Sunday, July 26, 2015

Cameron Brown Post Verdict Hearing 2

5/13/15 - Cameron Brown, 
moments before the guilty verdict was read.

July 17, 2015
On June 19, Brown was scheduled to have a Marsden hearing on July 10. I missed that hearing. Checking the LA County Sheriff's inmate locator web page, Brown was scheduled for another hearing today.

When I get inside Dept. 107, I find out that Brown's Marsden hearing didn't happen on July 10. There are several attorneys in the well and a few cases that will be heard before Brown's Marsden hearing, which will happen today. Defense attorney Aron Laub is waiting his turn in the jury box. I go over to say hello.

Other Cases in 107
The first hearing was over very quickly. The defendant was ill and did not come to court. The court ordered a bench warrant.

The second hearing was for three defendant’s: Leyla Ors (a German National out on bond), Joseph Cavallo and Emanuel Hudson (two attorneys, out of custody and not appearing), charged with trying to extort a Saudi sheik’s Son, Thamer Albalwi.

Short Synopsis
Last year, Leyla Ors went to the LAPD and accused Thamer Albalwi of rape and torture. After an initial investigation, Albalwi was arrested. I happened to be in the Airport Courthouse attending the preliminary hearing in the DaLuise case when Albalwi, out on bail, also had a court appearance. His counsel was former DDA Alan Jackson. Charges against Albalwi were eventually dismissed and the court declared him factually innocent.

Ors, Cavallo, Hudson Case

Court and counsel are waiting for defense attorney Harlan Braun, who is representing one of the defendants and will also stand in for second counsel. DDA Deborah Deleport from JSID is the assigned prosecutor listed on the DA's calendar but I'm not sure if she is here today or someone else is standing in.

Mr. Braun arrives at 8:39 am and the hearing starts. Ms. Ors is present with counsel and a court provided interpreter. The case is 0 of 90 today. The court did receive a memo with parameters as to the items involved and what needs to be extracted for this court's consideration. That went through [another judge's] court, and two court research attorneys were assigned.

I believe Mr. Braun raises the issue of confidentiality and the court explains that special masters are a common occurrence. Confidentiality won't be an issue. Some of the items must remain in a specific location, "the Wilshire Building" because of an LAPD agreement with the Secret Service; other items will be brought to court. The research attorney will have to go to the Wilshire location for research and extraction for those items that cannot be moved.

The DDA informs the court that she needs another extraction order for three more items that have not been extracted yet. These are three items obtained from Ms. Ors hotel room: a cell phone; phone card and sim card. The people also need another minute order to extract information from those items and to copy and preserve it to present to research attorneys.  The court thought those items were on the original memo. The people indicate they were, but those items have not been extracted yet. The court will sign the minute order and the prosecution needs a certified copy. Counsel for Ms. Ors doesn't believe they will get to the prelim anytime soon.

The people suggest putting the case over for another two months. The case is put over to October 8, and the case will be 0 of 90 on that date.

There is concern about some items that have not been returned to one of the defendants, and it's been over a year. A camera, a laptop and a few other items. The prosecution states that as soon as they're done, they'll be happy to turn them over. Mr. Braun states he will send over a proposal. Ms. Ors counsel states they are not agreeing to waive any suppression.

And that's it for this case.

 Lauren Sarene Key, died November 8, 2000.
Playing house under a table.

Cameron Brown

After the three defendant hearing, the court and Mr. Laub discuss the Brown case off the record. They are discussing the various ways things could go. If the Marsden is denied by the court, and the defendant decides to go pro per, the court will need Mr. Hum here.  After a bit more discussion, there is a bench conference. I overhear that there is another hearing for Brown on July 24.

Then the courtroom is cleared for the Marsden hearing. Since I can't attend, I head home.

Brown Sentencing
Sources indicate that after the hearing on July 24, Mr. Laub is still the counsel of record. Brown's sentencing and motion for a new trial will happen on September 18, 2015.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Michael Gargiulo Case, Pretrial Hearing 30

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, in custody
July 14, 2015
8:18 AM
I'm on the 9th floor. The floor is somewhat busy. Lots of seats are taken. A mix of general public and attorneys. I don’t see any jurors at this end of the hallway.

Judge Ohta’s name is still on the door. But I know he’s not on the bench today.

I see private investigator Chris Nicey at the center of the hall. Hes talking with an attorney and a group of people that look like family.

Lots of counsel greeting each other and discussing cases. A slender blond woman wearing a badge I don’t recognize approaches another attorney with a big smile and a hug. “Hello John!" she says. "Nice to see you.”

DDA Akemon’s young intern is here but I haven’t seen anyone from the prosecution or the defense teams. A cameraman shows up at this end of the hall, looking almost lost. I ask him what department is he looking for. He replies, 107. I point to the right door.

Another young DA clerk arrives. She looks like she’s barely out of high school. The court clerk for Dept. 108 opens the door. Now Dept. 107 opens and the hallway empties as parties go into Dept. 108 and 107. I’m betting the Gargiulo hearing will not be first on today’s calendar.

DDA Joshua Ritter comes down the hallway at a fast pace, pulling a leather case on wheels. He goes into Dept. 108. Men in suits and women in professional attire come and go from the courtrooms at a fast pace.

A DDA exits Dept. 108 and starts chatting with a detective who was sitting with DDA Akemon’s intern. It’s Detective Small who worked the Ashely Elerin case.  [I resist the urge to introduce myself to Detective Small, even thought I feel I know him ever since I've read his preliminary hearing testimony.] The young woman with the DDA is his daughter, who is interning. The DDA, his daughter and Detective Small catch up on family news.

8:48 AM
The hallway is mostly empty now. We are waiting for defense counsel and DDA Akemon to arrive.

8:56 AM
Looking down at the other end of the hall, I see DDA Akemon chatting with two other people. He must have just arrived.

9:04 AM
DDA Akemon rushes down to this end of the hallway. He greets Detective Small, then Investigator Nicely. He then goes into Dept. 108 to check in with the court clerk.

Now I'm inside Dept. 108. I take my favorite place, in the second bench row. DDA Joshua Ritter is in trial. Judge Ohta's name plate is removed and there is no new name plate to find out who is sitting in for Judge Ohta until September.

There are a group of four DDA interns chatting away in the row behind me.

DDA's Ritter and Akemon are chatting away at the clerk's desk. There is a new court reporter at the reporter's desk and, there's a new bailiff.

9:08 AM
DDA Garrett Dameron arrives. He greets Detective Small and the other [Detective?] with him. They all chat.  DDA Dameron then goes over to chat with DDA's Akemon and Ritter.  Another defense counsel arrives.

9:12 AM
DDA's Akemon and Dameron leave Dept. 108. DDA's Akemon and Dameron could be having a discussion with investigator Chris Nicely in the hallway.

9:17 AM
We are still waiting. There is the case that is in trial and another case that has a pretrial hearing. The counsel for the case in trial are set up at the counsel tables. I see the replacement judge come out.

Surprisingly, I recognize him. It's his Honor Douglas Sortino, whose regular court is Department 124. Judge Sortino, back when he was a DDA, was assigned the Spector case from 2002-2005 and conducted the Phil Spector grand jury. In 2008, during the second Phil Spector trial, Judge Sortino was called by the defense as a court witness to testify on a discovery issue outside the presence of the jury.

In September 2012, Judge Sortino was one the four justices on the California Courts of Appeal, Division II, when Nels and Loretta Rasmussen, parents of murder victim Sherri Rae Rasmussen, were appealing a lower courts decision about the right to sue the LAPD.

In DDA Ritter's case, the two defendant's are brought out. The defendant's are in street clothes. One defendant has two interpreters. Two interpreters are assigned to give each other breaks. In Ritter's case, the court and counsel are going over modifications to jury instructions.

9:34 AM 
There is a commotion at the inner courtroom doors. It's Gargiulo's defense attorney, Charles Lindner. The doors open, and then Lindner quickly exits back into the ante chamber.

In the case in trial, DDA Ritter is arguing to admit 1101(b) evidence for a specific circumstance. Judge Sortino, brings in his experience with 1101(b) by referring to the Phil Spector case.  It's interesting to me that DDA Ritter, when he was still a clerk assigned to the Major Crimes Division, also worked the Spector case. Judge Sortino asks, "Do you disagree with me on [my?] analysis?" DDA Ritter explains that his motion is "identity" and he has no disagreements with Judge Sortino on his analysis.

Judge Sortino continues explaining about uncharged offenses and more analysis of the crimes and how that relates to his ruling.

9:35 AM
LA County Sheriff's Detective Mark Lillienfeld peeks his head into Dept. 108. Detective Lillienfeld and DDA Dameron leave the courtroom.  It's common in LA County courtrooms where it's a hurry up and wait situation, for your case to be called.

9:45 AM
People's investigative reporter Christine Pelisek arrives. She sits in the back row and chats with Detective Lillienfeld. The case in trial is waiting on a juror or two to arrive.

All of the counsel in the Gargiulo case enter the well. Lindner brings Judge Sortino up to speed on the status of the case. Lindner tells the court that his last filing was on June 15, a 1050 motion. Today, the case is 29 of 60. Judge Sortino reads the defense 1050 motion. Gargiulo is brought out and they go on the record. Counsel states their appearances for the record.

Judge Sortino asks, "Were are we at getting this ready for trial?" The court is informed that defense attorney Dale Rubin asked to be relieved from the case. He is currently appointed as second chair for penalty phase. Lindner tells the court that Mr. Rubin is in the same position as himself. 29,000 pages of discovery. The people have provided [through documentation?], many unproved violent crimes [for] in the penalty phase. Lindner continues, "Both guilt and penalty investigators need to go to Chicago. .... The people intend to introduce the [Glenview] Illinois, Tricia Pacaccio murder.... The people's theory is murder ... in that case, multiple stab wounds ... so ... [unique... consistent?] signature in that case. "

Lindner continues to explain the two victims in our case had multiple stabbings. "In Glenview, Illinois, ... detectives ... [are] no match for us ... [the] investigation [was] sloppy." On top of that, there is DNA regarding victims Murphy and Bruno, and how that relates to the Pacaccio murder. The defense doesn't have a [DNA] lab appointed yet but they do have an expert.

Next, Lindner explains the motion that he will file to separate out the Ashley Ellerin murder; that there's no scientific evidence, [or circumstantial] evidence to link the murder [back to Gargiulo]. The people are relying on modus operandi.  Lindner tells the court he's filed his 995 motion and the people are in the process of filing their 995 response.  The case also as a Perkin's issue.

[The court?] The case would have fourth and fifth amendment issues, based on the Perkin's Operation.

There are also fifth amendment issues.  Lindner makes a comment relating going to trial in 60 days as being at the Indianapolis Speedway [without the proper tires or equipment].

I believe it's the court who comments that Lindner's 1050 is the most detailed 1050 motion ever received. Judge Sortino states, "I think he's established good cause."  DDA Akemon states that the people, "Share the courts concern. ... We have a duty to do [that?] .... We are ready [for trial] ... We respect they have a lot of work to do."

DDA Akemon has a concern that the court hear from Mr. Rubin before ruling. Akemon would be much more comfortable if Mr. Rubin were here.  It's explained to the court that Mr. Rubin's position is secondary.  The court asks, "If you would like to set this for another week ... to get Mr. Rubin in here...." Judge Sortino goes onto explain to the parties that after next week, there will be a different judge in Dept. 108. [From conversations in open court, it's my understanding that Judge Sortino is going on vacation.]

Lindner tells the court that they "could be ready" around Thanksgiving, however, this is a high publicity case. Lindner mentions Ashton Kutcher would be testifying on the Ellerin death, and that will draw a large crowd.

After a bit more back and forth, the court decides, "Let's set a date next week. ... Get Mr. Rubin in here, and see to put the case over to a realistic date."

So return on July 23. No time waver at this point.

Judge Sortino then speaks to Gargiulo directly about the no time waiver and [Gargiulo's?]  own personal interest stand point. The court tells Gargiulo not to answer now, but to think about what
he's said.

Lindner tells the court that Gargiulo has been complaining about "pressure in his head" and "splitting headaches." His client was "shot [quickly] through the infirmary." The court tells Lindner to submit a medical order and the court will require that the medical treatment [reports?] be reviewed by the court.

DDA Akemon informs the court that the next date is 38 of 60.  The court rules that the last day is August 14 and will remain so.

And that was it for this hearing.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Michael Gargiulo Case, Pretrial Hearing 29

 Michael Gargiulo, in custody, 2008

June 15, 2015
8:15 AM
I'm in the hallway of the 9th floor. DDA Dan Akemon is here with a new law clerk. He tells me DDA Garrett Dameron is on vacation. The three of us chat for a short bit until DDA Akemon sees another DDA that he needs to talk to, and he's off.

9:00 AM
Inside Dept. 108.

Several attorneys are in the well for the case with three defendants that I wrote about in prior posts. This is the case where one of the defendants was brought out into the courtroom to speak with two women. It's a good bet this happened under court order by Judge Ohta.  I've never seen that happen before. Counsel are talking off the record, what to do with the case. Judge Ohta will be off the bench for two months. Another judge will step in to handle Judge Ohta's calendar.

Judge Ohta's schedule is discussed. His Honor comes back [from the appellate court] and starts the Johnson and Allen case September 8. All the attorneys in the current case are looking over their calendars and trying to juggle their schedules with the court to go to trial. DDA Joshua Ritter tells the court they will need three weeks for trial. There is discussion of possibly sending the case back to Dept. 100, Master Calendar Court, and then they get the luck of the draw as to which department the case lands in.

DDA Ritter tells the court they would like to schedule the case on the 22nd [July?] and take their chances on whatever Judge is put in Dept. 108.  Judge Ohta also tells counsel that Dept. 100 won't take a case for distribution to a courtroom unless it's 8 of 10. That's because Dept. 100 ensures 1382 issues do not get dismissed. Then Judge Ohta decides to have everyone back in chambers to discuss scheduling privately.

I step back outside into the hallway to work on my Lazarus oral arguments story. I pass DDA Akemon and Detective Mark Lillienfeld, chatting away in the ante chamber.

A bit later, DDA Akemon, Detective Lillienfeld and I are back inside Dept. 108. DDA Akemon and I chat about books we've recently read. We are waiting for defense counsel to arrive.

10:15 AM
Defense attorney Charles Lindner arrives with his son Abe, Lindner's paralegal. There are greetings all around.

Judge Ohta comes out from the back room area. Lindner thanks the court reporter for the transcript. Abe passes out documents to the prosecution. This could be Lindner's response to Gargiulo's 1382 request.

The friendly bailiff from Dept. 107 enters Dept. 108 from the custody area and says hello to the parties in the well. Greetings are exchanged and the deputy asks which case they are waiting on. This is the same deputy who was assigned to Judge Fidler's court during the first Phil Spector trial.

Lindner and Detective Lillienfeld have a discussion about a case, but I'm not positive it's this case.

DDA Akemon and Detective Lillienfeld quickly reads through the brief Lindner handed them.  After that, Lindner and DDA Akemon have a brief chat about California's death row.

Judge Ohta takes the bench and tells the bailiff to bring Gargiulo out. As usual, Gargiulo is in leg chains and his wrists are chained to his waist. Gargiulo appears to be smiling when he comes out. I He's carrying a file. He looks down at his file and doesn't speak to his counsel. Someone asks if a copy of Lindner's brief was given to Gargiulo.

Judge Ohta calls the case and all parties state their appearances for the record.  Judge Ohta gives a summary of what happened on Friday. Mr. Gargiulo, on Friday, gave notice to widrawal the general time waiver. The court asks if it's Gargiulo's intent to withdrawal his time waiver at the point.  Gargiulo replies, "That's correct, your honor."

Judge Ohta states for the record that the defendant has given notive to widtawal the general time waiver. That begins the 0/60.  Judge Ohta states the last day under 1382 is August 14.  Mr. Lindner filed a response to a speedy trial. Judge Ohta states, "The court read it. The motion to continue is premature. ... What I've read in [his?] response there, will be a motion to continue because of the amount of work that needs to be done. ...[The court} ... will not continue now. ... [The court] anticipates a motion to continue."

jDDA Akemon informs the court that he has a capital case in Dept. 109 [], that is tentatively scheduled to start February 2016. The people will be back in court on June 23 to discuss scheduling in that case. DDA Akemon asks the court if they can come back on June 29 or June 30.

Mr. Lindner has no problem with that return date.

The court asks the defendant, “Do you have a preference Mr. Gargiulo?” Gargiulo replies, “Oh, no. Not at all.”

The court tells the parties. “I have one case each of those days. Lets come back on the 30th.”

That puts the calendar at 15 of 60 on that date. The court states Mr. Gargiulo is ordered back for additional pretrial.

Mr. Lindner asks the court if he may be heard. “... I would like to make a record.” The court replies, “Sure.”

Mr. Lindner continues. “As you know the defendant stopped cooperating. Your honor, as you know, ... sent us back. ... He would not speak to us. ... I don’t know if I can prepare without [my] client speaking to me.”

I believe it’s Mr. Lindner who is worries about irreversible error. “Nothing he is doing now ... is not the first time this has happened in LA County.”  The court replies, “It’s not the first time [this has] happened to me either.”

Lindner pleads for Gargiulo to work with him. “I stand willing to work with him at any time.”

Note: On June 30, I had to help Mr. Sprocket with his business and couldn't make the hearing. However, I did make the following hearing on 7/14. Sprocket.

Prosecution 1101(b) Motion

Defense 995 Motion

Defense Response to Gargiulo's Request for Speedy Trial (1382)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Stephanie Lazarus Criminal Appeal - Appellate Court Decision

Stephanie Lazarus, in custody, date unknown.
Photo Credit, Nick Ut, AP.

UPDATE 7/14: According to court records, the divorce between Lazarus and her husband was finalized on June 24, 2015.

UPDATE: correct date of VNHU reopening the investigation.
July 13, 2015
Today, the California Courts of Appeal affirmed the lower court decision in the murder trial of Stephanie Lazarus. Her appeal was denied.

On March 8, 2012, Stephanie was convicted of first degree murder in the death of Sherri Rae Rasmussen. Sherri had recently married Lazarus' former boyfriend, John Ruetten.

John came home from work on February 24, 1986 to find his wife dead on their living room floor. Sherri's murder wasn't solved until the LAPD's Van Nuys Homicide Unit reopened the case in early 2009.

Lazarus can still appeal to the California Supreme Court, but they are not obligated to review it.

You can read the Appellate Courts' published decision, HERE.

Report on the ruling at The Recorder.

Below, Lazarus' prison intake photo, 2012.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Independence Day, 2015

Reposting T&T's entry from 2012. Sprocket

As you plan your holiday today, I thought I would bring T&T readers some little known facts about our nation's beginnings.

July 4th is the day we historically celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. However, there are online sources that indicate our independence was declared on July 2nd, and the document signed a month later on August 2nd.

 This is our 239th year as an independent nation, however, the Army was formed a year earlier.

One of our basic freedoms we enjoy today is freedom of the press, which is part of the First Amendment to our constitution.

There are some historical myths about the Fourth of July and whether or not "Betsy Ross" sewed our nation's first flag.

I guess there will always be those who will believe a story because of who told it, or because it's more interesting than the truth. Although I started T&T over eight years ago as an online diary of attending a murder trial, myself and the rest of T&T's contributors pride ourselves on getting the story right and reporting the facts as accurately as possible.

Stay safe and enjoy your holiday. I'll leave you with a favorite quote:

American traditions and the American ethic require us to be truthful, but the most important reason is that truth is the best propaganda and lies are the worst. To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful. It is as simple as that. 
Edward R. Murrow