Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cameron Brown 3rd Trial, Pretrial 18

Inspiration Point, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

July 31, 2014 8:20 AM
(I'm behind on several stories due to helping Mr. Sprocket on several project proposals. Sprocket)

I’m in the hallway of the 9th floor. I see a familiar face. It’s a pleasant looking be speckled man with white, balding hair. I think he is a defense investigator, but I can’t remember which case I’ve seen him on before.

He asks me which case I’m covering and I tell him Brown. I tell him that I’ve seen him before, but I apologize that I can’t remember his name. He is Scott Ross' (no relation) Cameron Brown's new investigator.

Brown's wife Patty arrives and she asks to speak to Mr. Ross privately.

There are jurors milling about in the center of the hallway.  A reporter comes down looking for Dept. 109. I direct him to the other end of the hallway.

I'm betting that Brown will rescind his pro per status today.

8:42 AM
DDA Hum comes quickly down the hallway.

Inside the courtroom, and off the record, Mr. Ross tells Judge Lomeli that it looks like, as of last night that Brown will rescind his pro per status.

There is a little, silver microphone flag on on top of the microphone on Judge Lomeli’s desk.  It says “NBC,” and is probably some type of memento of Judge Lomeli’s. I don't know how long the little flag as been there. This is the first time I noticed it.

Judge Lomeli asks whom everyone is in the courtroom. When he looks my way, I freeze for a moment then say, "Betsy Ross, Trials and Tribulations."

The investigator asks to go see Brown. The bailiff tells Mr. Ross that he can't go back there anymore.  It appears it's a security issue that happened with another defendant in another case.

Judge Lomeli asks the bailiff to bring Brown out into the courtroom (once Brown is up on the 9th floor) and he will give the investigator a few minutes with Brown and then they will have their hearing.

Mr. Ross is an author. He told me he's written two books and is working on a third. Ross worked on the Brown case back when Mark Geragos and Pat Harris were still in a partnership.

The pretty black female Sargent deputy arrives and the bailiff and her go back into the custody area.

Attorneys come in and start to set up for the case that is currently in trial, People v. Brian Reid. The DDA prosecuting Reid and

Brown is brought out and Ross goes up into the well to sit with him. I leave the courtroom to publish this update.

8:59 AM
left the courtroom, Brown tells the court that he has motions he’s filed.

Patty Brown comes out in the hallway.  She addresses DDA Hum, “The bailiff said to let you know that they are ready.”

Back inside the courtroom, Ross sits with Brown at the defense table. Judge Lomeli takes the bench. Judge Lomeli calls the case on the record. He asks the parties to state their name for the record.

Judge Lomeli states, “Today we are at zero of 60. I contemplate a jury date of pre-screened jurors, a panel to be (arraigned?) for sometime in February. That should be ample time to get this case ready. ... Coupled to with, you [defendant] wanted pro per status, that comes out to 10 months.”

This means, Brown would have had 10 months to prepare for trial since he obtained his pro per status.

Judge Lomeli addresses the defendant. “I see you’ve filed some motions.” He then asks Brown, “Is it correct that you would like rescind your proper status?”

Brown first asks the court if his former counsel Aron Laub could be here. The court informs Brown that since Mr. Laub is “stand by” counsel, there is no need for him to be here. He automatically becomes the counsel of record.

Judge Lomeli asks Brown again if he gives up, relinquishes his pro per status.

Brown replies, “Yeah, I’ll give it up.”

The court reiterates that he still sees this trial starting sometime in February of next year. The court tells Brown that he will read the motions he’s filed.

DDA Hum brings up a couple of issues. “Since he does no longer represent himself, ... It’s unclear if Mr. Laub will want to go forward with those motions before we proceed ...
before we go through the process of responding to those motions.”

Judge Lomeli states that it will have to be up to Mr. Laub to decide if the motions are (feasible?) and (whether or not) to forward with those motions.

Brown speaks up. “When I filed those motions they were mine.”

Judge Lomeli responds, “Timing has nothing to do with it. ... Once you relinquish your proper status ... I’ve already made some appointments, ... it is all up to him [Aron Laub] ....”

Whether these motions will stand will depend on Mr. Laub.

Judge Lomeli continues and states that Brown’s new investigator will remain on the case. “You seem to be familiar with your investigator.”

As far as a next court date, Judge Lomeli asks the parties, “Why don’t we bring him back in September.”  Judge Lomeli also adds, “I want have a conversation with Mr. Laub about these motions and about proceeding with this case in February.”

I believe Judge Lomeli addresses his clerk, stating, “Ask Mr. Laub to notify my office if he decides to proceed on these motions.”  Judge Lomeli also asks his clerk notify the DA as to Mr. Laub’s position on the motions Brown just filed.

Judge Lomeli picks a date of September 25th. He explains to Brown that the case will be set at 0 of 60 on that date, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will go to trial in 60 days.

DDA Hum brings to the court attention that Investigator Ross remaining on the case may be up to Mr. Laub; if Mr. Laub is comfortable with him, given that this is Mr. Laub’s

DDA Hum continues, “I know that Mr. Ross has contacted our investigator and detective informally.” I believe Hum states the inquiry was regarding discovery and additional witnesses. “Any requests for discovery should come through the attorney and not through informal contacts with detectives.” Hum asks the court that all discovery be formal and memorialized in writing.

Investigator Ross addresses the court. “I’d like to add that the court was aware that I was meeting with Mr. Leslie and that I was asking about discovery.”

I believe the court acknowledges this then states, “From now on, let’s do everything in writing and memorialized.”

Regarding the aspect of whether or not Mr. Ross will stay on as investigator, Judge Lomeli states, “The court is inclined to keep him. ...I specifically appointed him because he is familiar with the case.”

The court then talks about the prior investigator, Mr. Royce, and that Brown had directed this investigator in activities that he was unable to follow, because they were unreasonable requests to follow. Judge Lomeli states that he placed all of that on the record in June.

Judge Lomeli tells the parties, “I’m inclined to keep Mr. Ross on.”

DDA Hum replies, My only concerned is Mr. Laub be comfortable in his ability to represent the defendant. Other than that, I have no interest.”  Judge Lomeli responds, “The court will discuss it with him.”

Investigator Ross tells the court that he’s been in communication with Mr. Laub.

And that’s about it. Judge Lomeli tells the parties, “See everyone on Sept 25th.”  Judge Lomeli then addresses his clerk, David to notify the DA about the motions and to keep Mr. Ross on to work with Mr. Laub.

Douglas Gordon Bradford
After I left Dept. 107, I headed down to Dept. 103, Judge Curtis Rappe’s courtroom, where the Douglas Gordon Bradford case is being tried. Bradford is charged with August 29, 1979 murder in the death of a Canadian nursing student, Lynne Knight, 28.

I had hoped to attend more of this trial but it just didn't work out with my other responsibilities. Since I was down at the court already, I thought I would drop in. Bradford was arrested in 2009 and has been out on bond ever since. It's taken that long for the case to come to trial.

The trial kicked off with opening statements back on July 7th. Deputy District Attorney John Lewin is prosecuting the cold case. Well known defense attorney Robert Shapiro (of O.J. Simpson fame) and Sara Caplan (one of the attorney’s who originally represented Phil Spector) are defending Bradford. I remember seeing Sara Caplan testify in an evidentiary hearing in the first Spector trial. 

When I enter Dept. 103, I see a very large piece of electronic equipment and wires taped to the floor in the ante chamber. Once inside the courtroom proper, there is an area in the back row of the courtroom that is walled off with screens. There are two scruffy looking cameramen monitoring computer screens. One cameraman is wearing a baseball cap that says, “NBC Nightly News.” There are two large boxes attached to the wall above the jury box. The case is being filmed, but it’s not live streaming. The last case I’m aware of that was live-streamed from the downtown courthouse was the first Phil Spector trial in 2007.

The prosecution has rested it's case in chief and the defense case has already started. DDA Lewin is cross examining a defense expert, Mr. Rosenthal, who is a meteorologist.

In the first row of the gallery is empty except for two people, and older frail-looking couple. It's a good bet these are the parents or other family members of the victim.

More notes to come on the Bradford trial....

Friday, July 11, 2014

Michael Gargiulo Pretrial 20 & Cold Case Trial of Douglas Gordon Bradford

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, booking photo, date unknown

EXCLUSIVE T&T Gargiulo Trial Coverage HERE.

Previous pretrial hearing 6/27/14
Friday July 11, 2014
8:10 AM
I'm on the 9th floor of the downtown Criminal Justice Center for another hearing in the Michael Gargiulo case.  As most of you know, Gargiulo is pro per, meaning he is self representing in a death penalty case.  Yes, I know I am behind in getting my trial notes up on Gargiulo's and Cameron Brown's previous hearings, as well as the preliminary hearing of Dawn DaLuise.

Investigator Chris Nicely was already here in the hallway when I arrived.

Earlier this week, the cold case trial of Douglas Gordon Bradford kicked off in Dept. 103, Judge Curtis Rappe's courtroom.  (Larry Altman of the Daily Breeze wrote about the case when the trial started on Monday.) Back in October 2013 at Rick Jackson's Retirement Dinner, I got to speak to DDA John Lewin about when this case might go to trial. At that time, he speculated the case would start sometime in May of this year. He wasn't too far off. I had tried to keep my eye on this case but cases where the defendant is out on bond are a little harder to track. I was hoping I could attend when it started but Mr. Sprocket needed my help on a few jobs earlier this week.  If there is time, I will try to drop in on this trial because I've wanted to attend one of DDA Lewin's cases for some time now.

On the drive in this morning, I was listening to KFI's Eric Leonard's report about the Donald Sterling civil case, over at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. (Anything involving the NBA is bigger news than a cold case murder.) It appears that case is on hold until July 23.

8:26 AM 
There's quite a bit of activity down at the other end of the hallway.  However, at this end I just saw defense attorney Seymour Amster quickly pass and enter Dept. 106, Judge Fidler's courtroom. Amster is co-counsel on the Lonnie Franklin, Jr., alleged serial killer case in Judge Kennedy's court, Dept. 109. The case Amster might be on this morning in Dept. 106 is a dismemberment case.

8:32 AM
Dept. 108 is open and there are quite a few people from the general public here. I have not seen DDA Akemon or DDA Dameron in the hallway yet.  Attorney's come and go from several of the courtrooms at this end of the hall.

8:37 AM
Judge Ohta's clerk came out and put a sign on Judge Otha's door that they are dark. She was kind enough to let me know that Gargiulo's hearing will now be held in Dept. 107, Judge Lomeli's courtroom.  Judge Lomeli allows reporters to use their laptops so I'm hoping I will be able to use my computer for this hearing.

8:44 AM
DDA Akemon and Sheriff's Detective arrive and stop at Chris Nicely to chat.

8:45 AM
Right afterwards, DDA Akemon asked me how Mr. Sprocket was doing. Mr. Sprocket is doing pretty good. He just needs to build his muscle tone back up.

Inside Dept. 107, I check with the bailiff to make sure I can use my laptop for the Gargiulo hearing.  I can.

In overhearing the conversation between DDA Akemon and Nicely, it looks like they will just put this case over.  Interestingly, Mark Overland and his daughter, Courtney are in the well of the court. Overland defended former LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus.

Councilman Richard Alarcon and his wife, Flora Montes De Oca Alarcon, are currently on trial in Judge Lomeli's courtroom on perjury and voter fraud charges. Overland is representing Mrs. Alarcon.

8:52 AM

Another case is called for a pretrial hearing.  In that case, the defense has filed for a 1538 (motion to suppress) hearing and they need to set a date for that.  Defense says it will take 2 hours. September 26th next court date. And that’s it for that hearing.

DDA Dameron is not here today. It's just Akemon and Chris Nicely.  I get to meet the journalist who I saw at the last Gargiulo hearing. It's the fabulous writer, Christine Pelisek who now writes for The Daily Beast.  She’s amazing.  She wrote several wonderful pieces about Lonnie Franklin, Jr., when she was with The LA Weekly.

I was going to drop in on DDA Lewin's case after this hearing but I found out that Dept. 103 is dark today. The Bradford case will resume on Monday. I'll try to come back for that trial a few days next week. It will all depend on whether or not Mr. Sprocket needs my help.

9:17 AM

Gargiulo is handcuffed to a wheelchair.  Two deputies are wheeling him into court via the front entrance. I don't know why Gargiulo is in a wheelchair.  Whenever a defendant is brought to court in a chair, they are not brought into court through the regular holding area between the courtrooms. The deputies use other security elevators to bring in the defendants through the front courtroom doors.

On the record in the Gargiulo case.

Judge Lomeli asks, "I understand that both of you agree to put this over until next Friday?"

DDA Akemon tells the court that he hasn't spoken to Gargiulo directly. He tells the court that Gargiulo is under a time waiver.

DDA Akemon states they are asking to put the case over to next Friday July 18th.

Judge Lomeli tells the parties, "In speaking with Judge Ohta yesterday, it was his intention to set some parameters and deadlines."

DDA Akemon states that they have presented (or filed with the court) their outline for a timeline.

Garguilo then speaks up and tells the court he has an issue. He's trying to seek medical treatment for an injury he sustained in this courthouse. He would like to see an orthopedic doctor. He tells the court that at the jail, "... They're just trying to overdose me on medication. ... I'm trying to see an orthopedic."

Judge Lomeli tells the defendant that he can't write an order for him to see a specialist. "The only person who can do that is another doctor. ... I can refer you to a doctor."

Judge Lomeli asks the defendant if he has filled out the proper form for that. Gargiulo says he doesn't have the form. Judge Lomeli tells the defendant, "When my clerk gets here..." he will get the form for him.  Judge Lomeli asks him to describe his specific complaint. "I'm seeking medical treatment for an ankle injury and a back injury."

Judge Lomeli will set a medical order. And that's it. The next hearing will be on July 18th.

My understanding is, after the last pretrial hearing on June 27th, Gargiulo was taken back to the lower floor jail holding area. His ankle chains got caught in the elevator or the space between the floors in the elevator and he either fell or tripped.

After Gargiulo is wheeled by me I look directly at him. His head is looking down at his lap, possibly reading some papers.  As he leaves, Judge Lomeli addresses his court reporter. "Remind me, ankle and back." She nods her head in reply.

I wonder how long Gargiulo will be in a wheelchair due to his ankle and back injury.  When a defendant is brought into court in a wheelchair, I'm sure it's more interesting for them. They have the possibility of seeing and interacting with the general public because of the short time they are in the hallway.

I head down to the cafeteria to finish my notes then head home.

Post note:
I almost forgot! Gargiulo's head was still bald and his face completely clean shaven.

Next scheduled hearing date is 7/18/14.