial.

There’s a new face today on the prosecution team, and I hear someone address him as “Mark.”  Mark, Okun-Wiese and Detective Thompson sit at chairs in front of the jury box and chat.

The court clerk, Lori (sp?) asks, “Did I see Eric?”  O-W answers, “He popped in for about five seconds.  He will be back.”

8:54 AM Harmon comes back into Dept. 109.  Sean the bailiff comes out from the jury room area.  There is a tiny woman who came in with the prosecution team.  She’s wearing a black pantsuit, glasses and her hair in a bun.  The bailiff has her move from the bench rows by his desk into the well of the court with the prosecution.

9:00 AM Judge Kennedy comes out from her chamber area.  She’s wearing a back sweater over a black lace design blouse.  She comes back out a few moments later wearing her robes.  Park enters the well of the court and stands with her counsel.  DDA Mark Burnley announces for the people. 

The slender Asian woman has also stepped into the well. I don’t catch her name but she is counsel for the City of Santa Monica.

Judge Kennedy states the defense has subpoenaed records from the City of Santa Monica, but it appears they are not yet on her desk.  “Hold on,” Judge Kennedy adds, “Something came late yesterday afternoon.”  She leaves the bench and then returns.  The court received from the City of Santa Monica a notice to quash the subpoena and a reply from the defense (also arrived?).

Judge Kennedy asks the parties, “Have you two conferred at all?”

Kassabian responds, “I’m sorry your honor. No. ... We have not. caught up in other matters with the DA.”

Judge Kennedy asks, “Might you two want to confer and see if you can resolve this matter?” (I don’t have who specifically responds, ‘certainly your honor.’)  Judge Kennedy leaves the bench for a moment.

Kassabian and the Santa Monica City attorney whisper in the well.  Kelly Soo Park chats with Buehlerwhile the other two counsel confer.   Kassabian tells the clerk, “We’re ready.”

9:08 AM Judge Kennedy retakes the bench and Kassabian addresses the court. “(We?) apologize for the delay.  (We’ve) reached an agreement with the city .... protective order.  They will redact personal information and (this will?) take seven days.”  Judge Kennedy states she will sign the order.  I believe it’s Judge Kennedy who then asks, “I assume if there are any other issues...?”  The city attorney responds, “We will comply.”

Stacy Okun-Wiese asks the court, “Will the prosecution get a copy?”

Judge Kennedy responds, “I don’t know.  If (defense?) counsel...”

Kassabian tells the court, “The defense will share the information.”

Now Judge Kennedy addresses the many subpoena’s that have come into the court.  The first subpoena is from Embassy Suites. This is a prosecution subpoena.  The second envelope is from Enterprise, another prosecution subpoena.  One of the FedEx envelopes is empty.  The court asks (the clerk), “Did one of these other things come in it?”  The clerk replies that it may have.

Judge Kennedy continues, “Another FedEx package from the custodian of records for Bank of America, a prosecution subpoena.”  There are several others for Bank of America and I believe it’s O-W who replies there are three separate subpoena’s for records from B of A.  Judge Kennedy then says, “That’s all the materials that I have.”

Kassabian offers that they also issued a subpoena with the Sheriff’s Department but the document appears to have to come to their office. He hands the envelope over to the court.

The prosecution’s subpoena’s will be handed over to them so they can copy them. Judge Kennedy receives the defense subpoena envelope and comments, “The envelope from the Sheriff is not sealed.  Of all people they should know.”  Judge Kennedy then reviews the document. “There appears to be a subpoena and redaction's. ... If you can make any sense out of this you’re a better person than I. ... I’m going to release (it) to the defense.”

That’s it for the subpoena’s.  The next issue is the ‘wire tap’ motion.  Judge Kennedy states “I have read the motion filed by the defense and the (declaration?) of Mr. Kassabian with exhibits attached to the motion to unseal the wire tap motion to suppress evidence, and the prosecution’s response to that motion.”

If I’m understanding the gist of the argument (without seeing the actual motions), the defense is trying to suppress the evidence obtained in a wire tap obtained by the prosecution. Their argument is that the wire tap was illegally obtained.  The authorization for the wire tap was obtained from Judge Fidler.  Then there was action taken by detectives to initiate certain conditions. There was a gap in time between the set up. Seems like there was a claim that they shouldn’t have started the wire tap so early and it should have started later.    There was nothing (on the wire tap) related to the actual homicide, there was (?) in relation to other evidence (1101b).

Kassabian continues to argue, “But the bottom line is the wire tap order did not meet standards and should be excluded on that basis.” Judge Kennedy asks Kassabian, “All or part of it?”  Kassabian responds, “(Arguing) all material (from the wire tap).” 

I believe Kassabian still argues that the wire tap was issued without probable cause and did not take into effect a ‘triggering effect.’

The court asks, “Let’s just say that’s true.  Why wouldn’t that material be utilized?”  Kassabian responds, “Because the wire tap order was invalid. ... It’s different from the search warrant. .... Good faith exception.”  The court continues with it’s inquiry.  “Why should that apply to wire taps?”

DDA Burnley tells the court, “That’s true your honor. (It) does not apply to wire taps. ... The wire tap does not anticipate any triggering effect .... once the judge determines there is enough probable cause .... the 30 days commences. ... (There’s) nothing that says in the statute a triggering effect has to happen.  Penal Code 629.60 deals with the six days report. ... Law enforcement is supposed to update the judge and a (satisfactory?) explanation must be given.

The DA’s first six day report, the detective’s plan was outlined.  (There’s) nothing in the wire tap (statute) that says something in the wire tap must have a triggering event.  The only requirement is the six day report and to update the judge as to whether or not it should be confirmed.

The problem with the wire tap issued without probable cause ... that it would contain any information (about the) Redding homicide.

Kassabian responds that there was no probable cause that there would be communication two years later about this homicide. ... The offense was a single offense in 2008.  There was nothing in (the wire tap application) to talk about this homicide.

Judge Kennedy gives the parties the beginnings of where she stands.  “I don’t see it that way. ... I was not able to find a similar case with (a) triggering effect. ... Most wire taps are narcotics (related?).  It was different in that respect.”

If the purpose of the wire tap law is that ... law enforcement obtain an order ... and when one looks at the totality ... that Judge Fidler had to consider and there was a 30 day period ... “I don’t see how (ends? evidence?) of justice served the ... went through ... and that 30 day doesn’t .... and Judge Fidler, who is the wire tap judge for Los Angeles County, ... and he reviewed ...”

DDA Burnley adds the date that the wire tap was signed on and the number of days delay (in the triggering event?).

Judge Kennedy states she is not prepared at this time to rule that it (wire tap) was illegal as to what Judge Fidler signed.

There is discussion about “Hobbs” and that all material in Hobbs was turned over to the defense.  The prosecution states they have no objection to turning the Hobbs material over to the defense and that the Hobbs material has nothing to do with Parks.

Buehler speaks up and focuses on specific language that Judge Kennedy used in her ruling.  “You say, ‘at this point’ ... (if) there’s something further .... to suppress?”

Okun-Wiese chimes in that papers were given to the defense.

Judge Kennedy then brings up the 1101b motion by the people and whether the defense wants to argue that motion closer to trial.  The defense states that they may be there (at that point to argue the motion).  There’s more discussion about the 1101b motion.  The prosecution states they have a supplemental motion.

The parties are asked what date they want to come back and December 11th is the date they will return.

Now the parties talk about a realistic trial date.  The prosecution wants a date in January.  The defense wants a later start date.  Judge Kennedy states that January and February are out of the question.  On January 14th, she has the Bell case that is set to start January 14th, 2013 and that case will take six weeks.

The court states that March is a more realistic date.  Judge Kennedy asks the parties to “pick a date” in March.  She then asks the parties what is the time estimate for this case.  The prosecution states two to three weeks.  The Defense agrees the case will take three weeks.  That time however, does not include time for deliberation by the jury.  Another week is added for a total of four weeks for trial.

Judge Kennedy asks the parties if they will agree to pre screened jurors for availability.  The people have no problem.  I don’t believe the defense answers.  The court states they are not going to force the issue, but does make a plea to the defense to consider.  Judge Kennedy states that (recently) in a case before Judge Ito, it took three weeks to get a jury for voir dire.

The pre screening process is to eliminate jurors that can not serve on a long trial because they do not receive jury service pay from their employers or other hardship issues.  Judge Kennedy tells the defense there is a pre screened form that the court uses and to look it over.

O-W tells the court they would like to pick a March date and have something in writing.  The court states March is open and the second week in March is good. The defense would like the first week in March.  Judge Kennedy states that March 11th is a Monday, the beginning of the second week of March. 

The case is tentatively scheduled for March 11th, a four week trial.  The case is scheduled for further motions on December 11th.  The court asks Park for her waiver of her right to a speedy trial.  Okun-Wiese tells the court they will take the subpoenaed documents, make copies and return them to the court.

And that’s it. 

I happened to ride down the elevator with  DDA Burnley and I asked him for the correct spelling of his name.  He also indicated that his participation in this case was limited to arguing the people’s position on the wire taps.

Lois Goodman Case: CHARGES DROPPED!

Lois Goodman, November 8th 
There is an interesting story in the LA Times.  Apparently, the DA's office made their decision to drop charges without seeing famed pathologist Dr. Michael Baden's second autopsy report.

LA Times story

UPDATED: Media links added.

The Associated Press is reporting that murder charges against Lois Goodman (for the April 17th, 2012 death of her husband, Alan) have been dropped without prejudice. Insufficient evidence was the reason for dismissing the charge.

The without prejudice ruling means that charges could be filed again at a later date.

Full AP report.

LA Times Now story.

Updated LA Times Now story.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Wikipedia: A Broad Breasted Bronze Tom, Domesticated Turkey

Mr. Sprocket and myself well be celebrating a triple treat for the second time in our lives today.  Thanksgiving, Anniversary (11), and my birthday .

As we give thanks for all the blessings and challenges in our lives T&T would like to wish everyone a safe and memorable Thanksgiving Day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Christian-Newsom Murders: Vanessa Coleman Convicted on 13 of 17 Counts


Vanessa Coleman was found guilty today on 13 of 17 counts. She was found guilty of the top charge of facilitating the first degree murder of Channon Christian.

The counts and verdict:

Count 8. Not guilty of facilitation to commit the first degree murder of Channon Christian in the Perpetration of Kidnapping Chris Newsom.

Count 12. Guilty of facilitation to commit first degree murder of Channon Christian in the Perpetration of Rape of Channon Christian.

Count 16. Guilty of facilitation to commit first degree murder of Channon Christian in the Perpetration of Theft on Channon Christian.

Count 18. Guilty of facilitation to commit second degree murder.

Count 23. Guilty of facilitation to commit aggravated kidnapping.

Count 24. Guilty of facilitation to commit aggravated kidnapping.

Counts 25, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38. Guilty of facilitation to commit rape.

Counts 42. 44. Not guilty of facilitation to commit aggravated rape of Channon Christian by anal penetration, vaginal penetration.

Count 46. Guilty of facilitation to commit theft in an amount of $500 or less.

The facilitation of first degree murder charges carry a sentence of 15-20 years in prison. The sentence is on this and the other charges are up to Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood.

The jury deliberated nearly nine hours over two days.

In addition to WATE, I used information from WBIR in compiling this report.
David in TN

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Christian-Newsom Torture Murder Case: Attending Vanessa Coleman's Retrial

Christopher Newsom, Channon Christian, date unknown.


The Christian-Newsom Torture Murder Case: Attending Vanessa Coleman's Retrial
by David In Tennessee

On Monday, November 12, I drove 250 miles to Knoxville, Tennessee to attend the retrial of Vanessa Coleman for the facilitation of the rape and murder of Channon Christian. In her initial trial, Coleman was acquitted of all charges in the murder of Christian's boyfriend, Christopher Newsom. Coleman was convicted of facilitation only in the rape and murder of Channon Christian. She now faces 17 charges, including facilitation of rape and murder as well as robbery.

There was a rain moving from East to West across Tennessee and it followed me for the entire trip. I checked into a Holiday Inn for four days.

On Tuesday morning, after parking in a garage, I had a five minute walk to the courthouse. At the entrance, you have to empty your pockets for inspection. You also have to remove your belt, something new since I was last in the Knox County Courthouse a year ago. As at the first trial, you have to empty your pockets and be scanned every time you go in the courtroom. This means you go through this five or six times in a day.

I see Hugh Newsom, Chris' father, with whom I've spoken before. I tell him I'm covering the trial for a Los Angeles-based blog and was asked to do so by the lady who runs it.

Hugh blames the "idiot judge" for the original verdicts being overturned. Former Judge Richard Baumgartner was forced to resign the bench after it was learned he was buying drugs from a probationer in his own court, with whom he was also having an affair. Three of the verdicts are still in limbo while Judge Walter Kurtz decides whether to order retrials. The retrial of the fourth defendant, Vanessa Coleman, was not contested. Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, who was replaced by Kurtz a few months ago, is still presiding over Coleman's trial. I know, it's confusing but this is what we have.

Judge Blackwood is small and thin. I had trouble hearing him when he sustained or overruled an objection. Blackwood is less of a courtroom presence than Baumgartner was. There are sidebars seemingly after every objection. I could always hear Baumgartner clearly when he spoke. Not so for Blackwood.

The lead prosecutor, Takisha Fitzgerald, speaks clearly with perfect enunciation. Her co-prosecutor, Leland Price, has an air of calm efficiency. Ted Lavitt, the lead defense attorney, is very loud. Three young lawyers in his firm write out questions and give them to him during a cross examination. Lavit's co-counsel, Russell Greene, is a Knoxville attorney appointed to the case. He doesn't handle many witnesses. Lavit is a Kentucky attorney hired by Coleman's parents and does almost all of the trial work.

During his opening statement, Lavit mentioned Daphne Sutton and referred to her as "a white girl." Lavit is the only person to inject race into the trial. Lavitt called the other three defendants the "killers" throughout. Yes, she was there. No question she "suffered." Held against her will. Feared for her safety. Just 18 years old. Didn't "know who Cobbins was."

Well, Cobbins was Coleman's boyfriend.

At the lunch counter on Tuesday, I was standing beside the Newsoms. Xavier Jenkins, a key prosecution witness, came by and hugged Chris Newsom's sister, his mother, and shook hands with Hugh.

After lunch, Jenkins took the stand. At the time of the murders, he worked at Waste Management, next to the Chipman Street house. Jenkins testified to seeing four black males in Channon Christian's Toyota 4Runner as it drove by. "How do you know they were all black?" Lavit asked on cross-examination. "As a black man myself, I can tell," Jenkins answered. Lavit kept trying but Jenkins wouldn't budge and calmly explained why he was certain there were four black males in the vehicle. They gave him a mean look and Jenkins gave them one back. In my opinion, Lavit not only looked foolish, but highlighted Jenkins' testimony.

When Xavier Jenkins left the stand, both victims' fathers nodded their thanks. This indicated Vanessa Coleman was alone with Channon Christian.

Several times I saw black people come up to the Christians or Newsoms and express their sympathy.

In his opening statement and cross examinations, Lavit tries to make Coleman out to be a "victim" who was being held against her will by her boyfriend, Letalvis Cobbins. HERE is my account of Cobbins' from her initial trial and an outline of the case as it looked in 2009. At her first trial in 2010, Lavit said Coleman would testify, but she did not. This time he makes no such promise.

There was more about Chris Newsom's murder than expected. Judge Blackwood ruled his kidnapping and murder could be mentioned because it led to Channon's rape and murder, which Coleman is on trial for facilitating. Chris's ball cap and burned drivers license were found in a garbage bag in the Chipman house. None of the defendants admitted to seeing him.

At a break, I introduced myself to Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Jamie Satterfield, with whom I've exchanged emails. She said, "Nice to meet you."

Vanessa Coleman sometimes smiles to her parents, who are in the courtroom. Most of the time, Coleman smirks.

The courtroom would easily hold over a hundred people. There were usually less than 40 over the three days I was there. Many were courthouse employees. The Christians and Newsoms and their friends made up around 16 people most of the time.

Before court on Wednesday, I talked to a woman who is a friend of the Christians. I told her I was there to write about the trial for a Los Angeles-based blog called Trials and Tribulations. The next day I gave her the web address for T&T.

There are sidebars again and again. Chris' mother Mary testified that it was her son's cap found in a garbage bag. Deena Christian identified Channon's clothes found in the Chipman house and her possessions later found in Vanessa Coleman's purse. Deena stood directly in front of the jury and told something about each item.

Later that day, Daphne Sutton testified, pretty much a rerun of the first trial. While waiting to testify, witnesses sit on a bench outside the courtroom. When I walked by, Daphne looked at me with an insolent expression. She looked like a poor relation of the Kardashian sisters. Daphne Sutton was Lemaricus Davidson's girlfriend who left the Chipman street house after being beaten by Davidson, the ringleader. Sutton came back to the house while Channon was still being held. She saw Davidson, Cobbins, and George Thomas, but not Coleman, who she knew. Coleman, the prosecution says, was keeping Channon under guard out of sight.

Coleman claimed to be taking a shower when Sutton came back, but could "hear what was being said."

On Thursday, Coleman's federal grand jury testimony was read. A female lawyer from Lavit's firm read Coleman's answers to the questions read by prosecutor Leland Price. Coleman had lied to investigators at first, claiming to have gone back to Kentucky with George Thomas' girlfriend, Stacey Lawson. With each interview, Coleman told a little more. She finally claimed to have been held against her will and "unable to contact the police."

At no time in her grand jury testimony or police interviews, did Coleman express regret over what happened to the victims. She didn't even pretend when it would have been in her interest to do so. Coleman was always unemotional.

In the first trial, the medical examiner, Doctor Darius Mileusnic-Polchan, was the last prosecution witness. This time she takes the stand after the reading of Coleman's grand jury testimony. A good idea in my opinion.

Before the medical examiner testified, there was a delay of over an hour. The defense argues against any photos of Christopher Newsom being shown. Eventually two photos of Chris were allowed.

A friend of the victims' families brought a box of tissues and passed them out. Coleman had her usual smirk before Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan's testimony.

We have seen the ME testify on the live stream without seeing the photos. We have also read about the violence inflicted on Channon and Chris. At a break beforehand, I tried to get myself ready. I have written about what was inflicted on the victims. Now I will see it.

The first photo was of Chris Newsom's burned body laying beside the railroad tracks. His body was blackened from about the knees up with the face unrecognizable. There was a blindfold over his eyes which somewhat preserved them. A police officer who was a friend of the Newsoms could recognize Chris "because of his eyes."

The other photo was of Chris Newsom's bare feet which still were tied by a belt and ligature.

Now came Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan's (ME) presentation concerning the rape and murder of Channon Christian. Her body was not removed from the garbage can until at the medical examiner's office. The can was covered by a tarpaulin while being hauled there. Her face had been covered by a white plastic bag and the body enclosed in several black plastic bags.

Channon Christian was a beautiful 21-year old woman who stood five feet, eight inches and weighed 122 punds.

On the screen appeared a photo of Channon's body laying on a gurney. Her body is still contorted in the position it was in after being "crammed" into the trash can. She was naked from the waist down.

The mouth was open. The eyes were half-closed. Her face was frozen in horror. She had died of asphyxiation after hours of agony. The left arm was extended upward from the elbow.

This photo hit me like a punch.

The next photo showed abrasion inside of the lips. Her gum had been knocked loose from the teeth. A photo of her face was next.

Then came a photo of her genitals. It revealed tremendous trauma. She had been kicked and beaten repeatedly in the vagina. During Davidson's trial, a beginning female deputy DA fainted at this photo.

The next photo was of the anus with still more heavy bruising. It looked like she had been clubbed. She had been raped anally, vaginally, and sodomized.

The Christian family friend left the courtroom in tears. The others stayed. They have seen the autopsy photos several times. Deena, Channon's mother looked down.

The lid of each eye was pulled back so the eyes could be photographed. I could not look.

The direct examination of the ME took just under an hour. At this point, I left the courtroom and went back to the Holiday Inn. I had intended to come to the Friday session but instead drove home the next day.

To summarize, Chris Newsom was dragged by a dog leash around his neck to a railroad track. He was naked from the waist down and his hands were tied behind his back. Chris' face was wrapped in a sweatshirt and his mouth was gagged with his own socks. His bare feet were bound. He had been raped with "an object" as well as by unknown males. At the tracks, Chris was shot three times. The killers inflicted as much pain as possible. His body was set on fire, which destroyed the DNA evidence and made it impossible to identify which of the killers raped him.

When Chris Newsom was found, his mother wanted to see the body. The police would not let her. Mary Newsom put her arms around the body bag.

Channon Christian was "hog-tied" with a white plastic bag over her head and forced in the trash can. She also was raped by an object. DNA evidence revealed she was raped by Lemaricus Davidson anally and vaginally. Semen from Davidson's half-brother (and Coleman's boyfriend) was found in her mouth. Her vaginal area was beaten bloody.

Care to guess which of the four kicked Channon in her private parts?

With each successive police interview, Vanessa Coleman told a little more. Her final story was that Davidson "snapped her neck" and forced Coleman to "check her pulse."

The autopsy revealed Channon's neck was not snapped. Coleman claimed not to have seen any torture or heard any screams.

The next day the ATF agent testified along with the Knoxville Police Department detective. Lavit accused them in his cross of "tricking" poor Vanessa, the same tactic as in 2010. After going into the night, the prosecution rested. The defense will present their case on Monday, mainly testimony by Coleman's parents and siblings.

The above account is based on notes I took during the first three days of the trial.
David in TN

Knox News full coverage archive

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Stephanie Lazarus Case: Sherri Rasmussen Family Civil Suit, II

Sherri Rae Rasmussen, '85

I emailed John Taylor for a comment on the decision.  Here is his response:
First paragraph of opinion says it all: unfortunately cannot get to merits of case because of statute of limitation, which works an injustice here. 

No court or investigative body has ever said that this wasn't a cover up. The Rasmussens have incredible patience and perseverance and will continue pursuing their judicial remedies. 
California Courts of Appeal Decision
I just received the email notification a few minutes ago.  The California Courts of Appeal affirmed the lower court's decision rejecting the civil suit filed by the Rasmussen family against the Los Angeles Police Department. HERE is the 14 page opinion issued by the justices.

The law firm of Taylor & Ring filed the complaint on behalf of the Rasmussen family.  It is unknown at this time if the Rasmussen family will appeal to the California Supreme Court, which is not obligated to hear the appeal.

My thoughts and prayers are with the Rasmussen family.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lois Goodman Case: Pretrial Hearing 6

Lois Goodman, November 8th

UPDATED 11/14/12: correct spelling
UPDATED: added link

November 8th, 2012
I have all the good intentions of getting out the door and down to the courthouse and up on the 9th floor early, but it doesn't happen.  When I turn on Tyrone from Calvert, I see Goodman's defense attorney Allison Treissl pull into a lot next to the court house and I decide to park there instead of the parking structure behind the court.  The price is the same $9.00, and the advantage is I don't have to climb down several flights of stairs.  I also see Kelley Gerner pull into the same lot.  As I leave the lot I note that Ms. Treissl lights up a cigarette before she heads toward the courthouse.

As I trek up the long walkway between the two court buildings, I note the weekly Farmer's Market is starting to set up on the plaza. As I get to the front of the court building, I see a long line outside again. It's why I wanted to get here early. I'm worried I won't get up on the 9th floor before the courtroom opens. I want to make sure I get a seat in the front row so I can hear everyone.

Finally up on the 9th floor and waiting outside Dept 122, I see three video camera operators. They don't know who's going be the pool video photographer.  The crews are from local KTLA Ch. 5, local CBS Ch 9 and CNN.  I ask the camera operators if the courtroom is open yet.  They tell me, "No."  So I wait with them.

Defense attorney Triessl is up on the 9th floor, standing away from the press, closer to the elevators.  An older slender man with glasses speaks to Triessl. The only reporter I recognize is "John" from KNX 1090 Radio.  He's a tall, bulky balding man with long hair to his shoulders and a mustache.  Miriam Hernandez isn't here.  She must have been sent on another assignment.

A young, pretty reporter I've never seen before tries the door to Dept 122.  She then sees a female  LAPD officer in uniform walking near the door and asks her a question, most likely about Dept. 122.  (I find that interesting because most reporters should know that it's the Sheriff's that are in charge of all county courthouses.)

Lois Goodman arrives. She smiles and greets her attorney, Triessl.  The defense investigator, Scott Ross (no relation) is standing with Triessl.Even from where I'm standing it looks like Lois had her hair cut very short and styled.  It's combed straight back.  There's no curl at all.  She looks nice.  She's wearing white slacks, a gray blouse and a lighter grayish, creamy toned long cardigan sweater.

Goodman has a few supporters with her, mostly girlfriends, that look to be about the same age as Goodman. It's not the huge crowd that I've seen a previous hearings.  I see Lois reading something on her phone.

The courtroom is finally opened and the press files in.  I take a seat in the front row, left.  Some of the press sits in the center, back row.  There's a bit of chatter in the well.  I hear the court reporter state to a court staff member that they don't know who the DDA will be in the courtroom today.  (There are many courtrooms where a deputy district attorney is assigned to handle many pretrial hearings in a specific court.)

Triessl and Gerner ask the court reporter about a beautiful piece of sculpted (ceramic?) artwork on her desk.  It's like a partial mask of the face, all in off-white.  From the bottom, a finger of a hand comes up that's placed over the lips as if to say 'shush' or 'quiet.' It's about six inches wide by eight inches tall.  From where I'm sitting, I can't tell if the piece is hanging on the wall, has it's own support to sit on the desk or is a part of a photo frame below it.

Triessl is back in the gallery, speaking to Goodman for a moment. Goodman is sitting in the second row on the right, in the seat right next to the wall.  Her body is turned 90 degrees to face into the gallery and speak to her seat companion.  Sitting next to Goodman is a woman about the same age and height with shoulder length jet black hair.  The dark haired woman gets up to speak to the defense investigator Ross.  The prosecution team is not here yet.

At 8:53 AM the defense team leaves the courtroom in mass.  Judge Silver comes out to her bench.  She's wearing a dark blue A-frame print dress.  I can't discern the cream pattern on her dress from where I am sitting. My eyes are drawn to her stunning gold and silver necklace.  The cameraman has set up in the jury box that also has several uniformed officers and suited detectives.  He adjusts his wireless microphone on the court reporter's desk.

Judge Silver exchanges a few pleasantries with a defense attorney waiting in the well.  More counsel arrive with rolling carts and check in with the bailiff and court clerk.

In the jury box, there are now two detectives and a uniformed, female LAPD officer.  One of the detectives comes out to speak to the people sitting behind me.  He tells them they are just waiting for the DA to arrive and then the DA will speak to everybody.  Another detective, a woman arrives and sits in the jury box.

Looking over at the left side of the courtroom, it appears that there are about nine or ten supporters here for Goodman.  A group of about four or five casually dressed black women enter Dept. 122 and take seats in the rows behind me.  More people check in with the bailiff.

In a loud voice, the Asian looking bailiff reminds everyone to turn off their cell phones.  "If you want to use it, step outside," he tells the room.

9:05 AM DDA Sharon Ransom arrives and starts speaking to a defense attorney on another case.  More counsel arrive and try to find space in the well.  Some move to the jury box.

Defense attorney Robert Sheahen arrives.  Gerner greets Ransom. Shaking her hand she says, "Hello, how are you?"  Ransom asks a detective in the well what case they are here on and he replies, "Matthews."  Ransom now speaks to some of the people in the gallery behind me.  She's obviously working on another case.  I wonder if she's been taken off the Goodman case.

The courtroom is very busy now, with more counsel arriving for their cases.  A young, very pregnant Asian woman with several files, takes a seat at the prosecution's table.    She's wearing black slacks, no jacket and an emerald green maternity top that is made of a stretchy nylon or rayon that hugs her frame.  She speaks to the "Matthews" case detective in the well.

Over on the right side of the courtroom, Goodman and her female supporters chat.

The courtroom consists of three rows and two aisles separating the sections.  The rows on far left and right are only four folding seats across.  The center section is long, but it's only three rows.  The back row is not the full length.  The front row is blocked off with yellow caution tape.  So is the front row on the far right.  I believe I know why the courtroom does this.  It's to keep the general public from possibly sitting too close, or getting too close to those defendants currently in custody.  I've seen in custody defendants sitting in the chairs behind the defense table and not "at" the defense table.

The uniformed LAPD officer speaks to the pregnant Asian DDA (Ms. Kwon sp?).  I've a feeling this is the DA that is taking over the absent DDA's calendar in this courtroom.  Another detective arrives and sits in the jury box.

I note "John" from KNX 1090 sits in the center, last row with the pretty, young reporter.

The courtroom is getting a bit noisy and the bailiff shouts out "Quiet down please!"  A hush immediately settles over the courtroom for a moment and then conversations resume in a lowered tone.  Goodman smiles and exchanges whispers with her girlfriends.

Judge Silvers comes out in her robes. The bailiff tells everyone to stand and face the flag.  As everyone is standing, Goodman's defense team enters the courtroom.  After the little speech is completed, Judge Silvers takes the bench and calls a case.  Lisa Tanner is here.  She enters the jury box for a moment then quickly exits the courtroom to answer her phone.

The court is waiting on other DDA's to be ready with their cases.  9:24 AM a brief recess is called.

Another male attorney with short black hair enters and exchanges business cards with Triessl and Gerner.  Lisa Tanner is at the prosecution table going over documents.  Now Robert Sheahen is also intently listening to the attorney talking to Triessl and Gerner.  I can see from where I'm sitting the conversation with the new attorney is intense.  Sheahen is nodding his head as the new guy speaks.  Now Triessl has a serious expression on her face, as she momentarily holds her hand to her face.  Gerner has her hand on her hip as she listens to the new attorney.

I believe my notes say that Gerner then passes Lisa Tanner and says, "December 7th, zero of 30 ... and that's the last..." 

At 9:30 AM, DDA Ransom reenters Dept 122.  I look on over at Triessl, and she's in an animated conversation now with the new attorney, speaking with her hands.  Goodman is still turned 90 degrees around in her seat, her back against the side wall to look into the gallery and chat with her girlfriends.

The co-counsel on the Lonnie Franklin, Jr., the Grim Sleeper case, Seymour Amster enters Dept. 122.  The City News reporter, Fred, enters and takes a seat beside me.  At 9:45 AM the court goes back on the record.  Two defendants are brought out, a man and a woman.  Amster is representing the woman.  That case is held over until December 3rd.

And we wait some more.  The defense counsel left the well when the prior hearing was up.  Judge Silver leaves the bench.  I glance over at Goodman.  She has her elbow on either the chair arm or her lap and her hand is on the side of her face.  Fred tells me he's here for another case, the Justin Bieber paparazzi car chase incident.

Judge Silver retakes the bench and a preliminary hearing begins in another case.  Goodman will get the opportunity to see a short preliminary hearing.  A witness takes the stand and starts to tell the story of out walking his dog at night. A car ran a four-way stop sign. It came around the corner very fast and runs into him; comes at him.  Then the car stopped and then backed into him.  He was walking his dog when the car stopped then backed into him.  The witness testifies he was knocked down by the car when it backed into him and he flew about ten feet.

The witness states he was in shock.  The driver of the vehicle gets out and then hits him.  The driver begins to fight with him.  They were close contact wresstling with each other.  "It became a huggy contest," the witness testified.  Lots of hugging.  Judge Silver asks the witness to just describe the contact with the defendant.

The witness explains, "He had the better of me.  He lifted me up off the ground.  He lifted me up and carried me to the other side of the street then threw me on the ground. ... (For) most of the battle, I couldn't get him off me. ... He was really good with his elbows."  The witness states the attacker elbowed him in the throat.

As the witness is describing the fight, I'm wondering about his dog.  Did he run away? Did he try to defend his owner?  What about his dog?

The witness described how when he walks his dog at night he carries a batton.  (Before the prelim began, the defendant was advised about his rights since the batton he carried is consided an illegal weapon.)  During the fight, the attacker grabbed his batton. The witness states, "The older gentleman picked up my batton and hit me over the head with the baton three times. ... He kicked me twice in the face. ... He would then run to the corner and look around. ... He kept saying (to me) 'I'm LAPD!! I'm LAPD!!!"

The witness is asked if he believed the individual was an LAPD officer.  "Not from what transpired there."  Then the witness tells the court he surrendered.  He had had enough of fighting with this assailant.  He says to the younger man, "Okay. You win."  He laid back on the ground and surrendered.  The guy who was attacking him replied, "No! ... I look up and my dog is still there."

The prosecution asks him if he lost consciousness.  The witness states he did lose consciousness after he saw his dog.  DDA Kwon asks, "Did you ever see the younger one with the baton?"  "No," the witness replies. When the vicitm came to (woke up) at the scene, he remembered the helicopters overhead.  The witness states he had massive lacerations on his body and he thinks possibly a concussion.  I have in my notes that the witness said he suffered "psyciatric dismay."  Judge Silver asks the question that everyone wanted to know.  "What kind of dog?"  The witness replies, "A pit bull."

That's it for direct and cross begins. Fred gets up to check on the Bieber case in another floor of the courtroom.

The defense attorney asks if he had been convicted of a felony.  "Yes," the witness replies.  (For the) "...purchase of rock cocaine." The witness is asked if he was intoxicated while out walking his dog.  No.  There's not much to the cross.

An officer takes the stand. He's with LAPD, Van Nuys division.  I see Goodman is still in the same pose as before.  Her elbow on the arm of the chair and the palm of her hand on her chin.

While a new witness is called to take the stand in the current preliminary hearing, I look over at Triessl and Gerner.  It appears they are looking over a document.  There appears to be a look of consternation on Triessl's face. Her eyebrows are constricted.  Triessl and Gerner and intently conferring over the document.  They now leave the courtroom to continue their conversation.  The new male attoney motions to Sheahen and he leaves the courtroom also.

A Detective Alvarez (sp?) takes the stand in the current prelim.  He's assigned to Van Nuys Division, working CAPS.  At this point, I stopped taking notes on this preliminary hearing.  From memory, it was either this witness or another witness who testifies about a good samaritan who observed the fight going on in the street from inside his home and called 911.  The detective on the stand testifies that this witness saw the younger man hit the victim with the baton twice.   As quickly as it started, that preliminary hearing was over.

The Goodman case is called.  I see that the male attorney that earlier had Goodman's defense team captivated sets his laptop and briefcase down on the prosecution's table.  It's clear the DA's office has assigned a new attorney to the case. He announces his name for the record, "John Lewin."  I'm quite surprised.  John Lewin is with the DA's Major Crimes Division, which now will probably be handling the case. I've heard of him from my friend Matthew McGough. He's a heavy hitter who specializes in cold case homicides and difficult circumstantial cases. Now I understand the meaning of the conversation that I observed he had with the defense team in the well of the court.

DDA Lewin tells the court that the discovery process is ongoing back and forth between the parties.  They'd like to set the prelim pre-setting date over one more month to December 7th, and have the case at zero of 30 on that date.

Defense attorney Sheahen speaks to the discovery issues. "We've received (an additional?) 2200 pages of documents." The defense has provided the prosecution with the results of a polygraph that their client passed.  The defense has received the original notes from a (Detective? McCarty?). They are still waiting on notes from other first responders. Sheahen tells the court they have received preliminary DNA results.  Ms. Goodman's DNA was on her clothing.  Her DNA was not on the cup that is the alleged murder weapon.

The defense is also asking the court if Ms. Goodman can leave her home for 12 hours to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family.

The next hearing will be on December 7th at 8:30 AM and the court calendar is set at zero of thirty court days.  And that's it.

The press files out to see if the defense will speak to them.

The video cameras follow John Lewin as he exits the courthouse.  A few of the reporters yell questions at him.  Lewin stops and thoughtfully tells the press that he won't speak on the record until the case is over.  The KNX reporter throws out to Lewin if he could buy him lunch.  If I"m not mistaken, Lewin throws back a joke and tells the reporter he isn't his type.

Triessl tells the press that she is going to walk her client to her car. She states her client is thrilled she will be enjoying Thanksgiving with her family.

A bit later, Robert Sheahen speaks to the press.  He asks Gerner if she wants to stand up with him but she declines.  I believe she tells him something to the effect, "It's all yours."

Sheahen tells the press that Goodman's DNA was found on her own clothing. It was not found on the coffee cup.   Then Sheahen tells the press that the district attorney has indicated that there is a possibility that Alan Goodman's blood, his DNA was so pervasive that it "washed out" Ms. Goodman's DNA.  They are following up on discovery matters with the additional pages of discovery.  They are waiting on microscopic slides from the coroner. Sheahen also states there is a new DA on the case and that they welcome Mr. Lewin from Major Crimes, a seasoned prosecutor to the case.  Sheahen also tells the press that they have offered to the DA's office to make Goodman's home available to the DA.

Sheahen then states again that the DNA found on Goodman's pants was her own.  The coffee mug, (that DNA on it) all belonged to Alan Goodman. This is consistent with Ms. Goodman's statement that (he may have been?) holding the cup and fallen on the cup.  The visit to the house by the DA will happen before the next hearing.

I ask Mr. Sheahen about the second autopsy performed by their expert, Dr. Michael Baden.  (Baden testified in both Spector trials.) Sheahen states Baden's report will be ready in a couple of weeks.  They are waiting on the microscopic slides from the cornoer for Dr. Baden to review.

And that's it.  I head back to my car and almost forget that there were supposed to be documents waiting for me (a defense filing in this case) at the clerks office.  Elizabeth Martinez of the Public Information Office had kindly arranged that for me. But when I get up there, the clerk at the window didn't know anything about it. I'll have to get them another time.  As I'm leaving the court building, Alison Triessl and I think Kelly Gerner were reentering the courthouse.  Triessl asks me, "Are you the blogger?"  I'm immediately embarrassed that I've been identified.  I usually like to fly under the radar.  I reply, "Yes."  She then tells me, "I love your blog! ... There's so much detail."  Still embarrassed, I thank her several times for her kind words.

I will share my thoughts, my opinion, on the preliminary DNA results that were revealed in court today.  One of the heaver hitters in forensic science coined a phrase years ago, that blood spatter expert, Dr. Lynne Herold said on the stand in the first Spector trial. "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." (No Spector DNA was found on the murder weapon that was covered with Lana Clarkson's blood.)

Just because you don't find something is not indicative that it proves a negative.  And what Robert Sheahen said about Alan Goodman's blood on the cup washing out Ms. Goodman's DNA is true.  I've heard DNA analysts testify about this phenomenon in both Spector and in the Stephanie Lazarus case.  There are instances where, when you have an abundant blood profile with good nucleated DNA cells, that can easily be such a "loud" profile that a smaller profile, from say, "touch DNA" or skin cells with little to few nucleated cells would be "washed out" and undetected with the instrumentation we have today.  It doesn't mean it's not there. It just means it can't be detected.


Preliminary Hearing Testimony Witness List  11/13/12 - 11/28/12
Gerhard Becker Quick Links - (Main Quick Links Page)

CASE # BA39394001
Gerhard Becker: Arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter on February 15th, 2012.

Glenn Allen: 38 year veteran LAFD firefighter.  Injured on February 16th, 2011, responding to a massive fire at Becker's recently completed luxury home in the Hollywood Hills. A ceiling collapsed on Allen. Allen succumbed to his injuries on February 18th, 2011.


DDA Sean Carney
DDA Frances Young - (Removed from case.)


Donald Re

Part I, Day 1, November 13th, 2012
(Owner Hearth Products Construction Company, Katerina Ohio. Manufacturer of the  "HWI Fire pit trough," an outdoor fire pit, that was installed in the Becker property. Describes the device, it's safety's and how it should be installed.)
2. CAPTAIN EDWARD WATTERS (LAFD firefighter who arrived on the scene to battle the fire. Described the scene, the fire, where it spread and what the strategy was to fight the fire.)

Part II, Day 2, November 14th, 2012

3. BRAD BESCOS (City of Los Angeles Building Mechanical Inspector - Monitored the construction of the Becker house. Testified he never approved a fireplace and never saw one being built in the Becker property.)

Part III, Day 3 & 4, November 15th, 2012; November 19th, 2012

(No testimony was presented on Day 3.)

4. WILLIAM THOST (LAFD Fire Investigator and sworn peace officer - Investigated the fire and Glenn Allen's death at the Becker property.  Testified about how Allen was found and recovered in the structure; testified about the construction of the house, fireplace and inadequate 'fie blocking.')

Part IV, Day 5, November 20th, 2012
4. WILLIAM THOST (continued)

Part V, Day 6, November 26th, 2012
3. BRAD BESCOS (cross examination continued)

Part VI, Day 7 November 27th, 2012
3. BRAD BESCOS (redirect examination)

5. DALE FEB (Independent Fireplace Inspector/Consultant - Gave an expert opinion as to the quality of construction and code requirements followed/not followed of the fire pit/trough installed in the Becker property.)

Part VII, Day 8, November 28th, 2012
6. GREG STEARNS (LAPD Detective, Robbery Homicide - Investigated the fire and death of Glenn Allen)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Michael Gargiulo Case: Pretrial Hearing 4

 Michael Thomas Gargiulo tattoos, 
arrest photo, date unknown


Previous pretrial hearing 9/26/12
UPDATE: Added next pretrial date.
October 29th, 2012
I finally get on the 9th floor at 8:27 AM after missing two elevators.  Out on Broadway, just as I'm about to enter the the rear entrance to the Criminal Justice Center, I see Lois Goodman's defense attorney Alison Triessl.  She doesn't know who I am, but maybe remembered my face from her clients hearings, so I smiled and said hello.

Out in the hallway, DDA Akemon arrives on the 9th floor and greets another attorney-like looking man seated on a bench across the hall from me.  Akemon is wearing a gray suit, white shirt and a mustard looking tie with a pattern.

When I get inside Dept 108, there are several counsel already here.  There are people in the gallery, most likely from another case.  The defense investigator Christian Filipiak is not here.  There are defense counsel set up at the defense table and it's a good bet there is a trial in progress.  I see an attorney rolling in a cart with several boxes of case files.

Akemon has a very dark, black looking briefcase that opens like a clam shell or purse at the top.  The unknown counsel in the well introduces themselves and someone asks if there's any settlement.  It's possibly a multiple defendant case.  Akemon is now over at the court clerks desk with counsel from another case.  He's handing papers to the court clerk.  I see the clerk Gloria, stamp the single page of the prosecution's paper.

The well is full of counsel. Some turn and wave to new people who have entered and are sitting in the gallery.  A female prosecutor arrives and sets up her things at the prosecution table.

Judge Ohta comes out from the back-chamber area. He's not in his robes.  He's wearing a solid blue shirt with a tan tie.  More counsel in the well exchange handshakes.

8:43 AM  Several Asian clients from the gallery step up into the well beside their counsel.  We go on the record. The case is 355055, Yang & Kim.  The DA's daily calender lists the case as Chan Hee Yang and Andrew Kim, a worker's comp insurance fraud scheme and the DDA is Terrance Terauchi. (Chan Hee I think is the woman at the defense table who also has an interpreter.)  The case is set at zero of 60 today.

One of the defense counsel (possibly for Mr. Kim) tells Judge Ohta that his law partner of 22 years died two weeks ago, and he is asking to push the case back.  Judge Ohta asks the name of his law partner. (I looked up the name I thought the defense counsel said but I must have it wrong. I couldn't find anything.)

Judge Ohta puts it on the record that Ms. Yang is on her fourth attorney.  A Mr. Kawata (sp?) (investigator?) has been on the case since the beginning.  Ms. Yang's attorney is now asking for more records.  They are now saying two and a half years later, they don't have all the insurance documents from the department of insurance.  They are asking for copies of ledgers.  The defense believes these ledges will be instrumental to the defense.

Akemon is in the well, sitting off to the side in front of the jury box.  He appears to be reviewing files as he waits.  This is one thing I've noticed about many prosecutors. They appear to continue to work while they are waiting for their case to be heard.

Judge Ohta mentions the case was filed in April 2009.  Ms. Yang has an interpreter.  Judge Ohta tells the parties to return in one month and to make sure all discovery issues have been resolved.  A date of December 6th is chose for the return date.  Judge Ohta states the Korean interpreter is ordered back on that date.  That's it for this case and the counsel and defendants file out.

There's another attorney here with Akemon.  I have a feeling he will be added to the case.

I have in my notes that Filipiak was not ordered to be here.  More counsel arrive.  It's 9:00 AM and there's still quite a bit of bustle in the well.

9:02 AM Judge Ohta speaks to his bailiff. "John, do you think we can get Gargiulo out?"  "Yes," he replies as he takes clothing to the back for the current defendant in trial.

Judge Ohta is speaking to (I think) the current case prosecutor in the well.  "Do you think it's that simple Mr. Kim? ... You need to research some legal issues. ... Due diligence is separate than the issue of whether the testimony is admissible."  Judge Ohta is speaking off the record. I believe the current case prosecutor says something about "common sense. and Judge Ohta replies, "We don't do 'common sense,' because sometimes the law isn't common-sensical."  The defense attorney says something to the effect of, they are "...relying on Justic Scalia for right of confrontation."  Otha addresses that and says, "This isn't Crawford."

Akemon goes over to the defense table and places a single sheet or paper where the defendant will likely sit.

9:08 AM the defendant is brought out.  His hair has gotten a bit longer but still very short and close to his scalp.  The other prosecutor is introduced on the record, Garrett Dameron.  Dameron appears to be a bit younger than Akemon. He spells his name for the defendant.  He will be co-counsel with Akermon.  The case is at zero of 90 today.

Judge Ohta addresses the defendant about the motion the prosecution filed today.  "Have you received the document the prosecution prepared?" "No I haven't your honor."  Akemon speaks up and tells the defendant, "I placed a copy on the table in front of you."  "Oh, thank you. I didn't see that.  I didn't know it was for me," he replies.  "This is to memorialize what the people have given to you and will be a part of the case file."

Judge Ohta asks the defendant, Mr. Gargiulo, what do you want to do?

The defendant asks the court to receive a copy of the entire court file minute orders and more time to meet with his investigator.  Judge Ohta states right off, that he's not going to agree to give the defendant copies of all the minute orders from from the beginning of the case file.

The defendant states he doesn't know what other motions his prior attorney(s) have filed in the past.  Judge Ohta tells him it doesn't matter what motions have been filed in the past.  "You have a right to file any motion. ... I know (the prior defense attorney) was going to file a 997 ... but I don't think any motions have been filed. ... The only motions filed are ones related to discovery. ... If you want a specific minute order, (from a specific court date) that I will grant.  ... But I will not (authorize) a blanket order. (for the court minutes)"

The defendant states that at the last court date, minute order (he would like).  It wasn't clear about what discovery papers he was allowed to have.  Judge Ohta will grant giving the defendant a copy of the last minute orders.

A new pretrial hearing date is selected and the defendant is asked if that date is agreeable.  Gargiulo asks if that date is a Monday.  Judge Ohta answers him, "It's not a Monday."  The defendant agrees to the next pretrial date, and that's it.

At this point it is a waiting game for the defendant to be ready for trial.  It's my understanding that the case cannot move forward until the defendant states he is ready.  I think the biggest challenge the prosecution faces at this point is just getting the case to trial.

Next pretrial hearing is November 28th, 2012

Kelly Soo Park Pretrial 8; Lonnie Franklin, Jr., Pretrial 3

 Defense attorneys George Buehler, Mark Kassabian with 
defendant Kelly Soo Park, July 11th, 2012

October 24th, 2012
Two hearings in the same courtroom on the same day: Kelly Soo Park & Lonnie Franklin, Jr., aka "The Grim Sleeper."

Kelly Soo Park

Right when I'm about to leave for court, Mr. Sprocket decides he needs to check some fluid levels in the car.  This is why I'm fifteen minutes late for court.  I finally get into Dept. 109 at 8:45 AM.  I’m a bit discombobulated from being late and trying to get myself oriented to take notes as to who is here.

Virtually everyone is already here.  Kelly Soo Park is already in the gallery with, her large support group. Also here are Park’s defense attorneys, and Park's court assigned independent counsel, Franklin Peters, so she can sign away her rights.

Moments after I arrive, Park gets up out of the gallery and goes up to Franklin Peters.  He has a single sheet of paper in his hands.  He’s going over the document with Parks and she signs the paper.  Peters says something to Parks when she’s finished signing the document.  She gives him a big smile back and then takes her seat in the gallery.

Prosecutor Stacy Okun-Wiese and the defense counsel are in a polite conversation in the well.  There is a new camera crew of two to my right, but it’s not anyone I recognize. 

I believe it’s Kassabian who asks Peters, “Ready to go?” Peters replies, I guess so.”

Defense counsel Louisa Pensanti is here for Lonnie Franklin, Jr.  I saw her in the elevator lobby earlier.  More counsel arrive for other cases.  The deputy quickly wolfs down a banana at his desk and then takes clothing for a defendant into the jail area.

More people arrive, stop by the greet and hug Kelly Soo Park and her boyfriend Tom Chronister who are sitting in the row behind me, off to my left.

I think I recognize Ronnie Chase in the gallery sitting beside Tom Chronister, but I'm not positive.

At 8:55 AM, the court reporter starts to set up her equipment.

George Beuhler hands a single sheet of paper to prosecutor Stacy Okun-Wiese. There’s more chatter in the well.  Peters and Park’s defense team chat.  Okun-Wiese sits in the well chairs directly in front of the jury box.  More of Park’s supporters arrive.

The camera crew sets up to film the Lonnie Franklin, Jr. hearing.  More Park supporters arrive.  The courtroom gallery is a bit more packed than usual. I think there is another case that also will be heard this morning, and that's why I'm seeing so many unfamiliar faces.

Park’s case is called.  Kassabian and Buheler and Peters identify themselves for the record.  Stacy Okun-Wiese for the prosecution.

Judge Kennedy states she has in her hand a conflict of interest waiver dated today.  She identifies the document, stating there are ten items listed and after each one there are initials.  She asks Parks directly if these are her initials.  Parks replies, “Yes.”

Over and over, Judge Kennedy asks Park a series of direct questions.  It obvious from her tone she’s quite concerned about Park signing this document. She asks independent counsel Franklin Peters if he advised Parks about the conflict of interest issues.  He answers yes.

At some point Judge Kenned asks Parks if that's her signature at the bottom of the document.  She acknowledges she signed the document.

Judge Kennedy addresses Park. “You have the right to have conflict free counsel.  ... The conflict is real. ... (It) seems there’s no way around (this).”

Judge Kennedy addresses the issue of Park having counsel paid for by an unindicted co-conspirator. “That conflict exists. ... By waiving (your rights?) you’re not going to be at (?) ... You will not be able to claim conflict of counsel. ... Do you understand?”

Parks answers, “Yes.”

Judge Kennedy asks, “You discussed this with counsel?”

Parks answers, “Yes.”

I believe Judge Kennedy asks who prepared the document.  (The prosecution did.)  Okun-Wiese tells the court that the defense originally prepared a document.  Peters states that the last time he was in court he filed a document. Then he tells the court, “I was confronted with (an?) opposition and that (this document, prepared by DDA Eric Harmon) it wasn’t sufficient and that’s (why the new document is?) what was filed.”

 Okun-Wiese informs the court, “The people are not seeking any other documents (to be signed?) ...”

Then Judge Kennedy brings up a prior issue, that the defense will be seeking, a 1538.5 motion to suppress evidence. (I believe this is related to the 1101(b) witnesses, motion of prior defendant conduct, the prosecution introduced at a previous hearing.)

November 27th, 2012 is indicated as a return date to hear that motion and the pending discovery motion by the prosecution.

Judge Kennedy asks if there will be testimony.  I’m not sure who responds but I believe the defense states only moving papers will be presented. Judge Kennedy asks how long the defense feels they will need on that date.  One of the defense attorneys responds, “Fifteen to twenty minutes. (maybe) ... Perhaps an hour.  The court calendar is set at zero of 60 on November 27th.

Judge Kennedy asks Park, “Do you waive time?”  Park answers, “Yes.”  She’s ordered back on that date.

And that’s it for Park’s hearing, and most of the people in the gallery filter out.

Lonnie Franklin, Jr., aka "The Grim Sleeper" 
at a prior court hearing

Lonnie Franklin, Jr.
There are people in the gallery for a sentencing hearing.  And I’m wondering if that hearing might go first before Lonnie Franklin, Jr's hearing.

Beth Silverman arrives.  She’s wearing a lovely dark gray suit.  She hands papers to defense attorney   Pensanti. A tall gray haired man looks over Pensanti’s papers.  I’ve not seen him before.  He could be an investigator.

In the well, Beth Silverman is showing the court reporter some photos that are on her pink cased smart phone.  A few moments later, I can hear snatches of conversation Beth is having with Pensanti about potential return dates.  Beth then leaves the well and enters the gallery to sit and chat with a handsome suited bald-headed black man.

ABC 20/20’s Lisa Tomaselli arrived late and totally missed the Park hearing.  Franklin defense attorney Seymour Amster goes to the back chambers, possibly to use the restroom.

Sitting to my left is a Latino looking man with his mother.  He tells me his brother’s killer is being sentenced today.

Beth Silverman checks in with several family members to see how they’re doing.  The Franklin case will be held to first deal with the sentencing hearing.  The defendant who is going to be sentenced is brought out.

That defendant’s attorney makes a motion for a new trial.  The mother of the victim, “Paco,” shakes her head, sighs, as the defendant’s attorney argues points of evidence for a new trial.  The prosecutor on that case gets up to counter the defense arguments.  This goes on for some time, with questions back and forth between Judge Kennedy, the prosecutor and the defense attorney.  Kennedy tells the parties she needs to reread the entire trial.  It occurred some time ago and she’s had several trials since. “I’m really concerned about the proficiency of the corroboration (evidence).”

It looks like there won’t be a sentencing today.  The sentencing is held over until January 18th, 2012.

Judge Kennedy asks, “Are we ready on Franklin?”

The parties identify themselves for the record.  There’s a 1050 (document?) from the defense faxed to the court.

Silverman tells the court her concern is that she’s not convinced (trial) preparation is going on.  She explains to the court that there were procedures set up for the defense to test (ballistic) evidence. “None of that has taken place,” Sliverman tells the court. There’s been “ attempt to start testing the firearm (evidence) in this case.”

I believe it’s Silverman who states that she’s assuming the the defense would want to test other evidence, such as the DNA, in the case.  Silverman is also concerned about witnesses, waiting to testify.

(Motions (to?) continue to be filed by the defense under seal to document what they are doing.)

Judge Kennedy asks the defense what’s going on.  Amster states that they’ve dropped the ball.  That they “...will take responsibility on that.”

Amster mentions what the defense still needs to do, and that it involves not one piece of evidence, but several.  Supposedly, they’ve had experts on the case from the beginning on the ballistics. Amster states “The DNA, (we) will be a bit more cautions on (testing?). ... (Currently) doing research on DNA.”

Amster explains that one of the delays that they could not control is the defense’s penalty phase investigator got another job.  It was not their fault and they didn’t see this coming.  The biggest aspect of their case will be the guilt phase. The defense states they are still getting evidence from the prosecution as far as evidence goes.  Not the defense fault this is an old case.

Judge Kennedy asks when is the ballistic evidence going to be analyzed by the defense. 

I believe Amster answers, “When people approve the order and will be assigned by the court.”

Silverman responds, “I was informed by the lab nothing had been done.”

I believe the parties discuss the same procedures again for each piece of ballistic evidence to be taken out, the order signed by Judge Kennedy and then that evidence tested by the defense. 

Judge Kennedy advises the defense that the DNA testing takes longer than the firearm testing ... She asks Amster, “When Mr. Amster, will you know you will be seeking to retest?”  Amster responds, “I know we’ll be seeking to retest .... Will seek to retest in January. ... The delay is caution, and to ensure doing the right testing.”

Judge Kennedy, with a bit of frustration in her voice tells the parties, “I want to move this forward, but (I'm aware?) of a lot of evidence... you know more about that than I do. ... It’s time consuming. ... I don’t want you to ignore that.”

Apparently, the funds for the DNA testing by the county and the analyst assigned by the court is controlled by another judge.

Judge Kennedy continues, “But you need to get moving on that.”

The 987.9 motion, of getting experts appointed, that’s not an issue.  The hold up is, the defense states they are being cautious about the testing.

The defense wants to come back in January, on the 25th.  Judge Kennedy tells the defense, “We should come back in early December.  That’s time enough to get your experts appointed."  The next pretrial date is December 14th, and the case will be set at zero of 60 on that date.

Unfortunately, there's also a hearing in the Cameron Brown case on that date in Dept 107.  I'll probably go to that hearing because there are several motions that are going to be argued on that date.

That’s it.  I make my way back to the parking lot to drive home.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Christian-Newsom Case: A Note from David in TN


I Will Attend The Coleman Retrial
On Monday I will drive to Knoxville to attend the retrial of Vanessa Coleman for facilitating the rape and murder of Channon Christian. Coleman was acquitted of all charges concerning Christopher Newsom and was convicted of facilitation, along with robbery, of Channon Christian.

I will be away from my computer for around five days and I don't have a laptop. I will write about my notes on attending the trial for Trials & Tribulations the following week.

The trial will be streamed online. The Knoxville TV stations WBIR and WATE have live streamed the previous trials.

David in TN

Friday, November 9, 2012

Christian-Newsom Murders: Jury Selected in Vanessa Coleman's Retrial

 Vanessa Coleman, center, at jury selection for her new trial.


Jury selection took place Friday for the upcoming retrial of Vanessa Coleman in the torture-murder of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.

I followed Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Jamie Satterfield's tweets from the courtroom.

Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood started the proceedings with a speech on the civic responsibility of jury duty. The majority of prospective jurors ignored the speech and asked to be excused for hardship.

The jury pool is from Jackson, Tennessee in Madison County. Jackson is in West Tennessee, some 300 miles from Knoxville. Being on this jury means spending a week away from job and family. Blackwood ruled the jury must come from West Tennessee because of the extensive publicity the case has received.

Once, Vanessa Coleman gave Jamie Satterfield a mean look, according to a tweet by Ms. Satterfield.

The final panel of 12 jurors consisted of four black women, three black men, two white women, and three white men. Six alternates were picked. These are three white women, one white man, one black woman, and one black man.

Although the jury is majority black by seven to five, Coleman's defense attorney, Ted Lavit, accused the prosecution of bouncing blacks from the jury pool. Lavit made a "Batson challenge," accusing the state of excluding jurors for race alone.

Prosecutors Takisha Fitzgerald and Leland Price used seven out of eight peremptory challenges to exclude blacks but argued that each of them had a criminal record.

Judge Blackwood rejected Lavit's argument.

The panel chosen Friday will travel by bus to Knoxville on Monday and will be sequestered in a hotel.

Few potential jurors admitted to knowing about the case. One had seen the Nancy Grace program on the Christian-Newsom case the night before.

Following jury selection, Lavit again tried to prevent the panel from hearing anything about Christopher Newsom's death. Coleman was acquitted of all charges regarding Newsom's rape and murder and cannot be tried again on those counts. She is being tried for facilitation only in the crimes against Channon Christian because that was what she was convicted of in the first trial.

Blackwood ruled that one facilitation of felony murder charge against Coleman alleges Christian was killed during the kidnapping of Newsom. The state will be allowed to present evidence Newsom was carjacked and kidnapped.

"Mr. Newsom then falls away (from the state's case)," Blackwood said.

Opening statements are set for Tuesday, November 13. video

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Christian-Newsom Torture Murders: Vanessa Coleman Retrial

Vanessa Coleman at a prior court hearing.

This is a delayed post from David.  He originally wrote it on Oct. 26th, but I was dealing with a sick husband and trial coverage ground to a halt. Sprocket.

October 26th, 2012
On October 25th, 2012, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals ordered Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood removed from the cases of three of the four defendants in the January 2007 torture-murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.

There has been a series of hearings and decisions regarding the case since the original judge, Richard Baumgartner, was removed after he was discovered to be perpetrating crimes while on the bench.

The Tennessee Attorney General's office asked the appellate court to remove Blackwood from three of the cases on the grounds Blackwood was so upset over Baumgartner's misdeeds that he could not be objective.

The appellate court ruled a "reasonable" person would conclude Blackwood could not be objective and a new judge must be appointed.

"In summary, this Court acknowledges that Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood undertook difficult tasks in presiding over the cases involved in this appeal and the State prosecution of former Judge Richard Baumgartner. We have no doubt that Judge Blackwood subjectively has made every effort to approach these cases in an unbiased manner. We, however, are required to review the record to determine if Judge Blackwood's impartiality could reasonable be questioned by an objective person."

Blackwood took over the case when Baumgartner confessed in March 2011 to official misconduct for buying prescription drugs from a probationer in his court. Blackwood gave Baumgartner official diversion, which kept him out of prison and "spared his pension."

Baumgartner, coincidentally, is now on trial in federal court.

In December 2011, Blackwood ordered new trials for all four defendants. The numerous back and fourth decisions, along with an outburst in court by Blackwood, was enough to bring in a new judge to take a fresh look at the cases.

The state did not challenge the decision for a retrial for Vanessa Coleman or Blackwood's denison in that case. Her trial is still scheduled for next month. That may change after this ruling.

There is a chance the new judge will still order new trials for the other three defendants.

Here is a video report from WBIR with comments from the parents of the victims. It includes a clip of Blackwood's outburst in court several months ago.

November 3rd, 2012
At the last motions hearing for her upcoming retrial, Vanessa Coleman had a prison hair dye of "cherry red." Now, Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood has ordered Knox County Sheriff Jimmy Jones to allow a local private hairdresser to give Coleman a new look prior to next week's jury selection for her November 13 retrial.

At first, Sheriff Jones refused without a court order. Defense attorney Russell Greene went to Judge Blackwood, who obliged. Greene said Coleman's parents will foot the bill. 

November 8th, 2012
Here is a report on jury selection which takes place tomorrow. Opening statements are scheduled for Tuesday, November 13. I have a hotel room booked for five days.

David in Tennessee

I'm very excited that David will cover the first week of Vanessa's trial for T&T! Sprocket.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

2012 Vote

The T&T team would like to encourage you to get out and do something today. What ever you decide to do, make sure you do it while voting.

512 Paths to the White House. An interactive from The New York Times.

Fact Checking the Campaigns.  Did it work? (From the NYT)