Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Belated Merry Christmas 2013

Tree at the US Capitol Building, date unknown

UPDATED 12/26: spelling of Ms. Brazil's name
The T&T crew hopes everyone had a memorable holiday this year.

Since I am under the weather with a sore throat, we had a low-key celebration at home. Mr. Sprocket is the resident cook and this year he made an excellent turkey with chili from the local Indian store.

Trial Coverage Update
After my last post on December 10, I took a break from writing to sew holiday gifts for friends and family. I did step away from my sewing machine to attend a pretrial hearing for Gerhard Becker on December 11, and more of Joshua Woodward's prelim on December 16.  I hope to be finished sewing in the next day or two and I will update those stories over the next few weeks.

I have the rest of the Bryan Barnes and Javier Bolden prelim coming, as well as a story on DDA Deborah Brazil's December 11 swearing in ceremony to the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Sprocket Gift Wrapping Tip
If you run out of wrapping paper on Christmas eve, fabric works in a pinch.

Happy Holidays, and best wishes for the new year.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Christian-Newsom Torture-Murder Case: A Synopsis


On Saturday night, January 6, 2007, Channon Christian, 21, and Christopher Newsom, 23, were carjacked from the Washington Ridge Apartments in Knoxville, Tennessee. They were taken to a house on Chipman Street about three and a half miles away. 

Over the next several hours, Christian and Newsom were both raped, tortured, and murdered. Chris Newsom was dragged by a dog leash around his neck to a railroad track several hundred yards from the Chipman Street house. 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." and by unknown males. At the track, Newsom was shot three times, only the last was fatal. His body was set on fire, which destroyed the DNA evidence and made it impossible to identify which of the killers raped him. 

Mary Newsom, Chris' mother, wanted to see the body. The police would not let her. She put her arms around the body bag. 

Channon Christian's body was found in the house of Lemaricus Davidson, who is considered the ringleader of those involved. The five feet, eight inches tall Channon Christian was "crammed," according to the medical examiner in a garbage can. She was "hog-tied" with a plastic bag over her head. DNA evidence showed she had been raped vaginally and anally. Semen from Davidson's half-brother was found in her mouth. Her vaginal area had been beaten bloody, either kicked or by something used as a club. Bleach had been sprayed down her throat in an attempt to destroy DNA.

Channon Christian's Toyota 4Runner was found abandoned in the general area. It had been wiped down. However, an envelope was found with a fingerprint. When run through the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) database, it belonged to Davidson. This broke the case.

Without this one fingerprint, the murders might be unsolved to this day. 

Four people were arrested for the torture-murders. They were Davidson, his half-brother Letalvis Cobbins, George Thomas, and Vanessa Coleman, the lone female defendant. A fifth, Eric Boyd, was charged in federal court as an accessory for aiding Davidson after the crime.

According to Cobbins, Boyd provided the vehicle and took part in the carjacking. Boyd was not charged in the murders because he could not be placed in the Chipman Street house. 

The crime was called a "robbery" and a "random" event. However, the only things stolen were items in Channon's purse which were found in Coleman's possession. The Toyota was not kept even though it had a market value of $15,000 according to Channon's father, Gary Christian, who worked at a Toyota dealership. Nor did they try to ransom the victims whom the perpetrators thought were rich.

Here is Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Jamis Satterfield's account of what she thinks happened on Chipman Street. Satterfield believes Boyd raped Chris and that Coleman beat Channon's private parts. I agree with her on these points. I disagree when she writes of it as a "random carjacking." "Random" means it was accidental. The whole affair was very deliberate and as mentioned above, the car was not kept by the killers.

Eric Boyd was convicted in 2008 as an accessory and sentenced to 18 years in federal prison. 

Cobbins was convicted in August of 2009 and sentenced to life without parole. Davidson was convicted on October 28, 2009 and sentenced to death. Also in 2009, George Thomas was convicted and sentenced to life without parole. 

In 2010, Vanessa Coleman was acquitted of all charges regarding Christopher Newsom and of Channon Christian's murder. She was convicted of 17 facilitation charges against Christian and sentenced to 53 years. 

I was in the courtroom for three days of Vanessa Coleman's trial. It seemed to me that some of the female jurors felt sorry for Coleman. At the time, jurors were allowed to ask questions and I saw some pro-defense questions during police testimony. Coleman kept a journal and had some entries for the weekend of the murders. She wrote in part:
"Lets talk about adventures! I've had one HELL OF AN ADVENTURE since I've been in the big T.N.

HA! HA!"
The jurors had no questions about Coleman's diary.

In 2011, it was revealed that Richard Baumgartner, who presided over all four state trials, had been using illegal prescription drugs obtained from a probationer in his own court. He had used drugs during the Christian-Newsom trials.

Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, who replaced Baumgartner, overturned all four verdicts and said they must be retried. 

The Knoxville District Attorney General appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court and another judge, Walter Kurtz, ruled the Davidson and Cobbins verdicts would stand because of the DNA evidence. Also, Cobbins had testified. Judge Kurtz ordered new a new trial for George Thomas.

The retrial for Coleman had not been contested and took place in November of 2012 with Blackwood presiding. This time Coleman was convicted on 13 of 17 counts and was sentenced to 35 years in prison, somewhat less than the first time. 

She will be up for parole around five years from now. 

George Thomas was convicted for a second time on May 17, 2013. This time Thomas received a sentence of life with the possibility of parole. By law, he must serve at least 51 years.

For the parents of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, the second Thomas verdict made seven trials and over 300 court appearances. 

Let us hope the case is over.

David in TN

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Joshua Woodward Preliminary Hearing Day 4, Part II

Continued from Day 4.........

UPDATE 12/11: spelling, clarity, accuracy
December 9, 2013
When I arrive on the 7th floor, five members from Joshua Woodward's defense team are already here in the hallway.

8:40 AM
Dept. 51 opens and I take a seat in the gallery, second row.  A man from the district attorney's office brings a portable screen and sets it up in the jury box.

Janet Levine is wearing a sharp, brown winter suit.  The tailored jacket has a bit of a flair around the hips. Around her neck looks like a darker brown wool scarf. Levine's co-counsel, Megan Weisgerber is wearing an form-fitting medium gray dress and matching jacket. Weisgerber is an attractive woman with chin length, jet black hair. Judge Pastor's court reporter, Mavis, is setting up her equipment. The prosecution has not arrived yet.

8:50 AM
The defense team has neatly set up all their files on their table.  From where I'm sitting I can see six binders and various stacks of papers neatly laid out.   The court clerk and bailiff are having a conversation.  The defense brought with them several boxes of materials and a 32 bottle case of Aquafina water.

8:55 AM
Woodward enters with two more attorneys.  He sits with one of them in the second bench row on the defense side of the room.  The other lawyer sits in the row in front of me.

8:58 AM
DDA Habib Balian, DDA Marguerite Rizzo, Detective Fairchild and their witness, Dr. Kingston arrive. Dr. Kingston is wearing a double strand of pearls, a red sweater jacket with a stylish ruffle design and black slacks. DDA Rizzo has on a kelly green pea coat and I can't take my eyes off it. There's a blue and green silk like scarf around her neck.   Right after the prosecution arrives, Currie, Levine and the two prosecutors chat.  Not long after, another attorney on the defense team enters and sits in the row directly behind me.

9:05 AM
Woodward takes his seat at the defense table.

I'm still a little stuffy from a head cold over the weekend, but I'm hoping I won't need to cough too much.

9:05 AM
The case is called and counsel state their appearances. Before they begin, the people and the defense enter a stipulation of LAPD SID testing performed.  The parties stipulate that Aletha Bacon-Dillo, (sp?) a lab analyst performed testing on August 3, 2010.  Several evidentiary items were tested by the analyst, a pair of panties, white powder in a glass jar, several pills.  If called the witness would have testified that she was unable to verify the presence of misoprostol or (laprazolam?), because no certified tests are available to determine the presence of the named drugs.

9:12 AM
Ms. Kingston retakes the stand. She is still under cross examination. Currie moves the podium near the defense table.  He then places several binders at the witness box for Ms. Kingston to reference.

Currie starts off by asking if she's had any conversations with the prosecutors since she last testified. She did not have any conversations about the substance of her testimony. Since she last testified, she re-reviewed the report she submitted and the documents she was given by the prosecution.  She did not review any additional studies.

Currie then asks several questions about whether it's common for pregnant patients to have a pap smear test. It is. Then there are questions about Chlamydia and it's potential role in spontaneous miscarriage.

KC: Can a patient have Chlamydia and not be aware of it?
JK: Yes.
KC: Are you aware 80% of cases are asymptomatic?
MR: Objection!
JP : Sustained.

Currie then has the witness look at people's exhibit #10, Ms. Doe's medical records.

KC: Did she [Ms. Doe] have a pap smear as part of her prenatal tests?
JK: Yes.

The page with the test results of the pap smear and reviewed. In regards to testing for Chlamydia, the analysis page states "quantity not sufficient for analysis." It means the lab didn't have enough of that sample to render the test.  Currie asks Dr. Kingston when rendering her opinion if she considered Chlamydia as a risk factor.

JK: No because I did not see any test results that showed she had a positive test (for Chlamydia).

In Dr. Kingston's report, she said, "All her prenatals were normal and risk factors were negative." I believe Currie asks her if it's true she can't rule out that she had Chlamydia.  Dr. Kingston agrees but also adds, "But there was no testing that she was positive."  Continue reading.....

Monday, December 9, 2013

Joshua Woodward Preliminary Hearing, Day 4

Misoprostol, 100 micrograms tablet 
Tablets with the exact same appearance were seized in a search 
warrant executed at Woodward's Los Angeles restaurant, Oct. 2009.

Monday December 9, 2013
The preliminary hearing of Joshua Woodward will resume today in Dept. 51, Judge Michael Pastor's courtroom. Woodward is charged with four counts of attempted murder on a 13 week-old fetus.

Dr. Jessica Kingston, an obstetrician from San Diego and one of three expert witnesses the prosecution has called, and Detective John Shafia who investigated the case are expected to complete their cross examination today.

I will have an update at the noon lunch break.

12:45 PM
During the morning session Dr. Kingston completed her cross examination testimony and she was excused.  We heard cross examination testimony from Detective Shafia for about 15 minutes in the morning session.  His testimony will continue in the afternoon session.

I will need to get a confirmation on this, but it appears the testimony by Detective's Shafia and Fairchild on November 18, was not part of the preliminary hearing, but part of a separate inquiry into how some prosecution discovery items were not turned over to the defense in a timely manner.

I will work on getting my notes up covering today's proceedings later tonight.

1:31 PM
I've confirmed that the testimony on November 18th was not part of the preliminary hearing, but just a discovery hearing.

4:15 PM
Cross examination of Detective Shafia is not complete. It will continue next Monday, Dec. 16 and could continue into Dec. 17.

Continued in Day 4, Part II...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Joshua Woodward Preliminary Hearing, Day 3

Joshua Woodward at an earlier pretrial hearing

UPDATE 12/10: It was confirmed for me on 12/9 that this testimony was not a part of Woodward's prelim. It was only an evidentiary hearing. Sprocket.
UPDATE 12/3: spelling, clarity
November 18, 2013
8:18 AM 
I'm in the hallway of the 7th floor at the criminal court building, right outside Dept. 51, Judge Pastor's courtroom. Also in the hallway is one of Woodward's counsel. This is one of the attorneys that sat in the gallery during the first two days of testimony. He looks noticeably older than co-counsel of record, Kelly T. Currie. He has a pleasantly lined face with salt and pepper hair.

8:19 AM
Mavis, Judge Pastor's court reporter (I just adore Mavis), arrives and says hello. 

8:21 AM
I call Mr. Sprocket to tell him that my computer is still not "right" after his first repair attempt. It won't start up.  I spilled water on it and he applied gentle heat to try to dry it out. We got it to start after a while.  It was on the train ride downtown when I discovered I couldn't get it to boot up.

The 7th floor is virtually empty. We are the only two people at this end of the hall.

The salt and pepper attorney overhears my conversation with Mr. Sprocket. Smiling he says, "Can't live with them or without them.  Computers, not husbands."

It's very quiet. We are still the only two people at this end of the hallway.  Moments later, two more of Woodward's counsel arrive. All three attorneys move to the very end of the hall to chat.

Defense counsel Janet Levine is here. I overhear her ask the other female co-counsel if she is ready.  Now two more defense attorney's arrive. One of them is Kelly T. Currie.

8:42 AM
The bailiff opens Dept. 51.  A minute or two later the defense team goes inside.

8:43 AM
Joshua Woodward arrives with another attorney. His parents are not with him today.

8:45 AM
I'm inside Dept. 51.  Judge Pastor's court reporter, Mavis is setting up her equipment. Several of Woodward's attorneys are sitting in the first row. I take a seat in the second row and try to sit as close to in line with the witness box as possible.  During the first Phil Spector trial, Dominick Dunne liked to sit directly in line with the witness.

8:48 AM
Judge Pastor comes out from the back area. His clerk says hello and tells him they have "... the search warrant thing this morning." To the gallery, the clerk asks, "Do we have everyone?"  Ms. Levine answers, "The DA's not here yet."  I'm the only journalist in the room.

8:57 AM
Another case is called, the search warrant case.

8:59 AM
The prosecution team arrives. DDA Habib Balian, DDA Marguerite Rizzo and Detective Fairchild. Their witness, Detective Shafia is with them.  Woodward has three attorneys in the well and four in the gallery.

Judge Pastor goes on the record with the other case. It's about an attorney who was practicing law without a license.  The illegal attorney was representing clients who were in the country illegally. They are victims. They paid this attorney to represent them but their cases were never worked. The state bar has intervened. Some of the cases were never closed; never rendered. The cases involved people who were going to be deported.

Judge Pastor is concerned there may be statute of limitation issues for the victims.  Many of the victim/defendants didn't know they were victim's of fraud.

9:04 AM
DDA Balian motions to DDA Rizzo and Detective Fairchild to step outside the courtroom.  They all reenter the courtroom a short time later.

9:13 AM
While the other hearing is going on, DDA Balian moves to the jury box to sit beside Ms. Rizzo and converse privately.

Judge Pastor states they need to find out who notifies whom. He tells counsel that he's never run across this situation before. Judge Pastor is very concerned about the people (victims) who in good faith, consulted with someone that they thought was an attorney, on criminal matters.  "I can't imagine that the state bar hasn't dealt with this," Judge Pastor states. "This is very important. Everyday that goes by is a potential problem for litigants." Judge Pastor is not sure if they need a special master but definitely someone from the state bar.

One of the issues is, who can go through the defendant's files to determine 'who' might be a victim? Can the defendant's attorney's do that? Can the prosecution do that? Do they need a special master to do that? This is why Judge Pastor states they need a representative from the California State Bar to tell them.

The case is given a new date for the parties to return and for someone from the state bar to be present.

9:20 AM
The Woodward is case is called.  The podium is moved.  Counsel take their places at their respective tables.  The other female defense attorney, Megan Weisgerber is sitting with Ms. Levine at the defense table. Mr. Currie sits in the extra seats in the well while Ms. Levine and Ms. Weisgerber sit at the defense table. DDA Balian will continue with direct of Detective Shafia. Ms. Weisgerber will cross examine Detective Fairchild. Judge Pastor politely asks Mr. Currie if he wants to sit up front.  Mr. Currie indicates he is fine where he is.

John Shafia.
On October 30, 2013, Detective Shafia met with Mr. Balian and Ms. Rizzo.  He brought his entire copy of the case file with him. Shafia verifies that what he brought was everything on the case in his possession. I believe Shafia states that they went through to verify that everything Detective Shafia had in his case file was turned over to the prosecution.

Direct is finished and Ms. Levine steps up to cross Detective Shafia.

JL: ... want to make sure that all areas have been searched for all documents?
JS: Yes.
JL: ... talking about electronic documents that may (not?) exist on paper but on servers. ... In terms of (Brady ?) and (?)...
HB: I'm going to object to ... I don't know that this line of questioning ...
JP: Sustained.
JL: (I'm) going to question (you?) as to what steps you took to preserve ... [documents relating to the case].
HB: Objection!
JP: Over ruled.
JS: Do you want me to discuss all (the) steps (I took?) to document in this case? ...  Everything I turned over was recorded on CD's or paper or photographs.
JL: How do you preserve electronic data?
JS: It would be copied onto CD.
JL: How about CD?
JS: It would have been printed out and turned over and put in the (murder) book.

There are questions about Detective Shafia's documentation process. He states that on or about November 1, 2009, his files were turned over to Detective Fairchild. There was a meeting between Detective Fairchild and Shafia, and a copy of the file was turned over to Detective Fairchild. I believe Ms. Levine asks about the photos that were discovered on October (13? 30?), 2013.  Shafia states the original photos were transferred to CD and turned over.

Ms. Levine questions Detective Shafia about who he spoke to on October 30th and anything else he did. Ms. Levine hands the witness a report by Detective (Coreia?) in 2011. There are questions about when he received that document and when it was turned over to Detective Fairchild or the district attorney.

Shafia is next asked about an email between himself and the victim under a different email account name.  Shafia states he turned this email over to the DA but he doesn't remember when.  I believe the email contained a text message. The communication from Ms. Doe went to his LAPD email account.  Shafia is asked if this is the only email he received from Ms. Doe.

JS: I don't receive any emails from Jane. I recall some phone ...
JL: Is this the only text message or email?

Shafia states he did not preserve the text message between him and Ms. Do on the date Woodward was arrested. Shafia and Ms. Doe had personal text messages (using his personal phone, and not his LAPD issued phone) that were not preserved. He did not take screen shots. Shafia directed Officer Hernandez to take photos of other text messages on Ms. Doe's phone.

JL: Do you know if Ms. Doe erased or kept [that text message] on her phone?
JS: No.
JL: Do you know what she may have erased [in the way of] conversations or text messages with Joshua Woodward?
HB: Objection!
JP: Sustained.

I believe Ms. Levine states she would like to subpoena Mr. Shafia's phone records.

JL: Do you know if you sent texts to anyone else about the case?
JS: No.
JL: Did you send emails to Ms. Doe?
JS: No.

There are questions whether or not he used his personal email for work or business.  "No," Shafia responds. Questions if he used his (work?) phone for personal business. Next there are questions of preservation of evidence.

JL: Did you take Ms. Doe's computer and image her emails?
JS: No.
JL: Did you take her phone and take nay images beyond (those already taken?)?
JS: No.

Next are questions about what he did to preserve lab reports. I see the gray haired man who spoke to me the hallway hand a note to Mr. Currie.

JL: Are there any additional diagrams and or (writings?) that have not been disclosed?
JS: No.
JL: Did you look at Ms. Doe's computer for her search history?
JS: (No.)

JP: Detective Shafia, you've gone through Mr. Balian's (and?) your files as file maintenance by the prosecutor's office?
JS: Not sure.
JP: Have you looked at what the people have in their file?

Shafia states he compared from his book to the prosecution's book. It's a mirror image.  DDA Balian clarifies for the judge that the people's file is larger than Detective Shafia's, because their investigation went beyond Detective Shafia's.

It's not in my notes, but I remember Detective Shafia testifying about how some documents from the Woodward case were mistakenly filed in a totally different case that he was assigned.

This witness is finished and Detective Kimberly Fairchild is called as the next witness.

(Unfortunately, my notes do not reflect who presented Ms. Fairchild's testimony, but I believe it was Ms. Rizzo. Sprocket)

MR: On October 31, of this year, did you meet with Mr. (Balian?) and myself on this case for purposes of discovery?
KF: Yes.
MR: And what you had was everything in relation to discovery?
KF: Yes.
MR: Was some additiona information discovered that we didn't have? ... Was everything you discovered copied and made available?
KF: Yes.

Direct ends and cross begins by Megan Weisgerber.

MW: I want to know generally, what you did to prepare for today?
KF: I did not prepare.

There are questions about what she did to transition the case from Detective Shafia to herself. She met with Shafia. She did not see anyone take notes, only herself and Shafia.  When she met with Shafia, there was a copy of the file already made for her.

Judge Pastor asks a question as to how the detectives refer to their investigative file. It's referred to as a "murder book."

MW: Did you believe that you had received everything that (was?) involved in this case?
KF: Yes.
MW: Were you aware that photos were taken during the search warrant?
KF: Yes.
HB: (Objection!) Which photos?
MW: (Any photos.) ... Have you seen any photos in the execution of a search warrant?
KF: Yes.
MW: When
KF: I don't recall the exact date.
MW: Were there any photos you (just?) received ...?
KF: They were photos of (the?) backpack that were taken in the search warrant.

There are questions about how she takes notes. She listens to interviews and takes notes in a notebook.

KF: Sometimes in a bound notebook and sometimes on loose paper. ... I don't use electronic devices. I use hand written notes.
MW: Anywhere else that you store handwritten notes?
KF: In another notebook stored in my desk.
MW: do you ever store anything at home?
KF: No.
MW: Do you ever store anything in your car?
KF: No.

Detective Fairchild states she searched her desk last week and there's "nothing else" in the way of work notes related to this case.

MW: In this case, when you interview witnesses or prepare, did you store notes in any other way?
KF: No.

There is a question about how she decides what goes from her hand notes into her typed notes. Detective Fairchild explains that everything from her hand notes go into typewritten notes.

MW: Are any type written reports ever edited?
KF: No.
DDA: Objection! Vague.
JP: Sustained. Stricken.

Ms. Weisgerber asks if the witness has ever gone back and edited reports that she prepared.  Detective Fairchild states she only does that to verify spelling and grammar. Reports are saved to the LAPD server.

MW: Did you search the server (before appearing today?) to ensure everything was turned over?
KF: Yes.
MW: When did you do that?
KF: Last week.

She ensured everything was turned over to the DA's office.  There is something that she did not send (via CD?). There's no electronic version of the chrono log on the LAPD (servers).  Some of the chrono is typed, some is hand written. (I've seen this in other chrono logs I've had the opportunity to look at. Sometimes notes are typed; sometimes hand written. Sprocket.)

MW: What do you put on the log?
KF: Everything related to the investigation.
MW: So everything that pertains to this case?
DDA: Objection!
JP: Sustained.
MW: Are all interviews you (obtained?) with witnesses, are contained in the log?
KF: I believe so.
MW: Is... are all of (your?) conversations with Ms. Doe noted on the detective log?
KF: No.
MW: Are there any conversation you had that are not on the detective log?
KF: Yes.

Detective Fairchild explains. Ms. Doe would call and ask how the case was going.

KF: I didn't feel they were relevant to the investigation.
MW: Do you recall approximately how many communications you received from Ms. Doe ... that are not documented? (miss answer)

Ms. Weisgerber asks how often she turns in (updates?) to the detective logs (to the prosecution?)?
KF: I think there have been about two.
MW: Since you last turned one (in), has there .... anything that has happened since that last time you turned over to the DA)?
KF: No.

Detective Fairchild states she hasn't searched other case files for notes on this case because she doesn't have a problem identifying different case files. She is asked if she searched any information for preparation in this case.

KF: No.
MW: Did you conduct a search for any other type of communication, texts, email, with other law enforcement investigators? (miss answer)

MW: Did you search for documents related to communication with witnesses or the coroner?
KF: No.
MW: Do you (recall? received?) the investigation report by Detective Coreia?
KF: Yes.
MW: Do you ... Do you have a personal email account?
DDA: Objection!
JP: Sustained.
MW: Have you ever used your personal email account or phone ...
DDA: Objection! Over broad.
JP: Sustained.
MW: Have you had any communication on your personal email, or use your personal computer or personal cell phone to do any (police work? investigation?)?
KF: No.
MW: Do you have an (?undist?) as to Brady materials?
KF: No.
MW: Is there anything in your files that would (?) your credibility and investigation in this case?
KF: No.

MW: Are you in possession of any substantive documents, interviews, ...
DDA: Objection! Broad.
JP: Sustained.
MW: Are you currently in possession of any documents related to any (investigation?) ...
(miss answer)

Cross is finished and redirect begins.
There is an initial question I believe, about her personal email account.

MR: Are you in possession of any (interviews) of witnesses, or statements of witness or piece of evidence related to this case on any work phone or in any work format?
KF: No.

The photos of the backpack that was seized in the search warrant are discussed, and what she remembers what the photos were of.

There were telephone calls to Ms. Doe but not interviews.

I believe redirect is finished and the people state there is no additional evidence to turn over to the defense.  Ms. Levine mentions something about a "follow-up letter to the DA."

Judge Pastor then tells the parties that what he would like to do now, is take in writing, a waiver execution in open court so that Mr. Woodward doesn't have to fly around the country.  Ms. Levine is going over with her client the waiver, so that he doesn't have to come to every court appearance where he is not needed.  Ms. Levine tells the court, "We have read it and Mr. Woodward has signed."

Judge Pastor advises the defendant. "The law requires that you be present ... required scheduling ... motions ... do you know and understand these ... ?" "Yes," Woodward replies.

Judge Pastor replies, "I understand that you may not be living locally. The law allows that your attorney can stand in for you. Do you understand that?"  "Yes, your honor."

The waiver of the defendant's personal presence.  Judge Pastor reads from the waiver. (Defendant) "... agrees that his (rep?) is (rep?) by attorneys. ... It's at discretion of the court to to excuse his presence. ... You're still on bond. ... Did you affix your signature?"

There are more questions that the defendant answers 'yes' to. If he understands, did he date and sign the document. His counsel, Ms. Levine states she dated and signed the waiver.  There are a few other comments, and then the next return date is selected. Monday, December 9th at 9:00 Am.

The next thing discussed are the motions to suppress the statements made by the defendant. I believe those motions will be argued on the 9th or after the prelim is completed.  On the 9th, they will finish the cross of Dr. Kingston and then the cross of Detective Shafia. I believe Detective Fairchild will be last.  The people will not call Detective Hernandez for the prelim.

There is an inquiry about whether or not one (the defense?) has looked over the LAPD SID investigation, [the lab work at Science Investigation Division (SID) on the case] or any problem calling witnesses. I believe the defense states they haven't decided.  Judge Pastor orders the defendant back on December 9th at 9 AM.  And that's it.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving 2013

 "Bronze" turkey (Wikipedia)

UPDATE 11/29: clarity, accuracy of page load activity
T&T Gives Thanks
As we come closer to the end of 2013, Thanksgiving is a time where our nation looks back on the many things we have to be thankful for. I am thankful that T&T continues to be recognized as a respected news source for gavel to gavel trial coverage.

Within the next couple of days, T&T's page loads will pass the 2,550,000 mark.  It's been 22 months since Stephanie Lazarus was convicted, and almost 6 months since Kelly Soo Park was acquitted. However, those two cases still draw a considerable amount of T&T's traffic. Many thanks to T&T readers who continue to support and appreciate our work. 

Recently, I've been trying to put up more "Quick Links" archival pages of past cases that T&T contributors have covered. You can now find in one place (right side of the page), links to the complete coverage of all the high profile cases T&T has covered.  Quick Links pages that still need to be completed are Phil Spector 1, Casey Anthony, and Mark Jensen trial.

What's Ahead for Trials in 2014
It looks like the Gerhard Becker case will go to trial in early January 2014. Sources tell me this case could take as long as six to eight weeks and I don't know if I can devote that much time to the case. I plan on attending opening statements once a jury is selected.

From the last pretrial hearing in the Cameron Brown case, if there are no further bumps in the road, that case will start sometime in April 2014. The Brown case is my top priority case and the one I've been waiting on the longest.

The Michael Thomas Gargiulo case is most likely, a year away from trial. Once the prosecution has turned over all it's discovery, it will be interesting to see what motions Gargiulo files in the months ahead.

It appears the Ka Pasasouk case will go to trial faster than some of DDA Akemon's other cases I've been following (Gargiulo, Barnes & Bolden)

There are a couple of other interesting cases that I might pick up. The Alberd Tersargyan case and the Samuel Little case.

Future of T&T
For over five years, T&T has brought our readers unparalleled, advertising free, trial coverage from inside the courtroom. During the Lazarus trial, T&T put a donation link on the blog. The generous donations from T&T readers during the Lazarus and Park trials have helped to offset some of my travel and court expenses. However, Mr. Sprocket picks up the rest.

For 2014, T&T will be exploring other avenues to make T&T self supporting and profitable. Advertising and sponsorship are just some of the ideas that we will be looking at in the months ahead.

In closing, T&T would like to wish everyone a safe and memorable holiday season this year.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Michael Gargiulo Case: Pretrial Hearing 13, Part II

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, possibly on arrest date.

Complete Case Coverage

Continued from Gargiulo Pretrial 13.....

November 22, 2013
Mr. Sprocket drove with me down to court today. It was a quick, easy drive.

Up on the 9th floor, the hallway is pretty empty when we arrive. Not long after, a large family, almost two dozen people arrive and wait quietly on the hall benches.  When DDA Daniel Akemon arrives, I introduce him to my husband. We have a quick chat about the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination.  While we are waiting Judge Ohta leaves his courtroom.  DDA Akemon greets him as he passes.

8:50 AM
We're inside Dept. 108.  Judge Ohta is back inside his courtroom.  LA County Sheriff Detective Mark Lillenfield is here. I first saw Detective Lillenfield testify in the Phil Spector trial. Not only is he involved in the Gargiulo investigation, he had a small part in the Cameron Brown case.  DDA Garrett Dameron, DDA Akemon's co-counsel, is not here for today's hearing.

As soon as we take a seat in the second row, Mr. Sprocket points out a large bowl of candy on the court reporter's desk. He wants to know if he can go up there and get a piece of candy. I have to tell him "No, you can't."  I remind him that he can't have his cell phone out when Judge Ohta takes the bench.  There is a suited gentleman with a briefcase sitting in the back row.

There is a female prosecutor sitting at the people's table, most likely for another case.  I overhear that Gargiulo's case will be heard first. Judge Ohta, still out of his robes, chats with the woman at the prosecution table. He then leaves the bench.  DDA Akemon drops off a stack of papers on the defense table. These documents will go directly to Gargiulo.   Judge Ohta asks DDA Akemon if Mr. Filipiak will be here today.  Akemon responds, "No, your honor." The pretty court reporter comes out and starts setting up her equipment.

8:58 AM
Judge Ohta has put on his robe and takes the bench. We are now waiting for Gargiulo to come out. Wheneve Judge Ohta takes the bench, his black robe looks dark brown to me under the florescent lighting.  I whisper to my husband to keep his eyes on the door off to our right where Gargiulo will emerge.

Once Gargiulo sits at the defense table, he gives a quick look back to the gallery. Mr. Sprocket whispers to me that Gargiulo specifically looked back at me. I don't believe that's true, however, I can't recall the last time that I saw Gargiulo look back at the gallery.  The other possibility, is that Gargiulo was looking for his other court appointed investigator.

The man sitting in the last row of the gallery steps up and stands beside Gargiulo in the well.  In a prior pretrial hearing, Gargiulo had told Judge Ohta that he needed a new investigator because the woman who was doing research had been on vacation for a month and (I believe) was also studying for the bar. This must be the new investigator Gargiulo has been assigned.

It's my understanding that the US Supreme Court ruled that defendants facing the death penalty (and typically unable to pay for their own counsel) should have two defense attorneys and two investigators. I believe the reasoning behind it is, that a defendant (whose defense counsel just lost the case on the guilt phase) should not have the same attorney then arguing before the jury to spare the defendant's life in the penalty phase. Since Gargiulo chose to represent himself, he doesn't get a second counsel, but he does still get two investigators.

There are two casually dressed young men sitting on the bench to our left.  They are engrossed with their smart phones with in-ear headphones.  The man beside Mr. Sprocket, is nervously tapping his leg and it's causing the bench to vibrate a bit. It's driving Mr. Sprocket crazy and he wants us to move to a different row.  I tell him he's just going to have to deal with it. We're not moving since the judge is about to take the bench.

We go on the record in People v. Gargiulo and the appearances are documented.  The investigator who joined counsel in the well states his name as Chris Nicely. Judge Ohta states for the record that as of today the case calendar is zero of 90.  I believe Judge Ohta asks DDA Akemon if he has turned over any more discovery to the defendant.

DDA Akemon states that he has delivered document pages number 28,168 through 28,600 to the defendant.  Akemon states he has also provided a copy of the papers to defense investigator Christian Filipiak.  Judge Ohta asks, "Do you have that in front of you, Mr. Gargiulo?"  "Yes, I have," Gargiulo responds.

Judge Ohta notes, "Last time ... in court, ... Mr. Akemon, you filed a (bound? large?) volume, ... 402 Motion in Limine.  In terms of the discovery process, are we (close?)?  Akemon responds, "Almost, your honor. ... We are epecting a report from an expert in mid January."  Akemon suggests that they come back in late January.  "When that happens, the discovery process, ... (will be) more or less complete," Akemon adds.

Judge Ohta comments that there are quite a few documents to look through in that last motion the people filed. He then asks DDA Akemon about the report he's waiting on. "The expert is preparing a crime scene linkage report," Akemon explains.  Judge Ohta then addresses the defendant, explaining to him that he also has a discovery obligation under 1054, if he has something to turn over to the prosecution.

Judge Ohta then asks Gargiulo once the prosecution hands over it's last discovery, "Do you have any idea in your mind... [how long you will need to prepare?]..?  I believe Gargiulo responds "At least within a year. ... I don't really have a date. ... I have a lot of motions to file. ... [there's] lots of discovery."  Gargiulo tells the court there are things he has asked for, things that the DA says he doesn't have, so he's trying to find them. I believe he states he's issued subpoena's, but nothing has come back on them yet.

Then Judge Ohta asks the defendant if he truly plans to go forward with representing himself. "In my years of experience as a judge, I've dealt with many pro per's. ... Some try to see it (all the way through) [to trial] ... and some see it .... I've had many who ... had to gain control of the case. ... Some I think (always?) ... to do it ... and some (?) before finding ... thinking that (they) can prolong the case and then have an attorney step in. .... I just want to make sure this is something you've come do on your own."

I believe Gargiulo replies, "Yes."

Judge Ohta continues, "I don't want to wait a year then you relinquish, and then (ask for an attorney)."  Gargiulo replies, "Your honor. That's not my intention."

Gargiulo explains to the court that he has a conflict with (?) He's not going to trial with an attorney he has a strong conflict with. (I believe that Gargiulo is referencing his former court appointed attorney, Charles Lindner. Then he goes into a long explanation that he's had a (recent?) conversation with another attorney (Gayle?) Rubin, who was also assigned to his case but that counsel had to drop out due to financial difficulties. So Rubin had to file a conflict and was taken off. Gargiulo kept in contact with Rubin, who told him that at any time he would step in and take over as first chair.

Judge Ohta explains to Gargiulo that he's not involved with that. "I'm not privy to that or am I concerned about that. ... What I'm concerned is keeping the trial on track and not derailed. ... I don't want to see it hamstrung. ... Mr. Akemon seems reasonable."  I believe Gargiulo states that's (derailing his trial?) not his intention.

A date to return is chosen: Friday, January 31, 2014.  Judge Ohta gets Gargiulo's waiver to have his trial within 90 days of today's date.

At the last moment, Gargiulo addresses the court. "Someone told me that you might be leaving. Someone told me that you applies to the California Supreme Court."  Judge Ohta responds, "No. Where did you hear that? ... I'm still here."

We're done and the court goes off the record.  DDA Akemon informs the court that Mr. Gargiulo signed for the discovery he handed over today.   Judge Ohta addresses Gargiulo. "Sounds like, Mr. Gargiulo, you want me to do your case?"  Gargiulo replies, "I do."

The defendant is taken back into custody. In the well, DDA Akemon and Gargiulo's new, second investigator shake hands and introduce themselves. They have a short chat before exiting the courtroom. Once Mr. Nicely leaves the courtroom I stop him to ask for his business card so I can get the correct spelling of his name.

And that's it for this hearing.

P.S. I almost forgot to mention that I asked Mr. Sprocket what he thought of Gargiulo. Mr. Sprocket thought Gargiulo's sideburns went well with his long face. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Kelly Soo Park Trial: Synopsis Part IV -- Non-Admitted Evidence via Pretrial Motions

 Juliana Redding, undated photo


UPDATE: spelling, clarity
On June 4th, 2013, a jury found Kelly Soo Park not guilty of the murder of Juliana Redding.  Redding was found strangled to death in her Santa Monica apartment on March 16, 2008. Park was arrested for Redding's murder over two years later.

Juliana Redding's living room where prosecutor's believe 
Juliana fought for her life.

After the trial was over, I promised T&T readers that I would present a synopsis of the trial to help them understand the jury's verdict. Many readers did not understand the verdict when the state presented evidence that Park's DNA was found on several items, including the victim. Criminalists testified at trial that Park's DNA was found around Juliana's neck, on the T-shirt Juliana was wearing at the time of her death, on her cell phone left on a bedside table, as well as on a stove knob in the kitchen.

This is my last post in a four part series, that gave a detailed, post-trial analysis of the case. Part IV covers pre trial motions argued before trial, as to the admissibility of evidence one side or the other, wanted to introduce.

Special thanks and shout-out to my fellow journalist Lonce LaMon of for her assistance in purchasing motions as well as photographing the evidence once the trial was over. You can see more of the exhibits in the Part III posts. I have purposefully not published a photo of Juliana as she was found out of respect for her family and friends.

Tonight, CBS 48 Hours will profile the murder of Juliana Redding and the trial of Kelly Soo Park  who was charged with her murder. All three major networks had producers who attended pretrial hearings and attended most or some of the trial. (T&T was the only source for daily updates on the trial. T&T also reported the verdicts before any other news source. Sprocket) Journalists for NBC and CBS worked together to try to get Judge Kennedy to approve video taping of witness testimony. For the court to agree to that request, Judge Kennedy wanted the network to mount cameras on the wall.  The problem is, those cameras are not something the networks readily have at their disposal, and the daily cost of one camera is several thousand a day. Consequently, only opening statements and closing arguments were video taped.

I knew something was in the works when respected LA Times reporter Jack Leonard sent out this tweet:

Leonard is an excellent journalist and that was most kind of him. (It's a good bet that CBS has an arrangement with the LA Times to feature their journalists on cases they profile.) Not long after, former prosecutor Alan Jackson made a post about the upcoming episode on his Facebook Page.  The initial prosecutors, Jackson and his co-counsel at the time, Eric Harmon (now Judge Harmon),  probably know the case facts as well as DDA Stacy Okun-Wiese, who prosecuted Park.

I will be most interested to see if CBS producers were able to track down any of the jurors and get them to appear on camera. After the verdicts were read in court, the jury asked to be escorted out of the courthouse via a private elevator.  Back on June 13th, a T&T reader left a comment with information about the jury's verdict. Since the commenter asked that I not publish the comment, I have honored that request.

Throughout my coverage of the trial, several people who knew Kelly Soo Park over a significant portion of her life, contacted me and shared what they knew about her. Unfortunately, every single person spoke off the record and were not willing to share this information publicly.

Kelly Soo Park Trial Synopsis
Part I Opening Statements
Part II Prosecution Witnesses 1-10
Part II Prosecution Witnesses 11-18
Part II Prosecution Witnesses 19-21
Part II Final Prosecution & Defense Witnesses
Part III Prosecution Opening Argument
Part III Defense & Prosecution Closing Argument
Part III Additional Arguments to Jury

Before the trial even started, both sides presented motions to admit or exclude evidence at trial. Here's brief review of some of the more significant motions. 

James Bond Girl - Defense Motion to Exclude
From the moment Park was arrested, news agencies were reporting that Dr. Munir Uwaydah --the only connection between Park and Juliana-- had bragged to Juliana's father, Greg Redding that he had an enforcer, a female "James Bond" who would do his bidding. The public heard about this alleged statement but the jury didn't.

Dr. Uwaydah was not on trial; Kelly Soo Park was. Judge Kennedy ruled that Dr. Uwaydah's statement to Greg Redding could not be admitted because it was hearsay.

1101b Evidence People's Motion to Admit Other Conduct -- Defense Opposition Motion
The people alleged "The defendant has a history of threatening and intimidating individuals who have an ongoing dispute with her employer, Dr. Uwaydah." The people had two instances of this type of conduct they wanted to introduce at trial.  This evidence would have supported their theory of the case that Park was acting on the orders of Dr. Uwaydah because of the failed business venture with Juliana's father, Greg Redding.

Judge Kennedy ruled that this evidence was inadmissible. With this ruling, the people lost their ability to present to the jury their theory of Park's true relationship with Dr. Uwaydah. In closing arguments, the defense told the jury that there was no evidence presented that Park had any personal desire to harm Juliana, or that she had the murderous heart, capable to carry out such a violent act.

Dr. Uwaydah's Alleged Criminal Conduct -- Defense Motion to Exclude evidence of Uwaydah's Departure -- Defense Motion to Exclude Evidence of Fraud
The defense filed a motion to excluded references to alleged criminal conduct by Dr. Uwaydah. Dr. Uwaydah was not on trial, so it was not surprising to me that Judge Kennedy ruled this evidence was inadmissible.  The defense also argued to exclude references to when Dr. Uwaydah fled the country. Judge Kennedy ruled that there could be more than one reason for why Dr. Uwaydah fled, so that evidence was also excluded.

Drugs Found in Park's Possession During Arrest -- Defense Motion to Exclude
When Park was arrested with Ronnie Case, police "...found several bottles of prescription drugs in the bed of the truck [they were in when arrested], carrying the names of various doctors and various patients." Judge Kennedy ruled for the defense and this evidence was not admitted at trial.

John Glimore's Alleged Conduct & Statements --
Defense Motion to Admit Evidence of Third Party Culpability
The defense tried to present evidence to the jury that John Gilmore could have been the individual who killed Juliana Redding.  Gilmore was an on again, off again boyfriend of Juliana. Witnesses allegedly had seen him become violent against objects (furniture, etc.) when he argued with the victim.  The defense argued to have another girlfirend of Gilmore's, "M.A." testify about alleged violent conduct against her (choking) and statements he made to her about Juliana.  The defense also argued to present evidence of other acts by John Gilmore to show his violent nature.  The defense also filed a supplemental statement by defense counsel Mark Kassabian to support the 3rd Party Culpability evidence.

Judge Kennedy ruled that this evidence did not meet the standard of 3rd Party Culpability, and was excluded at trial.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Michael Gargiulo Case: Pretrial 13 & JFK Assassinated 50 Years Ago

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, after his arrest in 2008

Friday, November 22, 1963
Our nation looks back fifty years today, to remember the death of our 35th president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  As a young child, that day is seared in my memory because it was also my birthday.  I remember being sent home from elementary school. I didn't get to pass out the lollipops I had brought for my classmates. In my mind, I can still see the US flag in our classroom that we said our pledge of allegiance to, draped in black. When my mother got home from work, she took me with her to the post office to pick up a birthday present my father had mailed me. It was a small ceramic figurine, a princess with the month November at the base. I can still see the pain that was etched on people faces, many uncontrollably sobbing. Walking past the news stands, I remember seeing JFK DEAD in black type that looked like it was five inches tall.  Ever since that day, I've felt a connection and admiration of the man who died on my birthday.

Friday, November 22, 2013
There is a pretrial hearing in the Michael Gargiulo case today. In California, Gargiulo is alleged to have killed Ashely Ellerin in 2001, Mario Bruno in 2005, and the attempted murder of Michelle Murphy in 2008.

Today is also our 12th wedding anniversary. Mr. Sprocket is coming to court with me this morning. After the hearing, we'll be helping my friend and author Matthew McGough with some last minute research. Then it's off to celebrate.  I will have an update on the Gargiulo hearing over the weekend.

Continued in Gargiulo Pretrial 13, Part II.....

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Det. Stephanie Lazarus - A Vintage Video

I promised T&T readers after the Stephanie Lazarus trial that I was working on additional stories related to her case. I’ve been busy covering other cases, and helping Mr. Sprocket with a long overdue project. However, I haven’t forgotten my promise to get back to the Lazarus case. This is the first of two stories. I hope to post the second before the holidays.

Not long ago, I heard an intriguing rumor about Stephanie Lazarus -- that sometime during her LAPD career, Lazarus had appeared in uniform on a TV game show. There was no mention of it during Lazarus' trial, or in any media reports I've seen. When I began my research, I wasn't sure if the rumor was true. Then I found this clip:

For those of you who haven't seen Lazarus' pre-arrest interrogation video, and may not recognize her, she is the officer holding the oversize check for charity.

I believe the episode aired on May 26, 1995. If so, Lazarus had just made detective. When this episode taped, nine years had passed since Sherri Rae Rasmussen's murder.

This clip is the only part of the episode I’ve been able to find. If someone has a complete copy of the episode, please contact me. T&T will honor all requests for confidentiality.

Cameron Brown 3rd Trial, Pretrial 13 & Mark Berndt Takes A Plea

Inspiration Point, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Lauren Serene Key, 4, fell or was thrown off this cliff Nov. 2000

UPDATED 11/22: spelling, clarity
Friday, November 15th, 2013
On Thursday, I received the 'advisory' from the District Attorney's office that there would be a pretrial hearing in the Mark Berndt case in Dept. 107 on Friday morning. When the district attorney's office sends out a notice like this to the media, it's a good bet that the defendant is taking a plea. Berndt, a Miramonte Elementary School teacher was arrested in January 2012 after a film processor notified police about images involving blindfolded children. T&T had reported on the Berndt case shortly after he was arrested. I wondered if the Brown case would go first or not.

When I arrive on the 9th floor of the downtown criminal court building, there's already a large media presence waiting outside Dept. 107.  I recognize a few local television on air personalities like NBC4's Toni Guinyard and Carlos Granda. Also in the crowd was a CNN reporter Lindy, who I met during one of the Spector trials.

Cameron Brown's wife Patty was waiting on a hallway bench. I made a point to say hello and tell her that she looked lovely in her wedding photo she provided for the recent Huffington Post article about her husband's case. I believe she asked me what all the media was here for and I told her it had to do with Mark Berndt, an elementary school teacher charged with lewd acts involving children that he labeled "tasting games."

A little after 8:30 AM, Judge Lomeli's bailiff (the same bailiff who was assigned to Judge Fidler's court in Spector 1), tells the group in the hall that the media will be allowed in first. We're asked to line up and show our media badges. I don't have a badge, but I'm hoping the bailiff will let me in anyway.  When I get to the door I tell him I don't have a badge but that I'm recognized by the court. Thankfully the bailiff tells me, "I know you," and I'm allowed in with the other journalists.

Inside Dept. 107, we're told to sit only in the first two rows. I get a seat in the second row behind City News reporter Terri Keith and the long-time Associated Press reporter. I happened to mention to Lindy and her associate (who were sitting to my left) that I was here for another case, Cameron Brown.  The gentleman to my right mentioned that his paper covered the Brown case, or rather his former associate, Denise Nix did.  I have read many articles by Daily Breeze reporter Larry Altman, but this is the first time I got to meet him in person.  Altman covers crime and courts for the South Bay area. I tell Altman that Nix did a phenomenal job covering the second trial closing arguments. The best I'd ever seen.

8:38 AM
DDA Craig Hum arrives and checks in with Judge Lomeli's clerk, David. With all this media here and the camera crews set up in the jury box, I'm thinking that Brown's hearing will be after Berndt's. DDA Hum is chatting with an attorney in the well that I later learn is Berndt's counsel.  There's lots of bustling going on in the gallery and the well.  Pat Kelly from the Public Information Office is here giving instructions to the photographers in the jury box.  The bailiff is chatting with the DDA on the Berndt case. Familiar faces, but I don't have names to go with them.

The first two rows in the gallery are jammed with media.  Once they were filled, then the bailiff allowed the public in the last two rows. DDA Hum comes over and speaks to Terri Keith. Hum explains that he told Judge Lomeli at the last Brown hearing that the court can't do a Marsden hearing when competency hasn't been decided.  Evidently Hum was wrong. The Supreme Court says you can. So Hum went back to Judge Lomeli on that issue.

8:40 AM
I learn from other journalists there were three DDA's on the Berndt case. Those of us in the second row get the names of the prosecutors from Terri Keith. If there's anyone who is a walking encyclopedia of significant cases and the names of the prosecutors on them, it's Terri Keith. DDA Gloria Marin is wearing the navy jacket. DDA Allison Meyers is in gray. DDA Darci Lanphere, wearing the green skirt, was on the case earlier but she is in a different unit now.  Some of the reporters ask about the Brown case and what his hearing is for.  The courtroom is packed with victim's parents, attorneys representing the families of the victims and more media. The sheriff's are setting up more chairs in the courtroom.  They are even considering putting people behind the photographers and video camera in the jury box.  We are told that the parents will be giving interviews on the 12th floor after the hearing.

Now Judge Lomeli's regular bailiff is addressing the media. His priority is to maintain court (comportium? decorum?). "We all know why we're here. ... My priority is the court decorum." If there are problems, the courtroom will be closed (to the public). "Those of you not in the media, no cell phones. Children, if they make noise, or you can't keep your composure, leave. ... we'll try to let you back in.  ... Everyone understand?"

Now a female deputy gets up to address the crows in Spanish. Then the court's Spanish interpreter starts speaking from the far side of the room and the deputy stops.

9:08 AM
Cameron Brown's defense attorney arrives and chats briefly with DDA Hum. There appeared to be a bit of a shock on Aron Laub's face when he entered, obviously unaware of the other hearing.

There are six sheriff's deputies inside Dept. 107 now.  It's confirmed. The Brown hearing will be after the Berndt hearing.  DDA Hum and Mr. Laub exit the courtroom.

9:22 AM 
It looks like things might get started soon. Berndt is brought out.

Mark Berndt Hearing

Defense attorney Manny Mendrano, left, Mark Berndt

Berndt is in an orange jumpsuit. People in the gallery sitting behind me start to weep. It's difficult to ignore the sound of their pain.

Judge Lomeli is on the bench. Counsel state their appearances for the record. Judge Lomeli asks, "I understand this is going to be a plea, is that correct?" I miss getting who answers him. Judge Lomeli asks the defendant, "Mr. Berndt, do you wish to be heard regarding sentencing at this time?"  His defense counsel answers the court, "Mr. Berndt has authorized me to speak on his behalf."

"Mr. Berndt expresses his thanks to the court and the prosecutor for the utmost professionalism in the year we have been working on this."  ... As you know, your honor, a case of notoriety or a high profile case, even when each side reach a decision not to speak to the media, there are leaks and innuendo, and frankly, there are misstatements. "We are here to set the record straight, " Mendrano continues.

Berndt sat looking straight ahead while his counsel spoke. Mr. Mendrano then turned to the gallery and addressed the gallery. "Mr. Berndt is profoundly sorry. ... He (has?) profound remorse for any pain and discomfort that he may have brought any victims and family members."

There are some statements about being concerned with other factors.  Mr. Berndt taught for over 30 years. He was a dedicated educator, well respected by teachers and peers at school.  He was loved by many.  After his arrest in January 2012, Mr. Berndt received a multitude of letters from the students and (other children?).  He cared for them and they cared. He cared for the many ... they cared for him.  "The last thing Mr. Berndt wanted to see was 23 child victims walk to that witness stand. And he didn't want that to happen. ... He readily admits to the 23 counts. ... Close with this. ... want to be very clear about this .Mr. Berndt is apologetic and remorseful for any conduct he engaged in that brought disrespect to the school."

Judge Lomeli asks the people if they wish to be heard on sentencing.  The people thank the court as to how they are handling this matter. One of the prosecutors states, "We are pleased with the defense position and are grateful that 23 children will not have to come forward."  Judge Lomeli states, "It's my understanding that is the people (?) that there will be several impact statements?" The people reply, "Yes, your honor."  Judge Lomeli states that they can do that now, or just before sentencing. The people state they would like it just before sentencing.

The defendant waives time for arraignment and judgement. Before the court will impose sentence, the court will turn to the people for the appropriate time to present impact statements.  The people have one house keeping matter, regarding the correct spelling of a name in count 21.  Judge Lomeli then addresses the defendant. He tells him that the prosecutor is going to advise him of your constitutional rights. It will require a response. To the extent you do not understand something, you must notify the court so you have an opportunity to consult with your attorney.

The people and the defense have reached an agreement of 25 years.  The defendant will plea to all 23 counts.

And then the prosecutor starts reading from a standard script.

DDA: Mr. Mark Berndt, is that your true and correct name?
MB: Yes.
DDA: And your date of birth (DOB) is that your true and correct date of birth?
MB: Yes.

The DDA reads the case number and asks if he understands the charges against him. "Yes," Berndt replies. The DDA mentions the agreed sentence of 25 years.  It's standard language the prosecutor is reading. The defendant states he will plead "no contest" to the charges.

DDA: You have to understand those rights and voluntarily give them up. ... You have the right to have a preliminary hearing in this matter. ... The people would have to present evidence. ... Do you waive and give up this right? ... You have the right to have a trial, either by a court or a jury.

The prosecutor explains a jury trial to the defendant.

DDA: At either type of trial, the people would have to prove each and every one of these counts beyond a reasonable doubt. ... Do you understand?
MB; Yes.
DDA: Do you waive and give up this right?
MB: Yes.

The prosecutor then moves onto Berndt's constitutional rights.

DDA: You have the right to confront and cross examine the witnesses against you.

There's more of this legal language, explaining each of his constitutional rights. For each right, the defendant is asked if he understands his rights and if he is giving up that right. It's explained to Mr. Berndt that after a trial, he would have the right to an appeal.

DDA: You no longer have the right to an appeal. Do you understand that?
MB: Yes.
DDA: I have to advise you, if you are not a citizen, you will be deported. Do you understand this?
MB: Yes.
DDA: By pleading to this count, you would be in violation of (?) or probation (that may be in effect). ... You will have to serve a minimum of 85% of your sentence.

The prosecutor explains the requirements he will be under if and when he is paroled. Each and every time her replies, yes, and that he understands.  He is told he will be required to pay any actual restitution. He does have a right to have a hearing to determine that restitution. It is the defendant's obligation to pay back any restitution determined by the court.The defendant will be required to provide a DNA sample and and AIDS testing sample.

The prosecutor tells Berndt that the charge is for the rest of his life.  He will be registered as a sex offender.  He will need to go to local law enforcement and register with them (if/when paroled). The defendant has an obligation to register in the new area if he moves. He will be required to register annually. If he fails to do so, it can be filed against him as a new and separate felony charge.
The counts are strike offenses. They are violent felonies. If the defendant violates the law, they can be used against him to increase punishment on any future crimes.

There is a possibility that, because of the nature of the crimes, the defendant can be eligible for commitment to a state psychiatric facility. If the defendant is found to be a sexually violent offender, he could spend the rest of his life in a state hospital.  I believe as part of his (registration?) he will have to pay a one time fine of $300.00.

There are no other concerns and the court has no inquiries. I'm not sure who makes it, but there is a request now to take the plea. I believe it's the prosecutor who continues to ask the defendant questions.
DDA: Before I take the plea, are you pleading freely and voluntarily?
MB: Yes.
DDA: Are you pleading because you feel it is your best interests to do so?
MB: Yes.
DDA: No one has threatened or persuaded you to do so?
MB: No.

Each of the 23 counts are read. Each and every time the defendant pleads, "No contest."

After the last count, his counsel addresses the court. "Mr Berndt does agree that there is direct and indirect touching of children. However, there is no evidence of 'overt' touching of a sexual part."

At this time both counsel join in a waiver (but I miss what that waiver is). Then the impact statements are taken. Those of us in the gallery are wondering if the court has allowed the victim impact statements to be filmed. I've seen them filmed in the past, but considering the charges, they may not be.  My only concern is the video camera and if it will be pointed at podium that's in front of the gallery.  As a woman approaches the podium, the video camera is still aimed at the defendant.

Most likely, Judge Lomeli stated the victim impact statements would not be filmed, but they would be heard on the video recording.

The first mother steps up to the podium. It's not in my notes but I believe most of the impact statements are presented via an interpreter.

"I am the mother of one of the 23 innocent victims that Mark Berndt impacted. Mr. Berndt sexually abused my child. He is violent and disgusting. .. He fed them semen on a spoon. He fed them semen on a cookie. He intimidated the children by blindfolding them (bondage) style and placing cockroaches on their faces. ... He has destroyed my child. She suffered serious, emotional injury, emotional distress.  She used to love eating cookies but now the thought of a cookie disgusts her. .. She's adverse to touching now, especially her eyes, where Mr. Berndt blindfolded her. ... No matter how much therapy she receives, she will be scarred for the rest of her life."

The prosecutor reads the second impact statement. "I could not be there today because I have to work." My notes are not clear at this point.  I believe I miss the rest of the prosecutor's reading and now have a third impact statement.

"Your honor, I beg for you to do justice as the mother of two girls who were the victims of someone who may not be called teacher. He is an animal. I want justice to be done." She starts to cry as she is speaking. "I want to be just and do the right thing so that other girls don't suffer the same thing. I know that my daughter's are not going to forget what happened to them, and unfortunately their lives may not be the same as children." The emotion on this mother's face is overwhelming. "My daughters went to school to learn, and not these type of things that were done to them."

The fourth impact statement is taken, another woman.

"I want to thank you, the (honor?) God, and justice, ... the people from CBS. And if it hadn't been for them and for you, we wouldn't have found out about all of this."  The woman is sobbing, outright crying. "My daughter is not the same anymore because this man, grabbed my daughter and told her everything that happened to him when he was a child. ... About this (deal?) and going into the stores and seeing movies for free. ... That he would go in and the other one would go in through the exit. ... I don't understand why the district wasn't aware of all of this. ... My daughter is clear on everything that was said about when he was a child. ... Why didn't he get psychological help? ... Why did he do this to my daughter?"  The woman continues to sob uncontrollably. "I'm destroyed. My daughter is destroyed. ... No more. ... No more. ... I leave it in justice's hands, because I have no hate in my heart. I have no hate in my heart and I don't know, how the person like this, to have the opportunity to work with children like these. Innocence is the most beautiful thing that a child could have. ... How could it be that the district didn't know all of this?"

This woman's sobbing is getting to me. I'm trying to keep my own eyes from tearing up. As I type this, I'm remembering her words, her emotion and I'm right back in that courtroom, experiencing her pain. Judge Lomeli addresses the mother. "Thank you mam. And, I'm sorry."

More people in the gallery are crying, sobbing. It's like a low, continuing wail coming from the back of the gallery.

The next impact statement is taken.

"The impact this has caused on my family is devastation. I don't wish to harm anyone. ... To know the damage that has been done to my daughter, by someone who was there to educate her. I wake up every morning, asking God to give me the strength to explain this to my daughter. How can I explain to a nine-year-old that one of her favorite teachers did something like this to her? ... My life has been changed forever and my daughter's life also. The first things I was concerned about was my daughter's emotional stability. ... While I locked myself into my room and cried, what could I do to my daughter?  What I will never forget, when I got the call from (?) to have my daughter checked. ... I asked myself, crying, how could that have been done to my daughter? Why didn't I notice. ... If it hadn't been for the help from the psychologist .... I'm very nervous."  Judge Lomeli addresses the woman. "It's okay mam. Take your time."  It's obvious the woman is very upset.

"I will try. ... It's been very hard and continues to be very hard. I want justice for my daughter and for all the children that have suffered. That's all I have to say."  The court responds, "Thank you mam."  Weeping continues to be heard in the gallery.

The next woman who steps up to the podium, is trying to maintain her composure as she speaks.

"I think he deserves a little bit more. I don't think he is sorry for what he's done to the kids. If he would have been sorry he would never have done that to the kids."  She addresses the letters the defendant has received in jail. "I think they should give him more than 25 years." She then tells the court she thinks it should be like in the days when they had burned them in woods. No other parents can know what they've been going through.  "Sometimes my daughter doesn't sleep with the light on. ... I have to cook for her.  ... she won't even buy anything to do with cookies.  She won't even socialize. I ask that you give him more than what he's asking."

Another statement, handed in from one of the attorneys in the gallery, a statement from an individual not on the witness list. It is handed to the clerk who then gives it to Judge Lomeli.  There are no other impact statements. Judge Lomeli reads the statement then asks if there is anything further on behalf of counsel.  There's nothing from the defense.  Judge Lomeli asks, "Defense, do you waive time for sentence?"  "So waive," is the response.

Judge Lomeli addresses the last mother who testified. "She asked that I give him more time than proposed. ... Understand that Mr. Berndt did ask (for?) less time, and the district attorney's office did go along with that. He chose to give the offer that was given to him. ... Coupled with his age ... this could amount to a life sentence. ... (The mother stated she) ... would like to see him burned to the stake, but I'm not able to do that (nor would I)."

The court agrees with the recommended sentence. The court is going to impose the following with respect to defendant's sentence.

Count 1, three years.
Counts 2 through twelve the mid-terms, 2 years each per count.
Two through thirteen amount to 22 years.
Coupled with count one, those will be (composed?) consecutive.
Counts 13 to 23 low term of three years, time less for on count 1.

I'm showing a total credit in the 656 days. He is entitled to 15% credit, will add an additional 99 days equals (759? ??) days. I know there is a request for opposing custody time. That the defendant be housed in protective custody. Obviously, that discretion lies with the sheriff's deputies (?) and how they classify the defendant. Court will make that recommendation. There is information about the victim's compensation board and that future restitution is yet to be decided. It's unknown at this time. The court will put it on the people to put it on the calendar should that situation arise. Mr. Berndt and his counsel waive his appearance at any restitution hearing.

There are more rulings about registering with local law enforcement as a life time sexual offender. There are fees for each count that the court imposes. There are specific counts where the sentences is concurrent. The prosecutor mentions something about the fines and accuracy of the fines. The prosecution moves that all photos (be received?) into evidence. There is something about dismissing allegations based on (?).

The court asks the defense if there is anything on behalf of Mr. Berndt. The defense responds, "May I have a moment your honor?"  I believe there's nothing else. The court orders that the defendant is to provide DNA and print impressions.  And that's it.  The media files out and I stay for the Cameron Brown hearing.

10:15 AM - Cameron Brown
Judge Lomeli addresses his clerk. "David, let me know when they're ready."

10:30 AM 
DDA Hum and Laub are now sitting at the prosecution table, having a conversation. When they're finished, Laub slides his chair down over to the defense table and waits for his client to be brought out.

10:34 AM
DDA Hum and Laub are speaking to Judge Lomeli over at the clerk's desk. Judge Lomeli doesn't have his robes on and his arms are crossed over his chest.  While Laub is speaking, Judge Lomeli is nodding his head.

10:35 AM
Brown is brought out. He looks much the same as he did at the last hearing. His hair is cut short and he still has the ZZ Top looking beard.  He also looks a bit more gaunt than the last time he was here.

I remember back in June when Brown spoke up and told the court he wanted to go pro per, Judge Lomeli told the defendant that if he wanted to represent himself, he would not be lenient.

Patty Brown took a seat in the bench row behind me.  While we wait for Judge Lomeli to take the bench she makes some statements about Mr. Laub. She claims that Mr. Laub took on other clients after he was assigned her husband's case and worked those cases instead of her husbands.  To me, this contradicts what I heard Mr. Laub tell the court. Several months ago, Mr. Laub told the court that Brown was his newest case. That all his other cases he has had for much longer.  Mr. Laub is a court appointed attorney.  The court would have instant access to any and all cases that Mr. Laub is currently assigned.

Judge Lomeli comes out and addresses counsel. "Ready?" He asks.  He then goes into the back area to get his robes. I see Judge Lomeli pop a piece of muffin or pastry into his mouth as he gets ready to take the bench.

Counsel are asked to state their appearances for the record. Judge Lomeli brings up the issue of the Marsden hearing, and that DDA Hum indicated that the Marsden motion could not be heard until competency was decided.  Judge Lomeli cites the relevant cases where the ruling was different. Judge Lomeli states that, "The court was inclined to hear the Marsden on the 8th." (If there was a hearing on November 8th, I missed it. Sprocket.) Addressing Mr. Laub the court asks, "I take it that between the 8th and the 15th, you had a chance to converse further with Mr. Brown?"

Mr. Laub tells the court that he withdraws his prior declaration and mentions that he filed something under seal. Brown directed Mr. Laub to make corrections to the declaration he filed with the court months ago. Mr. Laub filed a new document with addendum's. Mr. Laub met with his client on the 4th and they went through the document and prepared corrections. "At this time, Mr. Brown is prepared to sign the corrected declaration, ..." that it is now a true and correct statement.

The court asks, "At this point, you wish to withdraw ... Marsden?" "Yes," Mr. Laub replies.

What is left now, is the issue of competency. Judge Lomeli addresses the defendant. "I've had a chance to observe (you) ... number of appearances ... you appear to this court to be competent and your communication skills did not suffer in any way ... If the court had to evaluate Mr. Brown ... I understand Mr. Laub had a chance to interact with Mr. Brown and (discuss?) the consequences he is facing. ... "

Mr. Laub tells the court, "He said he will not talk to Dr. Knapke." I believe Laub goes onto say, "Believe he and I are able to communicate in a (?) and mutual understanding."

Judge Lomeli bases his opinion on past cases. He goes onto talk about how some defendants don't understand the rules of evidence. The defendant may want something to come in, but the court is not able to let that evidence in, due to the rules of evidence the court is bound to.  "The court is inclined to reintroduce criminal proceedings."  DDA Hum states that he concurs with the courts observations (about Brown's ability and competency).

There are a couple of issues that need to be addressed. The court indicated the defendant wont' speak to Dr. Knapke. I believe it's DDA Hum who asks if an inquiry can be made if he will speak to another doctor.  Judge Lomeli asks the defendant, "Are you willing to speak to another doctor, not Dr. Knapke, but someone else?"   Brown responds, "I've already spoken to two different (psychiatrists? psychologists?) during my incarceration."  Brown seems to think this is sufficient to determine his competency. The court tells Brown, "You have to realize that was a time back. ... Those reports can't be used." Brown has to be evaluated anew.  Brown is asked again if he will be interviewed by a doctor. 

Brown responds, "Only if it's mandatory, otherwise it's not needed." I believe Brown is told that he can't just say yes or no, he has to interact with the doctor for a bit of time. "Are you willing to talk to someone, and have your attorney ..." find another doctor to speak to?  I believe Brown responds, "I still stick to my same statement."

It appears Brown agrees to speak to a new doctor.

Judge Lomeli talks about his calendar. He's booked January through mid March. The earliest the court could hear the case is mid March or April. Laub states he is looking at his own calendar. The earliest he is available is April. Judge Lomeli comments that he would like to get this case done.  I believe it's DDA Hum who states he can't predict what will happen in April. The court notes that the people have been very accommodating. I believe Laub asks again if the court would be mandating (that Mr. Brown speak to a doctor).  Judge Laub states that he will reinstate criminal proceedings in abeyance in pending a report from the doctor.

A new court date of Friday, January 10th is chosen to return. Laub states that he is going to submit corrections to his declaration and it's to remain under seal.

There is further discussion about the choice of a doctor for the defendant to speak to. It's made clear to Mr. Brown that his attorney will be picking the doctor for him to speak to.  The criminal proceedings will remain suspended. DDA Hum makes it clear that he won't have any input into choosing the doctor Brown speaks to. He won't even know who the doctor is.

And that's it. Brown returns on January 10th.  Afterwards, Patty Brown makes a statement to me that shocks me speechless. With a smile on her face she tells me, "Now you know why Cam wouldn't talk to Dr. Knapke. It's because Hum suggested him."

I can't believe this. Brown obstinately refused to see a doctor that he had seen previously, only because DDA Hum suggested the name.  A doctor that he had seen at the request of his own defense counsel before the second trial.  All these months of delay are due to the defendant, and nothing else.

(Note: I am working on getting my notes covering the preliminary hearing for Joshua Woodward. I hope to have them up over the weekend. Sprocket.)

Huffington Post - Mark Berndt Arrested
LA Weekly - Berndt Quietly Resigns after $40,000 payout
LA Times Now - Settlement with Victims
NBC - Ex Teacher Sentenced to 25 Years