Thursday, April 26, 2018

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, Pretrial Hearing 42

Previous hearing can be found HERE.

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, date unknown

April 26, 2018
What a long day today was. And it started off so well.

When I arrived on the 9th floor, I was greeted with the news that Gargiulo was not brought to court, again. I privately wondered if he refused to come out of his cell. DDA Daniel Akemon, DDA Garrett Dameron and defense attorney Daniel Nardoni are here. Lead defense attorney Dale Rubin is a no show.

As I listen to counsel chat with Judge Fidler's clerk Wendy in the well, my eyes fixate on the medium sized jar of candy on the corner of the clerk's counter, next to the wall. I had breakfast but eying that candy jar makes me long for a snack already. The reason Gargiulo isn't here is he had a doctor appointment unbeknownst to the prosecution.

As I sit in the gallery, I reminisce back to my first few months inside this courtroom during the first Phil Spector trial. The courtroom feels completely different than than it did ten years ago. My years in similar courtrooms have steeled me a bit. I'm still cognizant of the power a judge has in his courtroom and do my best to obey all the posted rules and bailiff's commands. However, a courtroom is not as frightening a place to me as it once was when I first stepped into Fidler's court in February 2007.

There are apparently three cases on Judge Fidler's calendar ready to go, and Gargiulo is one of them. There is a discussion as to how many days in advance the court requires to get the number of pre-screened jurors they will need for a death penalty case. Somewhere between 30 days and six weeks. The clerk and counsel toss around a new date to return. Possibly June 8. Gargiulo was arrested on June 6, 2008. He's been in custody ever since. I overhear that Gargiulo had an MRI today, making my mind wander as to what medical issue Gargiulo could have. Because of HIPAA laws, I know it's pointless to ask defense counsel what's going on with Gargiulo's health.

I hear counsel and the clerk have a bit of a discussion about how there is supposed to be a July date for a preliminary hearing in the Uwaydah/Kelly Soo Park, twelve defendant (or is it 13?) insurance fraud case, but it's not clear if that will really happen. I followed that case for a short time when it was in Judge Kennedy's courtroom. Lance LaMon of is still diligently reporting on that case. I imagine that preliminary hearing with all those defendants (and sometimes two counsel for one defendant), on three separate indictments will be a nightmare.

9:10 AM

Judge Fidler takes the bench. He states for the record the counsel present and that the defendant is not present. Mr. Nardoni informs the court that Mr. Gargiulo was taken for an MRI today. It's something they have been waiting on for some time.

I'm betting Gargiulo was taken to an LA County hospital for the MRI. I doubt the County Jail facility has an MRI machine.

The parties inform the court they are seeking a return date of June 8th for pretrial. DDA Akemon informs the court they are looking to (hopefully) have a trial start date at the end of August of this year.

The court responds, "So ordered."

And that took about a minute of on the record court time.

Next hearing is June 8, 2018. Hopefully on that date a firm trial date will be set.

After the Gargiulo hearing, I was sent to a few different departments to get copies of documents in the Robert Baker & Monica Sementilli case. I hung around for lunch and then headed over to the Stanley Mosk Courthouse to drop in on a civil case, related to the Lazarus case that my friend Matthew McGough is keeping tabs on. I hope to have a few notes up on that strange experience in a few days.

The next post on this case can be found HERE.


Unknown said...

I am writing from MA. Here people complain if a murder case takes two years to come to trial. I am puzzled why this case is taking so many years.I read the book on this case ,The Hot one by Carolyn Murnick and know how much the victim"s families need to see justice served. I hope this case does go to trial this Aug,2018.
I wonder if the LA justice system in overwhelmed,disorganized, or does not care enough to bring this case to trial without avoidable delays?
this does not seem like a normal court process to me.

Sprocket said...

Most people are not aware that the LA County Court system is the largest Court system in the country. There are 37 courthouses in Los Angeles County. There are over 100 civil courtrooms in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse alone. There are 60 courtrooms in the downtown LA criminal court building.

The LA County DA's office is the largest District Attorney's office in the country. They see every kind of case imaginable.

Have you read any history on this case? It might be helpful to look at the Quick Links page I have built. This is a complex case with three victims, and another uncharged act/victim [1101(b) evidence] that will be presented in this case. I expect this case to take 5-6 months. There will be many, many witnesses who testify.

In April 2012, Gargiulo decided to go "pro per" meaning, he was representing himself. That lasted for about 2.5 years. When a defendant goes pro per, the court basically has to bend over backwards, especially on a death penalty case, to ensure his rights are not violated. The court, and the DA's office doesn't want to go through a lengthy trial only to have it overturned on appeal.

Defendants who are brought to court, are cavity searched before they are returned to the jail facility. As an aside, there are "thousands" of detainees in the LA County Sheriff's downtown men's central jail. One one such return trip from court in April 2014, Gargiulo was found to have a piece of metal in his mouth. Contraband. The piece of metal was the clip from a ball point pen. The proper hearings were held and in the LA County jail, Gargiulo was denied his access to the Jail Law Library and the phones in there to call his attorneys. He was still pro per, but he did not have any access to research, etc., that other pro per defendants get, because he violated the terms of the jail. Access to the Jail Law Library is a privilege, not a right. He struggled on for 6-7 more months and then relinquished his pro per status.

He was saddled with the same attorney he hated who represented him in the preliminary hearing. All the work/motions Gargiulo filed are worthless because it's now basically a new attorney.

That lasted about a year. Something happened in that counsel's law office (that I won't go into at this time) where as, the court finally granted Gargiulo's many Marsden Motion request to get a different counsel.

So at the end of 2015, the second chair (who would have defended Gargiulo in the penalty phase) became first chair and he needed to find a new second chair. He also had to read all the thousands upon thousands of discovery pages presented so far. He also had to present to the *supervising* court (not the trial court) his needed budget to defend the case. All that takes time. So it took that counsel about a year and a half to prepare. And during that time, a new judge was assigned to Dept 108, where the case had been since 2008. The DA's office didn't like that judge so they *papered"* the judge and the case landed in Judge Fidler's court.

August or September of last year, they had a trial date around the first of this year. But the current trial in Fidler's court went longer than expected. And what happened? Gargiulo decided to change his plea from not guilty to not guilty by reason of insanity.

What that does, is it opens up a LOT of discovery and other doctor experts that need to examine Gargiulo. It also means that after the trial to determine guilt phase, there will be a trial to determine sanity. Then if he is found sane, there will be a penalty phase, to determine if Gargiulo gets death or not.

I hope that answers your question.

Sprocket said...

Correction. I meant to say "call his investigators," as pro per, not his attorneys.