Thursday, May 14, 2015

Cameron Brown 3rd Trial Aftermath

Sarah Key-Marer, left; Lauren Sarene Key, 4. 
Lauren died on November 8, 2000.
Cameron Brown was convicted of first degree murder 
in Lauren's death with the special circumstances of
murder for financial gain and lying in wait.

UPDATE 5/19: On 5/14, Inside Edition did a short piece on the case, about two and a half minutes. Includes a few seconds of Lauren dancing, which was not included in the aired segment.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Brown Verdict Aftermath
I have been dreaming about this case almost every night for the last three months. And last night I still dreamed about it. It's an understatement to say that it haunted me. If it haunted me, imagine what Lauren's family went through. Contrary for what is often said, it will never be 'over' for Lauren's family.

Beyond Sarah, Greg and Josh, Lauren had a wide circle of family and friends, spread across the globe, who knew her and loved her. They too, have been forever changed by her death.

There are other victims of this tragedy that are often overlooked and that's Cameron Brown's family. As far as I know, Brown's wife Patty steadfastly believes in his innocence. There's also Brown's parents and siblings. They are victims of this event, just as much as Lauren and her family. They now have a member of their family who has been convicted of first degree murder. That will forever change them, too.

From all witness accounts, Lauren was an easy going, obedient child. She was a delightful, chatterbox, who enjoyed engaging with others and talking about her day.  Her interests were typical for her age. She liked to play house, play with her dolls, sing songs and draw. Lauren's friends tell me she also loved to perform a rock concert, and enjoyed simple things like cuddle on the sofa with ice cream. She looked for fairies in the garden, loved her family and church.

At trial, witnesses testified she wanted to be carried verses walking, didn't like to hike, and that she was a cautious child and not very adventurous. We will never know the young woman she could have grown into, or what she could have accomplished.

What Happens Next
As it stands now, Brown will be sentenced on June 19, 2015. If there are any changes in that, I will let T&T's readers know. The judge does not have any discretion in sentencing. The sentence is written into the law. Because of the two special circumstances that were proven, the sentence is LWOP (life without the possibility of parole).

After sentencing, [probably around a week or a little more] Brown will be transferred to the State of California, Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (DOCR). Co-contributor CaliGirl9 [who is familiar with the ins and outs of the DOCR] believes that because Brown murdered a child, he will be assigned to either a SHU or a PHU.

Once in state custody, Brown will be transferred to an intake facility where he will be photographed and assessed for a period of time. That's so the DOCR can determine where to place him. It doesn't necessarily mean that intake facility is where he will eventually end up. I believe the period of time to assess Brown could be as long as 90 days.

CaliGirl9's Information on SHU's & PHU's
SHU is security housing units, and PHU is protective housing unit. SHUs are disruptive inmates, PHUs are celebrity inmates, or inmates who have done certain crimes, or gay/cross dressers/transexuals. One might argue Cameron Brown could end up in either. Based on the crap he pulled with the cameras, [needing to be filmed when moved] etc., he might be a SHU.

Based on his crimes, he may be a PHU. As you know, the most secure PHU is Corcoran. But if Brown is not "famous" in the prison system (he might not be, because he killed just one kid) he'd be in a regular PHU. So one might say SHU is based on inmate behavior, PHU based on celebrity or the crime convicted of.

AdSeg is "administration segregation." It's for inmates who have committed infractions, or inmate just entering the system and being assessed.

This is what Corcoran's web site says about SHU: "Inmates whose conduct endangers the safety of others or the security of the institution are housed in SHU. In most cases, these inmates have committed serious rules violations while housed in a general population setting."

One could argue Brown's behavior that required the attendance of a Sargent or Lieutenant, and not a regular CO, might be considered disruptive. One could also argue that he won't hesitate to talk about his crime, which will put him into a PHU.

After sentencing, the county's job is done. The District Attorney's office and the LA County Superior Court are no longer involved.

Convicted of a crime, Brown is entitled to one free appeal, paid for by the State of California. It's a given that Brown's counsel will file an appeal with the Courts of Appeal on his behalf. The State's Attorney General's office is responsible for responding to Brown's appeal.

If Brown can afford it, he can hire his own attorney. If he can't, the state provides an attorney free of charge to handle his appeal.

Once the appeal is filed, the case activity can be tracked through the California Courts of Appeal website. There are no hearings to attend like there are when the case was in LA County Superior Court. Brown's appeal will take at least a year, most likely more to get fully briefed. The best example I have is the Stephanie Lazarus case. You can read the docket on Lazarus' appeal to get an idea of what may happen in Brown's appeal.

I will attend the sentencing and report on Brown's appeal as information becomes available.

I have a few polls for T&T readers. Please leave your thoughts in the comments, or if you have any additional questions about the evidence.


Unknown said...

Thank you very much for your day by day reporting of the case. It has been very appreciative!!

Unknown said...

Do you know what exactly Brown did to warrant the extra precautions taken by the LASD when moving him?

TClair said...

So, if Brown got LWOP why would they let him appeal? I understand it is protocol seems to contradict the sentence? Tara

Sprocket said...

Janie Saunders:
Thank you for reading T&T.

Brown filed many many complaints against the Sheriff's Dept. So many, that to limit these complaints, it required a Sargent or higher to move him. I believe at the jail, he was filmed whenever he was moved. I remember a few times in the past he was filmed being moved at the courthouse.

Sprocket said...

TClair: You are talking about apples and oranges.

Appeals are for the verdict, as to guilt or innocence of the charge. Were there judicial errors made by the court that were so egregious, that Brown's verdict should be overturned? That's what the appeals process determines. It's basically a review of the case by a higher court.

His sentence is not appealed. It's the verdict that's appealed. His sentence is written into the law when found guilty of a crime.

Unknown said...

Do you know what behavior of Brown's specifically led the LASD to institute protocol like the extra escorts, etc.? I've heard it referenced, but would be curious to know what exactly it was.

Also, I've wondered if Sarah ever had any other children after Lauren? Biologically I mean, I believe she has a stepson, right?

Gregg the Obscure said...

Thanks for this informative post.

I've been haunted by this case for a long time too, as I know the defendant through a mutual friend. His demeanor on the last two occasions I saw him - both in the nineties - convinced me that he was guilty.

When I mentioned appeal the other day, the thought I had was ineffective assistance of counsel. If Mr. Laub would go so far as to contradict his client's plea, could there be other items in which he did not represent the defendant as he was obligated to do? If so, the effectiveness of such appeal would go to the admission of new evidence, such as the devastating testimony of Mr. Poingsett. I hope I'm wrong about the chances of any success on appeal.

Anonymous said...

Are Brown's complaints against the sheriff's dept a matter of public record? I would be curious to read some. Was he filmed even when moved within the courthouse? This seems so bizarre.

Sprocket said...

Greg the Obscure:
Were you or your friend interviewed by detectives, or did you decline to speak to them? You don't have to answer that, of course. I'm just curious if the detectives found you.

Defense Strategy:
I'm not a legal scholar so I can't give a qualified opinion on Laub's strategy. However, IMHO, Laub is no dummy. He's been representing defendants at the criminal court for some time now. He is an experienced trial lawyer.

I recently had an experienced defense attorney tell me that Laub's move to plead to the jury for involuntary was a smart move. The way the attorney I spoke to talked, it is basically an expected move by a defense attorney.

I don't know if Laub is required to have his client sign off of every detail of trial strategy, including closing arguments.

We will just have to wait and see what the points in the brief are. We may not see anything filed for quite some time.

Mr. Poingsett was properly sworn in, testified and cross examined. I don't see how him being a new witness would be relevant. The defense was not able to impeach him.

Appeals are based on court rulings throughout the entirety of the 3rd trial. The first two trials are moot imho.

Brown was placed on a security floor where there are cameras because of the numerous accusations he's made against the Sheriff's regarding mistreatment. This is why it takes a Sgt. or above to move Brown.

It's my understanding that the complaints are extensive. Back in 2008, when I first started covering this case, a shank was found in his cell. How it got there is a mystery. I believe the charges were dropped for him having a weapon in custody.

IIRC, Brown claimed that this was planted by the sheriffs.

Lauren was Sarah's only child. Sarah does have a stepson, Josh.

Unknown said...

I don't think Laub's statements would rise to the level of ineffective assistance. It was a strategic decision, he thought his client was going to be convicted (since both previous juries had at least all agreed on some level of guilt), and was trying to steer them toward the lesser charge. Ineffective assistance has to be something like not interviewing a known alibi witness or not conducting your own DNA analysis, and decisions of counsel that are purely strategic don't normally make for a successful appeal. A defendant is entitled to representation, but not to great representation, and there's lots of room in the practice of law for strategy. Ineffectiveness appeals are on the whole not usually successful, and are usually only so when the attorney fails to do something so obvious that the defendant might as well not have had an attorney at all.

Sprocket said...

It may seem bizarre, but it's done to prove that Brown is not being harmed when he's been moved from place to place.

I've seen defendant's being filmed in the courthouse before when being moved. There was one defendant that was brought to court in a wheelchair, with his face covered by surgical type masks.

I learned later that this defendant has HIV and would often try to spit on the deputies.

So, this is not unheard of.

Unknown said...

I think most lawyers/judges would think Lab's decision to argue that his client is a careless jerk but that doesn't mean he's a murderer was a good approach. His client is clearly not a likable person, and taking a kid up on IP and not staying right with them just defies common sense. When I read that part of his closing, I really thought he had given Brown his best shot at avoiding the first degree conviction.

Gregg the Obscure said...

I was never interviewed. The last time I saw the defendant was about a year before Lauren died and the time before that was before she was even born.

Our mutual friend was interviewed by defense counsel. IIRC there was an extensive in-person interview before the first trial and just a phone call or two prior to the others. His testimony would have been much like that of witness Joe Crennen.

Sprocket said...

Greg the Obscure:
Thank you for sharing.

It's my understanding [from listening to Detective Leslie being interviewed on KFI] that detectives interviewed over 150 witnesses.

David In TN said...

Was this Brown's plan? Throw Lauren off the cliff, then go to the authorities and say "My daughter ran ahead and fell to her death by accident." Did he then expect the whole thing to be over?

Unknown said...

In the previous entry, Greg the Obscure (love the handle!) asked about Pleasant Valley State Prison.

It could not be a more unpleasant place. Well, actually, several of the state prisons are in unpleasant places. Pleasant Valley is located in Coalinga, CA, in western Fresno County. It's housed such lovely specimens of humankind as Erik Melendez and Hans Reiser (Hans Reiser is a great guy... look up his crime, he killed his wife and thought he'd gotten away with it His children are now living in Russia with their maternal grandmother).

It boasts a high infection rate of Valley Fever. You might remember how Phil Spector was to be moved there, but his wife probably lawyered up and got that stopped, because of the Valley Fever. Of course now he's in the elderly medical unit at Stockton.

Here's an arial view of Pleasant Valley. There's no valley (unless you want to consider the vast San Joaquin Valley the "valley") nor does it look pleasant. Coalinga is a smallish community, dry most of the year.

Next door to Pleasant Valley is the state mental hospital at Coalinga, a really fun place chock full of criminal sickos. And by sickos I mean the mental, criminally insane types.

Sprocket said...

I've made the image link Catherine posted clickable:

Pleasant Valley

Sprocket said...

David in TN:

The only time Brown spoke to police, was in the early morning hours of November 9, 2000.

I have not seen Detective Leslie's report of that interview.

When they took Brown to that station, Detective Leslie testified they did not have available to them, a room with surreptitious camera/recording equipment. That's what Detective Leslie initially wanted because he wanted to video record Brown's affect.

Brown told detectives that he wanted to take Lauren to the beach. However, Inspiration Point is not on the route from the school to Patty's condo. It's out of the way.

According to detectives, Brown said she was throwing rocks.

According to detectives, Brown was sitting down, Lauren was to his right, and slightly behind him. When he looked away for a moment, then looked back, she was gone.

Then during a second recounting, came a description that he saw her feet go over.

Then during a third recounting, that he also saw part of the left side of her body go over.

If you look at that "U" shaped area, it's a 20 degree slant downward towards the ocean. It's very dangerous.

I have difficulty with the defense claim that she was "running around" on that small, U shaped area, throwing rocks, or that she even took a few steps and threw a rock.

Gregg the Obscure said...

A couple last clarifications.

Not only was I never interviewed, I was never contacted by either police or defense.

I did not contact the police because I would have contradicted Sarah on a minor point and I did not want to do anything that could impugn her credibility.

Summer's Mom said...

Oh, many of us are haunted by this one- this was the first case I ever followed closely on the net, from the arrest on, and likely for some others too. Trudging along (by way of your great descriptive abilities) with you and assorted cohorts, year to year, courtroom to courtroom! In the major question, SO obviously guilty, but the cloud (well, miasma, really..) was- HOW to prove, to the most potentially obtuse juror's satisfaction? This was as "perfect" a crime as can be imagined- A helpless, tiny, intimidated victim, a location so dangerous and discomforting no one was likely to be up there during a weekday, a death that, given some dirtying up of her clothes and an added laceration or two, could easily have been chalked up to a slip and fall, and the rocks below- no hope of surviving that impact, nope. So grateful they didn't "need" surveillance tapes to convict!

Anonymous said...

Sprocket, you said "Inspiration Point is not on the route from the school to Patty's condo. It's out of the way." Curious, where was Lauren's preschool and where was Patty's condo? I am interested in looking on a map if there were other beaches on the way?

Sprocket said...

There were quite a few beaches locally that he could have taken Lauren to.

I wrote down the address for the preschool, but I did not get it right. I remember DDA Hum put up a map, to show the route.

Rancho Palos Verdes, and Inspiration Point is out of the way of any freeway.

I know Sarah lived in what is called the South Bay area. They were in either Huntington Beach or Newport Beach... [possibly even Irvine, but I don't think so].

Patty's condo was in Ventura County, several hours away.

Picking up Lauren and spending time with her, and then bringing her back home, really cut into Brown's time off.

Sprocket said...

I believe Patty's condo was in the city of Ventura, CA, in Ventura County.

ritanita said...

I am so relieved at the verdict. In no way did I want Cameron Brown to end up with a lesser verdict with the possible sentence of time served.

I know from you that a 1st Degree conviction wouldn't be easy. That the jury also found two aggravating circumstances sealed the deal for him.

Thank you for patiently devoting so much time and effort in the quest to find justice for Lauren.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sprocket said...

Robert a 7:20am:

The hearing on 6/19 will be in the morning. The courtrooms open at 8:30 am. If you want to attend this hearing, I recommend being on the 9th floor by 8:30 am. The hearing might not happen until 9:00 am, but there could be a crowd of media and/or family for sentencing. There usually is.

Sources tell me that it's not likely that Brown will be sentenced on this date, and that it will probably happen in July.

It could be that the defense has asked or will ask for a delay to another date. The defense could also need extra time for writing a motion or for their sentencing motion.

Janet said...

Dear Sprocket,

The first I heard of the Brown trial was on the day of the verdict when I saw a news flash on my MSN computer homepage. Living in Minnesota we don't hear about a lot of what happens in California unless 48 Hours or Dateline NBC does a program on it. I was so shocked I started looking for everything I could find about this trial and came across T&T. I could not stop reading until I had read the entire third trial. Have always followed murder trials but have never read coverage like yours other than in a book.

Poor baby Lauren. What a horrible and tragic last day of her life. I was so relieved that Brown got the maximum sentence.

I've done a lot of internet searching to find pictures of Inspiration Point (thank you for the video and photos) but it is really hard to see and understand how dangerous it is. Recalling that you commented that the downward southern slope was about 20 degrees I searched the internet again for comparable pictures and found Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand and Canton Avenue in Pittsburgh, PA. According to The Guinness World Record both of them have an approximate 20 degree slope (35% grade). I will probably never be able to visit Inspiration Point, but these photos sure give a good perspective of what Lauren was up against that day.

This murder trial has gripped me like none other. I am still appalled and devastated about little Lauren's demise.

It looks like you will be covering Brown's sentencing and the victim impact statements? I am so looking forward to that, especially Brown's reaction.

I do have a couple of questions. Do you know anything about Brown's arrest - where it happened and who arrested him (I'm hoping it was Detective Leslie). And also, do you know why Brown decided not to go pro per in the third trial.

Thank you for your blog.


Sprocket said...

Hi Janet, Thank you for your kind words.

Yes, I will be covering the sentencing. Although it is scheduled for June 19, sources tell me it most likely won't happen on that date, but sometime in July.

Brown was arrested on November 16, 2003, a little over three years after Laruen's murder. It was an extensive investigation by LA County Sheriff's Dept. Understand that the coroner took his time in determining the manner of Lauren's death. It was somewhere between six to nine months later that her death was ruled a homicide. Additionally, the biomechanics expert needed the geographical cliff data, as well conduct other experiments before he could come to his conclusion.

I'm not positive, but I believe Brown was arrested at home.

Brown was pro per for a short time. I do not know what went into his decision to relinquish that, and have Mr. Laub reassigned.

Going pro per is not an easy choice, especially in a case this complex. Brown would have to familiarize himself with not only the trial testimony from two trials for each witness, but also the testimony from the Grand Jury. That's a ton of paper to go through.

That's a daunting task, even for an experienced attorney.

According to (IIRC) Lynne Brown's testimony, Brown did attend college, but I do not know if he ever graduated with a degree.