Friday, May 23, 2014

Dawn DaLuise Case: Pretrial Hearing 2

Dawn DaLuise in custody March 19, 2014. 
Photo Credit: KTLA Pool Camera

UPDATE 6/23: An earlier version had Judge Dabney's name spelled wrong. I apologize.
May 19, 2014
8:15 AM
I’m on the 8th floor of the Airport Courthouse.  I arrived before 7 AM, missing most of the 405 traffic. Unfortunately, the cafeteria doesn’t open until 7:30 AM so I sat in the lobby to wait.  While I was waiting, I did have a very interesting chat with a woman, a retired minister. She was here for her first experience on jury duty.

My lobby companion lived most of her life in the center of her east coast state. When she and her husband retired, a family member offered them the opportunity to live with them in their home in the south bay area. They jumped at the chance.  They currently live in on the coast and are relatively recent transplants.

I shared with her a little bit about the LA County court system.

8:23 AM

Although there are several people from the general public here, I don’t see a single person from the media. A few people come and try the doors to the two courtrooms on this wing of the hallway.

Just to be sure that nothing’s changed, I check the LA county Sheriff’s inmate locator site again. The date is today and the courtroom is Dept. E.

There is a new sign on Judge Dabney's courtroom door that states no electronic media. It specifically states NO laptops. I'm disappointed.  Wont be able to use my laptop to write.

8:26 AM

I put my phone on silent and try to stretch out my low back.  I was up until 4 AM, helping Mr. Sprocket on a new ductless split system at a bakery.  I slept for maybe an hour before I got up to get ready to come here. I have no idea when I’ll get these notes written up.

8:33 AM
The courtroom opens. People head inside. I debate on whether to get in there to get a good seat, or wait to see if any of DaLuise's family show up.  I close up my laptop and head inside.

Inside, there are signs that indicate no sitting in the first row. I take a seat in the second row, directly behind the defense table. Judge Dabney's courtroom is a mirror image of Department F, next door.  The black female bailiff's desk is to the right. The court clerks desk is along the wall directly beside the curved corner bench.

I believe I forgot to mention in my last notes, that the courtroom ceilings are constructed and a nice, wide arch. Very attractive.

The clerk is at her desk and it is eerily silent in here.  After a while, I start to get a little chilled. I forgot to bring a light sweater. There are several attorneys in the well and three in the lone chairs on the very left side of the gallery.

There is another desk directly beside the clerks desk. Then there is a walkway space to the jail area and the bailiff's desk to the right. There isn't a phone or computer at this desk but there is a file basked and what appears to be an industrial size hole punch or stapler. An attorney stops at the clerks desk to check in. There is a woman seated at the extra desk. She looks like a defense attorney. A Latino woman in the gallery gets up to speak to her.  The woman at the desk replies, "It will be a while."

Another deputy opens the door to the custody area and peeks his head inside Dept. E for a moment they goes back inside the jail area.

8:45 AM
Judge Dabney's court reporter arrives.  On the right side wall next to the gallery there is a large, permanent sign that says "No Food Or Drink In Courtroom."  There are individual fold up seats just like in Dept. F.  Two male attorneys come and go and then enter again.

Just to be safe, I put my phone in 'airplane' mode.

The female bailiff takes a suit of clothes back to the custody area. I start to yawn. I'm hoping I don't fall asleep. I had about a quart of iced tea this morning and a second, hot tea in the cafeteria. I only had sausage and hash hash browns in the cafeteria for breakfast. I was too afraid to have scrambled eggs because I'm still not sure exactly how I got the food poisoning after my last trip here.

A woman enters from the back area, sits in the jury box and is typing on her cell phone. My best guess is that she is a court appointed interpreter.

A defense attorney asks the bailiff if his client could be brought up so that he could speak to him. He is informed he may have to go to another area to see him because they already have some one (back in the private room/cell?).  A minute later he says that's okay, "Where ever."  The bailiff then calls him back to speak to his client.

It's now that I realize there are two ways that defense attorneys can speak to their clients. There is a second door to the custody area in the far back right corner.  It has a sign on it that says "Interview Room - No Cell Phones Allowed." This door does not have a window or one of those special locks on it like the doors behind the bailiff's desk. My guess is, this leads to a room where there is an enclosed "cage" area, much like Dept. 30 downtown, or Dept. 100 at Van Nuys.  I imagine there could be several defendants in this area at once, talking to their attorneys.

I'm guessing that DaLuise's case wont be called early since her family isn't here.

9:03 AM
A female attorney checks in with the bailiff.

9:15 AM
I didn't see him enter, but there now is a slightly balding white haired man sitting in the well seats directly in front of me. Is that defense attorney Pat Harris? I didn't see him check in with the court clerk. It will be a surprise if it is. Pat Harris defended Cameron Brown in his second trial.  Harris was affiliated with Geragos & Geragos for about 15 years or more. Now he has his own practice.  I attended most of Brown's second trial. I became ill right after the defense case started and missed several defense witnesses.

The defense attorney stands and faces the gallery. It is Pat Harris. He's known for defending Susan McDougal and co-authoring a book about it. I address him. "Pat Harris." He looks at me, but he doesn't recognize me. It has been a while. I add, "Betsy Ross, Trials & Tribulations." He smiles. He's surprised to see me. He replies that it's been six years.  I inform him that his former client is now pro per and still in custody.

It's my understanding that Brown earns "good time" credits while in the LA County Sheriff's custody. I believe (but I'm not positive), that he earns 1 day for every two days served in county.  He's been in county custody over 10 years. If Brown got convicted of second degree murder, it's possible he could be eligible for parole after he's sentenced.  It doesn't mean he will get parole, it just means he's eligible.

9:20 AM
Philip Dube, (pronounced Due-bay) DaLuise's public defender is her. I don't see any family. Dube comes out from the jail area carrying some magazines. He hands them to a gentleman in the last row, sitting on the other side of the courtroom. The man is older, gray hair and a beard. I don't believe he was here last time. If he was, I didn't see him. I hear Dube tell him that DaLuise is not allowed to have magazines while in custody.

It's my guess that one of the reasons that magazines are now allowed is because of the staples that could be used to hold them together. I can see the face of the magazine that was on top: People.

Judge Dabney takes the bench. He has mostly black hair, slightly balding with a grayish mustache and small beard. The first case is called. A defendant in an orange jumpsuit is brought out.  While this case is heard, Pat Harris and Dube get up from the well and chat beside the right wall in the gallery. Now I'm wondering how Harris is associated with the case.

I've become fascinated with the unusual lock on the door to the jail area.  It takes a huge, flat key that's on a ring on the bailiff's waist. From where I'm sitting, the key looks like it's three or four times the size of a normal door lock key.

Harris paces back and forth in the well. When the first case is over, Harris addresses the judge. He tells the court, "My is a witness who was ordered here today." Harris' client is Edward Feinstein, who is not in the courtroom. New discovery was provided to the defense late (last night? Friday?) and it's going to be held over.  The judge orders his client back for the next hearing.

That's it for Harris. He takes off.

It appears that Judge Dabney wanted to call the DaLuise case but her counsel can't be found. Someone tells the court that he needed a few more minutes with his client.

Another case is called in the mean time. A defense attorney tells the court that his client changed his mind and decides to take a plea on count 2.  The defendant takes a plea on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.  He pleads no contest. Judge Dabney makes sure that the defendant understands his rights and that he is giving up his rights by pleading.

9:50 AM
Judge Dabney leaves the bench. Mr. Dube passes an envelope to the gray haired friend of DaLuise. I hear him say, "These are some cards and letters."  I don't think that DaLuise had these cards and letters in her possession and gave them to her attorney. My guess on what happened is, Dube may have been able to share these items with his client in custody, or he returned them to DaLuise's friend because he was unable to share them with her.

The courtroom is back to that eerie pin drop silence.  There are only eight people in the gallery.

10:05 AM
DDA Heather Steggell, who is prosecuting the DaLuise case, returns. I believe Dube is still with his client. My notes are not clear, but I think Judge Dabny is back on the bench and asking if they can do the DaLuise case. He's told that Dube is still with his client. The bailiff gets up to check.

DDA Steggell gets up and goes to the 'Interview Room' to ask Dube if they can call the case. Steggell has a three defendant plea next door.

10:17 AM
Mr. Dube comes out from the interview room.  Judge Dabney and counsel talk about future dates off the record. They want to set the case at zero of 10 on June 23.

Judge Dabney calls the case: SA086704. DaLuise is brought out. I believe she has a waist chain, or is cuffed at the waist somehow. She quickly looks in the gallery and smiles at her friend in the back row.  Dube tells the court, "Friday, I received a large packet [of discovery] from the people and apparently more is to come."  Judge Dabney asks, "What is it?" I believe it's Steggell who answers. "Analysis of computer and phones from the defendant." She continues, "There are other witness phones (and computer?) ..." that still need to be analyzed. She tells the court that the report on the defendant's computer and phones is "pretty substantial. ... There is one witness computer in the process and possibly a second witness."

Judge Dabney rules that he wants everyone back on June 9th. The 9th doesn't work for Dube. Dube offers Friday the 13. Judge Dabney replies, "I'm not superstitious."  DaLuise lets out a little giggle or laugh at the courts comment.  Dabney orders Edward Feinsten, the prosecution's witness to be on call for the 13th and ordered back on the 23. And that's it. As DaLuise is taken back into custody, she turns to the gallery again. Smiling at her friend she lifts her palm up slightly to give him a wave.

After I leave Dept. E, I head up to the 9th floor to see if Judge Deborah Brazil's courtroom is open. I'd like to drop in and say hello. The door is locked so I make my way back home.