Sunday, June 2, 2013

Stephanie Lazarus Case Appeal: Did Lazarus's Attorney Miss a Filing Deadline?

Stephanie Lazarus prison intake photo

It's probably no surprise that days after Lazarus was sentenced for first degree murder in the death of Sherri Rae Rasmussen, she filed an appeal with the State of California.  

For the first few months afterwards, I kept checking the California Courts of Appeal web site to check the status of her appeal

Imagine my surprise today when I checked the docket for Lazarus's appeal and I read that her court appointed attorney had missed a filing deadline.  It appears that Lazarus's appeal went into default.  

Below are a series of screen shots of the docket for Lazarus's appeal.  At the very bottom you can see that Lazarus's appeal was due on May 20th, 2013.  On May 24th, the appellate court sent a default notice to her appointed counsel.  Does this mean it's over for Lazarus's appeal?


Anonymous said...

That is one BIZARRE picture! I did not follow this case as I am new t your blog and do not live in CA, I did poke around on the links and obviously she murdered someone, I was wondering if you'd mind giving a quick and dirty re-cap? If not that's fine...was she an officer who just like.....lost it?

Sprocket said...

Sherri Rasmussen was murdered in February 1986, exactly three months after she got married to John Ruetten.

Her murder wasn't solved until June 2009.

Lazarus, who joined the LAPD in 1983-84, was a veteran LAPD detective, with over 25 years on the force.

John Ruetten was Lazarus's ex-boyfriend. Lazarus was crushed that Ruetten married Sherri. She wanted what Sherri had, which was John.

This is an amazing case and you can read all about it at the Stephanie Lazarus Quick Links Page.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 5:16 - yes, you must read the Laz. Quick Links Page. It's a fascinating case.

Robert said...

Lazarus was guilty as sin, and Betsy's coverage of the Lazarus trial was the best since we lost Dominick Dunne. Today, Betsy delivers the best trial coverage on the planet. She's a mix between Jack Webb, Studs Terkel and Dominick Dunne.

btw, Betsy, if you haven't read, "Another City, Not My Own" by Dominick, read it. The book is his reminiscence of the OJ trial. Knowing him as you do, you will enjoy it, and at several turns laugh out loud. The reader comes away understanding Dominick's take on 'Celebrity Justice' and that makes it a priceless book.

Whatever time you had with him, he handed you the torch. Keep doing what you're doing. If the delibratoins continue, I hope to see you in the next few days.

Sprocket said...


T&T readers have been asking about you. They've missed your contributions in the comments.

Dominick's book on OJ is one of the few of his I've missed. I'll be sure to pick it up when I finish Anatomy of Violence.

Hope you can make it down here to say hello, before the verdict comes in.

Anonymous said...

A default notice does not mean it is over. They will have I believe 15 days to correct it. Happens all the time. Attorneys know that they will receive the notice. I personally think it's not smart to wait, but they do it all the time.

Sprocket said...

Anon @ 9:59 AM

Thank you so much for that information. I had a feeling that was the case since the case record did not show a disposition yet. I was not able to get the opinion of an attorney on Sunday.

Anonymous said...

After 25 years on the job...I wonder if she is eligible for a pension? Hmmmmm....

Sprocket said...

Lazarus had over 25 years on the force at the time of her arrest.

It's my understanding Lazarus retired after she was arrested. If that's true, then she is receiving her pension. I don't believe that can be taken away from her.

She was not convicted of a crime while on duty. Even if she was, I'm not sure that would change her pension. I'd have to ask someone.

jm said...

In criminal cases, you have 30 days after the default notice to file a brief.

Sprocket said...

Thank you jm.

Checking the appellate web site, it indicates Lazarus's counsel has filed her brief. As soon as it's available on the Calif. Law Library web site, I'll upload it to T&T's SCRIBD account so y'all can read it.

jm said...

If it takes too long for the Cal. Law Library to post the brief, you may want to consider going to the court of appeal and viewing the brief as it is public information. Also the COA has a new policy requiring that a copy of each filed brief must also be submitted to the court electronically. It is possible that if you made a request, the court could send you an electronic copy.

Sprocket said...

Thank you jm.

I appreciate the input.

Miz V said...

I just love you, Sprocket. Keep up the reporting.. Any news on the official book by McGough (sp?).. I check once a month on Google for any updates.. Do you know anything ?

Sprocket said...

Thank you Miz V.

I love hearing from T&T's readers.

I can tell you that Matt is working on his book daily and that it's going to be an amazing book.

Unfortunately, I've taken the secret handshake oath, not to reveal anything about Matthew's book until it's announced by his publisher.

The single thing I can mention is, there is a strong possibility that I will be mentioned in the book.

Anonymous said...

She was setup. The only evidence
to put her at the scene was the DNA.
Out of all the hundreds of thousands
of samples the only one torn open
with the vile stick-out has her DNA
on it. Give me a break!
The moment the envelope was damaged
it would have been reported and then
resealed, and the signatures
of the resealing witnessed by at least, three employees, (one being
the head of department)and only then returned to storage.
This woman was convicted by a jury
who - it would seem - think the whole world is full of angels and
only Stephanie Lazarus is capable of committing a crime.
They cleared the Husband very quickly...Did you see the insurance pay-out!!!
All that fake crying in court;
every now and then stopping to take a tissue from its container.
What an actor...I believe Stephanie's DNA was replaced by the original sample (The person who's finger prints were found ect)by members or member of the LAPD or someone involved directly or indirectly with the reopening
of this case.

Sprocket said...

Anon @12:14 PM

The statement that the tube was sticking out of the envelope is not supported by testimony.

The "set up" theory cannot explain how the supposed killer got some of Rasmussen's DNA.

The DNA sample was a MIXTURE of Lazarus and Rasmussen. It was NOT just Lazarus.

Back in 1986, when Rasmussen's DNA would have been available to the supposed killer, Lazarus was just a patrol beat cop. Back in 1986, who would have known her personal life in such detail, to have wanted her set up?

The coroner's five freezers are not like your home refrigerator. These are walk-in rooms, filled with thousands of pieces of evidence.

Evidence envelopes are jammed up against each other.

The expert document examiner, testified that ink from another old envelope, and left a readable impression on this envelope. The date of THAT envelope was also decades old.

There were no fingerprints found on the envelope OR the vial.

Anonymous said...

I could never understand the argument that this was a set up. Why would the LAPD, already embarrassed that the case had taken over 2 decades to solve, and facing further embarrassment that the prime suspect was one of their own, go ahead and partake in the framing of that fellow officer? Absurd.
Even without the DNA evidence, you have the stolen gun she happened to report 2 weeks after the murder, the diary entry, several witnesses testifying to the bad blood between her & Sherri ... guilty guilty guilty.

Sprocket said...

Anon @ 8:52 AM:

Which witnesses are you referring to, as you say"

"...testifying to the bad blood between her & Sherri..."

I don't recall any witnesses who gave this type of testimony.

marilou said...

Were there witnesses at the hospital where Sherri worked? Stephanie had gone there to "talk" to Sherri. There must have been witnesses to that or how would that information (especially of the hostile way sherri was confronted) would not have been known.

Sprocket said...

Hi marilou,

I've been the sounding board for Matthew McGough's draft of the book about this case. Consequently, I know about this issue.

First, Lazarus herself admits on the video tape to visiting Sherri at her work.

Second, there was a single witness, but by the time of the 2009 investigation, that witness had died. So, there was no one to testify on the stand as to what they observed. That witness did tell another individual about what they saw/observed.

Third, Lazarus was not a suspect in 1986, at least, not a suspect that the LAPD looked at. It's my understanding that very few, if any at all of Sherri's coworkers were interviewed in 1986.

In fact, Sherri's closest friend, Jayne Goldberg, (who lived with Sherri before John moved in) was not interviewed by detectives in 1986.

Unknown said...

My opinioni is she is victim of a plot.After 23 years her DNA comes out . I don't believe in the scientific prof after so long time . She is innocent