Thursday, May 19, 2016

Lonnie Franklin, Jr., "Grim Sleeper" Penalty Phase Update

 Lonnie Franklin, Jr.,  verdict 5/5/16
(Barbara Davidson/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool)

UPDATED 5/20: Removed statement about Debra Jackson's house. It burned after her death.

UPDATED: name spelling, grammar, clarity
Previous post can be found HERE
T&T Case coverage and Media Links HERE.

Thursday, May 19, 2016
Note from Sprocket
This is a short update to let you know what's been going on with the trial the last two days, why my notes are late and what's going to happen over the next couple of days. I will be transcribing my daily notes over the weekend and the few days the jurors are on break next week. Sprocket

On Wednesday, May 18, 2016, I forgot my laptop. I didn't realize it wasn't in my bag until I got to court. This meant I had to take hand notes all day. I don't mind taking hand notes. However, I'm not able to get as detailed a description of testimony when I write verses type. And hand notes, are harder to transcribe than typed notes. Wednesday night I didn't get to bed until well after midnight. At that point, I didn't even have half of the day transcribed. I chose to get sleep, verses staying up until 2 am, like I had the last two days.

There were several victim impact statements on Wednesday. All the victim impact statements I've witnessed so far have been overwhelmingly emotional as well as physically draining to transcribe. Every story I've witnessed so far has left a tremendous impact on me.

The testimony by Jermaine Jackson, the son of victim Debra Jackson was exceptionally heartbreaking.

Debra's son testified that his mother had been struggling. She was trying to go to school at night and find a place to live.

Jermaine and his sister had been placed in foster care. His mother had been able to get him out of foster care first, and she brought him to her girlfriend's house. She was planning on getting her daughter out soon after. The plan for the family was, that once his sister was back in his mother's care, they were going to move back to Massachusetts, where her mother and sister lived, within a week.

Jermaine was with his mother for only 24 hours when she suddenly disappeared. She didn't show up for work. Debra's girlfriend filed a missing person's report after a few days of Debra being missing. When Debra's girlfriend filed the report, police informed her Debra had been murdered and found dumped in an alley.

Jermaine Jackson recounted, that one of the hardest things he had to do in his life, was to tell his 9 year old sister, that their mother was murdered. Jermaine was 12 years old at the time.

Several victims of the defendant had children whose lives were dramatically changed. The have wounds on their hearts that still hurt 20-30 years later.

Witnesses who testified Wednesday morning:
Anyata Jackson - Daughter of victim Debra Jackson
Myah Green - Anyata's daughter, Grandaughter of Debra Jackson
Dr. Pedro Ortiz - Reviewed autopsy report on victims Georgia Mae Thomas and Inez Warren
Jermaine Jackson - Son of victim Debra Jackson
Shands McCoy - LAPD Detective; performed missing person's investigation for missing person, Rolenia Morris
Rafael Garcia - LAPD criminalist who participated in the search of defendant's residence. Introduced the various weapons found in the home and garage.

Witnesses who testified Wednesday afternoon:
Daniel Rubin - LAPD firearms and tool mark examiner. Examined the bullets recovered from victims Sharon Dismuke and Georgia Mae Thomas.

Fortunately, I remembered my laptop today.

Around 11:30 am in the morning session, the next witness is called and sworn in. Defense attorney Seymour Amster immediately called for a sidebar. The side bar went on for a while and then a note from the jury was delivered to the court and counsel at sidebar.

The court excused the witness and went over the note at side bar.  After the sidebar, Judge Kennedy retakes the bench and reads the note the jurors sent on the record.

The court states, "We have an issue we have to take up. ... I have a note in my hand. It's written by Alternate #3."

Judge Kennedy reads the note. [I do not have the entire text of the note verbatim. I will try to obtain it. Sprocket]

Good morning. Today we have noted [the defense attorney] is physically directing his questions to us the jury and not the witness. We have come to the consensus his actions have made us feel uncomfortable and threatened.

This does not affect what the jury is here to do and listen to all the evidence.

P.S. We can still be fair.

The court inquires with Alternate #3. The jury tells the court it was a combined effort. Alternate #3 was chosen because she has the best handwriting. Then Juror #8 speaks for the group.

Judge Kennedy asks, "You and the jurors feel threatened by the way the defense attorney [is communicating?]

Juror #8 answers the court:
It’s more or less the questions are directed [at us], it's the body language, [eye contact], its physically directed toward us and not specifically ... [to the witness]... He’s done this [with other witnesses throughout the trial].

The jurors are looking down rather than look up and its uncomfortable to [us] that rather then the questions [directed at us, he] should be looking at the witness.

Judge Kennedy asks another question. "And so you feel uncomfortable and some of the jurors feel uncomfortable ... and some of the jurors are nodding their own heads, yes."

Judge Kennedy continues. "Some attorneys have their own style and manner of communicating.
I do know that Mr. Amster has no hostility toward you. ... I’m concerned that you might not be able to render a fair verdict towards Mr. Franklin."

Juror #8 responds, "Not at all. We are here for a reason and we are all here for a reason. We are asking that he modifiy his behavior so that we do not feel uncomfortable doing our job."

The court inquires, "Do you feel that you would be unfair?

[I miss the answer but I believe the juror answers that they can be fair."

The court and counsel then go back to side bar. After the sidebar, the court excuses the jurors to an early lunch. After the jury has left, the court has counsel discuss in open court.

Defense attorney Amster starts off.
Our problem with Ms. Silverman ... at side bar, she point at the jury. She continually interrupts me in the middle of a question. We have tried to control ourselves but we are human and we have emotions and it's gotten to this point, unfortunately. ... What we have done has not [influenced?] this jury. If my conduct is unprofessional then [make a complaint to?] the state bar. ... It's about the defendant's rights. ... If there is something that I've done, that the jury is no longer impartial...

Amster suggests he write out a letter of apology for the court to read and we move on.

Judge Kennedy replies, "But as I said at side bar, I think that this is an advantage that this has been communicated to you because most times you wouldn't get this information. They are indicating to you that they feel uncomfortable by how you're asking questions and it's distracting them from paying attention to the evidence. ... They've also indicate that, that they want to listen to the evidence and the don't want to be distracted. ... So they could have just kept to themselves and continued to be more and more unhappy if the way that you're asking questions continued.  ... So write something during the lunch hour and see what it says. And if it’s appropriate, I’ll read it on your behalf and well move forward.

Amster counters that it is the defense position that this is something that they [the jurors] should have communicated to the court and not each other.  Amster then misspeaks and says, "Seeing that we brought this to the jury..." He's quickly corrected by the court and he apologizes.

He continues. "Seeing that the jury brought this to us. ... Being that we have a heightened sensitivity to this issue. I have to have a heightened sensitivity on this issue, ... this will give the prosecution an unfair advantage if they continue to interrupt us."

The court has a theory and a suggestion. "I will suggest, I'm, maybe ... before you were questioning from the lectern, and now you're not. If you're at the lectern, and you're looking straight on at the witness box, maybe that would ameliorate that to some degree."

Amster counters,  "The way this court is set up, I hear so many snide remarks, I'm tired of it."

Amster and the court go back and forth about the snide comments that he hears and that sometimes it's difficult to get to the lectern because the legs are stretched out. The court tells Amster that she's brought it up and made admonishments. Amster states that it's continually happening.

DDA Silverman offers to move her staff to behind the front row. The court tells the people they don't have to do that. Judge Kennedy states it's just his [Amster's] field of vision.

And that's where it was left when the court breaks for lunch at about 11:55 am.

At 1:30 pm, Amster prepared a statement but the people objected to his statement being read to the jury.  DDA Silverman argued the statement would be tantamount to the defense attorney, testifying to the jurors. Judge Kennedy compromises and states she will read something to the jurors, which she did.

Witnesses who testified Thursday morning:

Dale Rubin - continuing his testimony from Wednesday

Witnesses who testified Thursday afternoon:
Sherry Costa - Aunt of victim Barbara Ware
Treva Anderson - Younger sister of victim Barbara Ware
Vivian Williams - Older sister of victim Georgia Mae Thomas

Vivian Williams was a very composed witness. Towards the end of her testimony, she told jurors about a compelling event she remembers involving herself, Georgia and a friend of Georgia's.

Ms. Williams told the jury she remembers a time where, she would drop her sister off at a house on 81st Street, just off Western. She remembers how she used to tease Georgia that the house looked like a "cookie house," or a gingerbread house. She remembers she dropped her sister off at this house maybe eight or ten times.

Vivian would see Georgia's friend at the gate. Georgia's friend would let her in. Vivian said she would never leave until she saw someone let her sister in. The friend would wave to Vivian. The friend was a man. A black man. Her sister told Vivian that the friend's name was Lonnie. Vivian does not remember if she dropped her sister off, near the time of Georgia's birthday.

Vivian testified that her sister told her that she and her friend, that they had "dual birthdays ... that they celebrated their birthdays together. ... that their birthdays, they were on the same date [August 30]."

Vivian testified that her sister was born in 1957.

After the direct examination is done, Amster gets up to cross the witness. This is the first family member that Amster has crossed in the entire penalty phase of the trial.

Under cross examination, Vivian testified that when she took her sister over to the friend's house, it was usually on a Sunday evening, and that Georgia and her friend would go dancing. And this was over a time period that was longer than two or three months. Vivian affirms again that she would make eye contact with the friend when she dropped off her sister and that Georgia's friend would wave to her.

Vivian does remember that she did tell Detective McKnight about this friend, and that it was before the defendant was identified. Georgia never told Vivian about any violence or that this was a bad relationship.

At one point, towards the end of repeated questions about the time period that this happened, Vivian insisted she didn't remember when but then added, "If you want to know about the relationship, she told me it was her boyfriend."

Court resumes tomorrow at 9:00 am for a morning session only. The jurors will have Friday afternoon off and Monday through Wednesday of next week. There will be court business and at least one 402 hearing next Wednesday. I hope to have my detailed notes on Wednesday's testimony posted by Friday afternoon.


David In TN said...

I've had the experience of forgetting something I needed. Sometimes that's what it takes to help you remember.