Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation, by Matthew McGough

The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation, by Matthew McGough

On sale today from Henry Holt, Matthew McGough’s long awaited book, The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation.

A Journey

I first met author Matthew McGough over seven years ago on February 14, 2011 when I was looking for a new case to cover and decided to attend pretrial hearings in the Stephanie Lazarus murder case. LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus was charged with the 1986 murder of Sherri Rasmussen. Over the following year of pretrial hearings, I got to know Matthew and we became friends.

I have so many memories from this journey. 

Becoming fast friends with Matthew on day one of the trial. Saving seats for each other and trading notes, etc. All the sushi lunches we went on at our regular sushi spot near the courthouse. The trip to the desert to the Federal Archives in Perris, California searching for documents in the Catherine Braley civil trial. This is where we photographed thousands of pages one by one.

When this trial started, I remember Sherri Rasmussen’s sister, Teresa Lane bringing Matthew some blue chicken eggs from her hens to court. They were for Matthew’s twin boys, who were five and-a-half years old at the time. They will become teenagers this year.

For the past seven years, 

I went along with Matthew on his journey and the excitement as he shared the latest twists and turns in his investigative research. 

Lately, people have been telling me to write a book about my own experiences covering high profile murder trials. However, I know from my friendship with Matthew, what a daunting task it is to write a non-fiction book. I saw up close how much time and effort went into Matthew's research and how important it is to get the facts right. I don’t know if I have the mettle for such a task.

I have been covering murder trials since 2007. No case has impacted my life as much as Sherri Rasmussen’s. I’ve made life long friends in Nels and Loretta Rasmussen, Jayne and Michael Goldberg and several others.  

Having read Matthew’s book, I believe it will be recognized as the definitive account of this historic murder case.

Order the book at www.TheLazarusFiles.com

Book Synopsis
On February 24, 1986, 29-year-old newlywed Sherri Rasmussen was murdered in the home she shared with her husband, John. The crime scene suggested a ferocious struggle, and police initially assumed it was a burglary gone awry. Before her death, Sherri had confided to her parents that an ex-girlfriend of John’s, a Los Angeles police officer, had threatened her. The Rasmussens urged the LAPD to investigate the ex-girlfriend, but the original detectives only pursued burglary suspects, and the case went cold.

DNA analysis did not exist when Sherri was murdered. Decades later, a swab from a bite mark on Sherri’s arm revealed her killer was in fact female, not male. A DNA match led to the arrest and conviction of veteran LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus, John’s one-time girlfriend.
The Lazarus Files delivers the visceral experience of being inside a real-life murder mystery. McGough reconstructs the lives of Sherri, John and Stephanie; the love triangle that led to Sherri’s murder; and the homicide investigation that followed. Was Stephanie protected by her fellow officers? What did the LAPD know, and when did they know it? Are there other LAPD cold cases with a police connection that remain unsolved?

"The Lazarus Files is crime writing at its finest. Matthew McGough’s deep dive into one of the most controversial cases in Los Angeles history is expertly researched and recreated in exacting and haunting detail. I was riveted.”   --Michael Connelly

The Lazarus Files chronicles one of the most fascinating homicide cases in the history of the LAPD. Matt McGough does a herculean job of research and reporting in order to track down the many serpentine threads in this coldest of cold cases. This is a thrilling story of justice long delayed―but justice finally served.”   --Miles Corwin, author of the national bestseller The Killing Season and Los Angeles Times bestseller Homicide Special

April 30, 2019 at 7:30 pm (Pacific)
The Last Bookstore, 453 South Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Matthew McGough, author of The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation, discusses the book and the case with LAPD detective Jim Nuttall and screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker (Seven).

May 14, 2019 at 7:00 pm (Pacific)
Vroman's Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91101
Matthew McGough, in conversation with Michael Connelly and Miles Corwin, discusses and signs The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation

May 19, 2019 at 3:00 pm (Pacific)
DIESEL, A Bookstore, 225 26th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90402
DIESEL, A Bookstore in Brentwood welcomes Matthew McGough to the store to discuss and sign The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation on Sunday, May 19th at 3:00 pm. Please note that this event will take place in the lower outdoor courtyard adjacent to our store.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Michael Gargiulo Case: Status Update April 2019

Michael Thomas Gargiulo, Arrested 6/6/08.

April 27, 2019
Here is a status update on the pending Michael Thomas Gargiulo murder trial.

Gargiulo is charged with two murders (Ashley Ellerin 2001, Maria Bruno 2005) and one attempted murder (Michelle Murphy 2008). Evidence of another alleged murder, Tricia Pacaccio (1993 Glenview, IL) will be presented as 1101(b) evidence, prior uncharged acts (in California). On July 7, 2011, Gargiulo was charged with first degree murder in the death of Tricia Pacaccio by the Illinois Cook County State's Attorney.

Trial Schedule
Opening statements are scheduled to start Thursday May 2, 2019.  Testimony will start on Monday, May 6. No live streaming of the trial will be allowed. Although the court announcement did not mention it specifically, I expect this also covers live tweeting. No photography or filming of witnesses.

The trial will be held four days a week, Monday through Thursday (9:30 a.m. to 12 noon; 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.) and is estimated to last six months. The court will be dark the first week of July and for any other court needs.

For opening statements, closing arguments, verdict and sentencing (if necessary), filming and still photography will be allowed. The court is allowing laptops to be used for note taking only.

I have followed the Gargiulo case for over 6.5 years from my first post on August 21, 2012. It was inconceivable to me back then that it would take almost 11 years to bring Gargiulo to trial.  Sadly, due to the recent changes in my life and the length of this trial, I will be unable to cover this case in the depth and detail that makes T&T what it is. I will not even be able to attend opening statements. I will try however, after the trial has started, to drop in on testimony in May or June as my schedule permits.

Note: I am still trying to obtain a copy of the defense response motion to the people's 1101(b) motion regarding the murder of Tricia Picaccio. I will upload motion documents as I obtain them. Sprocket

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Stephanie Lazarus In Her Own Words (Part IX, 4/18/85)


Stephanie Lazarus In Her Own Words (Part IX, 4/18/85)

In 1986, Sherri Rasmussen was murdered in her Van Nuys home.

23 years later, in 2009, LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus was arrested for the crime. Lazarus was convicted of first degree murder in 2012, a trial I covered from gavel to gavel.

Early in her LAPD career, Stephanie kept a diary of her daily patrol rounds.

This diary entry is from April 18, 1985, 34 years ago today. 

At the time, Stephanie was a patrol officer assigned to the LAPD’s Deonshire Division.

0730 - 1615 (1545)


No roll call, it was work out day. This was my first day out in the field. I worked with John M---, a P 3+1. Real nice guy. We worked the Northridge Mall Z Car. The Z Car is an extra car, receives no radio calls. We basically patrolled the Mall (inside) and Parking Lot (outside).

First thing out of the Station, we did stop for coffee at Foster’s on Reseda.

Then we checked out Bryant and Vanalden. This is the area for selling Heroin. It looks worse than Leland / McCadden and St. Andrews and Marathon in Hollywood.

Then we checked out the parking lot in the Mall. We made a lot of high school students who weren’t 18 go back to school and not go into the Mall. Most of the kids say they're 18 but they're not.

Then we walked around the Mall, keeping an eye out for the opening of the jewelry stores. John knows everyone in the Mall which is neat.

At about 1130 John had to go to a special lunch for a special award. I went to Fuddrucker’s and met another unit that was already there. It was 2 guys that I don’t really know. But they were somewhat nice. I could tell not real thrilled. This place went 1/2.

After lunch I was leaving the lot and I saw John Ruetten’s car. Just my luck. I put a note on it and watched the car for 1/2 hour and checked up on it a few times. Well I find out from him later that he had gotten into Fuddrucker’s at about 1210. Just about 5 minutes before I left.

Then I patrolled the mall a bit. Some girls stopped me to tell me that they saw this lady beating her child. I went and checked it out. A lady was really upset but it didn’t look like she had beaten her child.

Then I picked John up at the Sub Station in the Mall and we patrolled around and walked in the Mall before End of Watch which was about 1540.

Heissel today said something about my tan. I said, Yeah, I was wearing my bikini at the run. She said, Yeah, I heard. I couldn’t imagine what was said.

My friend Matthew McGough's book, The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation, will be released on April 30, 2019. You can pre-order his book on Amazon HERE.

The previous diary entry can be found HERE.
The next diary entry can be found HERE.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Stephanie Lazarus In Her Own Words (Part VIII, 4/16/86


Stephanie Lazarus In Her Own Words (Part VIII, 4/16/1986)

In 1986, Sherri Rasmussen was murdered in her Van Nuys home.

23 years later, in 2009, LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus was arrested for the crime. Lazarus was convicted of first degree murder in 2012, a trial I covered from gavel to gavel.

Early in her LAPD career, Stephanie kept a diary of her daily patrol rounds.

This diary entry is from April 16, 1986, about seven weeks after Sherri's murder.

 At the time, Stephanie was a patrol officer assigned to the LAPD’s Devonshire Division.

0730 – 1615 (1545)

I had to go to loan to North Hollywood. They had a training day. I got to work w/ Scotty which was ok. At least I knew him. I drove. We didn’t do a thing all day. I think we had 3 radio calls.

I drove around the North Hwd Hills because I like to look at the large houses. We took a Code 30 in the Hills off of Dona Pegita. We checked the house, nothing, then the woman came home. She had a lovely house and her husband had just died. She was nice though I felt sorry for her. Scotty was looking for an old Stove. So we looked at used appliance stores.

Then we ate at the Sea Food Broiler. They didn’t go 1⁄2 or anything but I had crab. It cost 10.95 but I didn’t care.

The only other call we got was a child abuse. Well lucky for us it was only a DPSS social worker checking on a child that might have been abused by her mother, a broken finger. The mother was 21 yrs old and didn’t seemed to concerned, but the DPSS worker didn’t take the child because the people the child was staying w/ promised to take the child to the hosp.

We did have a call in Van Nuys – family dispute. The wife was bothering the husband, but she had left. The man was really sleazy and the house had about 6 cars in the front yard.

We stopped for Baskin Robbins ice cream on Victory / Fulton. Surprisingly enough it was free.

H--- was nice and picked up my dishwasher and delivered it to my house.

My friend Matthew McGough's book, The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation, will be released on April 30, 2019. You can pre-order his book on Amazon HERE.

The previous diary entry can be found HERE.
The next diary entry can be found HERE.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Stephanie Lazarus In Her Own Words (Part VII, 4/15/86)


Stephanie Lazarus In Her Own Words (Part VII, 4/15/1986)

In 1986, Sherri Rasmussen was murdered in her Van Nuys home.

23 years later, in 2009, LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus was arrested for the crime. Lazarus was convicted of first degree murder in 2012, a trial I covered from gavel to gavel.

Early in her LAPD career, Stephanie kept a diary of her daily patrol rounds.

This diary entry is from April 15, 1986, seven weeks after Sherri's murder.

 At the time, Stephanie was a patrol officer assigned to the LAPD’s Devonshire Division.

0730 - 1615


We played basketball for work out day. I worked by myself. I wrote a ticket at Louise / Prairie. The woman ran the stop sign. Of course she said she stopped. All she could do was argue.

Then I had to go to the Station. I had to take Capt Fried to Marilla and Lasaine for a Earth Quake Drill that was put on by Hal Bernson’s office. This was Earthquake Awareness Week. It was I guess a privilege to drive the Capt around. The earthquake drill was interesting. They used citizens and had them made up with wounds and simulated what a rescue team would do if a real earthquake occurred. I did this from about 0915 to 1100. Then I drove around. I went and bought my dishwasher.

Then I got a call Tampa / 118 FWY. There was a TA. I took all the info and got a traffic car. Party 1 ran a stop light on the offramp and ran into this woman. Party 1 he worked at Rockwell, real nerd, didn’t even know what happened. Then I waited for C-7 to go w/ H---. Well I had to pick up Schuster at the Station. I wasn’t too happy. Dr. Schuster is OK but he likes to butt into the conversation and the work, like he knows it all.

I didn’t do anything for about 1 1/2 after lunch w/ him.

My friend Matthew McGough's book, The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation, will be released on April 30, 2019. You can pre-order his book on Amazon HERE.

The previous diary entry can be found HERE.
The next diary entry can be found HERE.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Jennifer Francis v. City of Los Angeles (LAPD) Verdict

Stanley Mosk Courthouse, downtown Los Angeles
April 5, 2019
I arrived on the 5th floor of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse a little before 10am. I was late to court. I had gotten all the way to the bus station when I realized I didn't have my Metro tap card or credit card. I had left them in the pocket of the jacket I had worn yesterday.

Jennifer Francis's counsel were in the hallway as well as two of the alternate jurors. A little farther away down the hall were a group of attorneys from the LAPD's Legal Affairs Office. They had been in the courtroom for the past week.  Defense counsel Reginald Roberts, along with Deputy City Attorney Karen Park, have stayed inside the courtroom waiting on deliberations.

I started reading the web and got lost for a bit. The next time I looked up, there were several jurors in the hallway and John Taylor was headed into the courtroom. Not long after, a new courtroom assistant was hanging a sign on the outside of Dept 56 that said, "Jurors wait in the hallway until called." I was guessing that the jurors were either on a break or they had a question.

The verdict form has eight questions the jurors, depending on their answers along the way will answer. Here is verdict form question number 1:

My friend Matthew McGough arrives and we find out that the jury had a question that was answered. Here is the first  question from the jurors.

The answer that was sent back to the jurors is "No."

Everyone's now back inside the courtroom. The courtroom assistant, a man I've never seen before, is telling the clerk at the desk that the jurors need five sheets of paper. They have five questions.

Another buzz from the jury. The courtroom attendant enters the jury room. A file folder is brought out. The attendant makes copies and walks the papers into Judge Fujie's chambers. They have their second question.

Mr. Roberts states, "I thought there were five questions. The attendant replies, "maybe expect four more buzzes. Ms. Park shows me the jurors question on her phone. I don't write it all down quickly enough.

Judge Fjuie comes out from her chambers for a moment. Plaintiff's counsel John Taylor and Matthew McNicholas leave, then come back.

Judge Fujie is on the bench. She reads out loud for the record the second question from the jury.

The jurors continue deliberating while counsel argue to the court what the answer should be.

I have in my notes this comment, but I'm not certain if it's the court, the Defense or Plaintiff's counsel who said it. It is not what is in her mind ... It is up to the jury to determine if the content of the disclosure is a violation of state or federal law. It's possible this is what the court said.

Counsel for the Defendant, the City of LA, argue the answer should be "Yes." Counsel for the Plaintiff, Jennifer, argue the answer should be "No."

And back and forth it goes. Like I've seen many times during this trial, the court is indecisive and waffles back and forth on the record. At first, Judge Fujie appears to side with the Plaintiff. The court and Defense argue back and forth about what the prior case law has interpreted this issue.

I believe it's defense counsel who states, something to the effect of ... [it's the] Plaintiff's burden to establish ... accessory to murder. In the discussion, It appears to me the court cannot decide on how to answer the question. Judge Fujie states, in reference to question #1, "It's confusing."

Ms. Park and Mr. Roberts discuss the issue between themselves.

Judge Fujie muses, "I'm looking at .. is whether if what Ms. Francis disclosed ... if they ... true or if ... would have been [against?] a state or federal law."

Both sides of the aisle just want either a yes or no answer to the jury. Judge Fujie decides to draft her own answer for the jury.  The court tries to craft something out loud. "Is it up to the jury to decide ... if what the plaintiff disclosed ... potentially is a [violation] of State or Federal law?"

I believe it's the Defense who states, "The instruction does not say potential." Mr. Roberts has serious objections to the instruction. John Taylor speaks, and it appears everyone is talking at once. Judge Fujie, appearing exasperated addresses counsel, "Please stop talking."

Judge Fujie goes back into chambers and drafts her own answer to the jury and comes back out with it. Defense counsel agree with the instruction. Plaintiff's counsel is still considering it at the start of the lunch hour.

The lunch hour is called and I have to leave for a special dental appointment I've been waiting months to get. I could not have rescheduled it. It was set months ago. I cannot stay to see if the Plaintiff's counsel agrees with the court's language in the answer to the jurors' question #2. I tell Matthew he's on his own if a verdict comes in while I'm gone.

I take the Expo Line train down to the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at USC.

I'm sitting in the dental chair, waiting for the professor to stop by when I get this text from Matthew around 2:08 pm: "Jen lost - 12-0 on question #1." Matthew tells me that Jennifer left the courtroom before the jury was polled.

My heart sinks for Jennifer.

This is the answer the court crafted for the jurors to their second question.

It is up to the jury to determine if the contents of the disclosure, if true, violated state or federal law.

MyNewsLA.com - Jury Rejects LAPD Criminalist's Whistleblower Case
LA Times - Jury Sides With City in Retaliation Lawsuit

Friday, April 5, 2019

Jennifer Francis v. City of Los Angeles (LAPD) Verdict Watch, Day 1

 Stanley Mosk Courthouse, downtown Los Angeles

UPDATE 4/16:
Corrected the spelling of Detective Shepard's last name. Sprocket
I've made a correction to the section on defense counsel's closing statement, regarding what John Ruetten told detectives in 1986. In my original post, I did not say or intend to say that defense counsel Reginald Roberts intentionally misled the jury, only that he had misstated what John Ruetten told detectives in 1986. The corrected text below is based on actual transcripts and official records, some of them dating back to 1986. Sprocket
UPDATED 4/5: Adding Jeff Thompson's title, Asst. Lab Director. Sprocket
April 4, 2019
Closing arguments were presented to the jury today.

[Note: What follows is a very short summary of closing arguments. I will have a more comprehensive report when I publish my daily notes. Sprocket.]

In the morning session, the jurors heard closing arguments from both parties. The plaintiff's attorney John Taylor went first. Much of Taylor's closing argument was reviewing with the jury defense counsel Reginald Roberts opening statements and characterizing many of the statements as misleading or outright wrong.There are quite a few statements that Taylor goes over with the jury.

John Taylor told the jury of the many people that Francis told about what Cold Case Detective Cliff Shepard said to her in 2005, that John Ruetten's ex-girlfriend, a detective, didn't murder Sherri Rasmussen. She was cleared. Those people included, in order of who she went to, [then] DDA Shelly Torrealba, Detective Greg Stearns, Harry Klann, Jeff Thompson (Assistant Lab Director), Detective Dan Jaramillo, Detective Debra Winter and finally the Office of the Inspector General.

[Note: When Francis went to the Inspector General, that notification finally triggered an Internal Affairs investigation. Sprocket]

John Taylor told the jury that Jeffrey Thompson, a supervisor in SID (Science Investigation Division) admitted on the stand he ordered Jennifer Francis to Behavioral Sciences Section (BSS) for psychological counseling without the approval or review by the commander of SID.

Taylor reminded the jurors of DDA Beth Silverman's testimony where she indicated she had heard from other Deputy DA's in her office, negative comments about Jennifer's ability to be a team player and that she wanted to lead investigations. Taylor told the jury about DDA Silverman's testimony regarding the DA's office "Brady" database, where, any accusation or complaint about police officers is kept and could potentially be turned over to the defense as part of discovery in a criminal case.

In his closing, Taylor told the jurors that the LAPD's decision to send Jennifer to BSS was retaliation and caused her emotional pain and suffering. Taylor pointed out that Jennifer's reputation suffered with the DA's office.

[Note: Jeff Thompson in his deposition, stated that DDA Beth Silverman told him she did not want Jennifer Francis doing any DNA analysis on the Grim Sleeper serial killer case she was prosecuting. That DDA Silverman told him that Francis would be defense witness number one. Sprocket]

Based on Jennifer's estimated lifespan of 83 years, Taylor recommended the following compensation for Francis. For the age period of age 50 to 60 years, she should be compensated somewhere between $875,000 to $1.2 million, per year.  Taylor then recommended another amount, over $500,000 per year for the age years from 60 to 83.

Taylor spoke for approximately an hour. The jurors were given a break and then defense attorney Reginald Roberts started his closing argument right before 11am.

Roberts started off by talking about his biggest fear as a lawyer was getting some fact wrong for his client. He then directs the jurors to focus in on one of the instructions the jurors were given, the Casey instruction 0329.

[Note: I believe I have that correct in my notes. Sprocket]

Roberts then went through several sections of Detective James Nuttall's testimony and interpreting it for the jury.

Roberts stated that all the evidence the Plaintiff told them referencing the murder of Sherri Rasmussen, going back 33 years, "... that's a distraction. ... This case is about 2004 to now."  Roberts told the jurors that Francis was one of several criminalists who worked on the case, she wasn't the only one. He stated that the LAPD Detectives "stuck with the case over time ... [and] got the right person [Lazarus]."

Roberts mentions the commemorative award Francis received for her work on the case. "You don't retaliate by giving [the] highest award. This was a public honor for a team [effort]."

Roberts tells the jury a "... homicide team ...  worked to put Lazarus in prison." Roberts lists on the screen the many names of detectives, Deputy District Attorneys and criminalists who worked on the Lazarus case. "Jennifer is the only one who claims retaliation."

As Roberts speaks to the jury, he paces a bit and waves his arms around a lot. He tells the story of watching [I believe] a golf tournament or golfer on TV with his young 4 year old son, and that his son when asked the golfer's name, said Lion instead of Tiger [Woods].

Roberts stated "... Plaintiff never disclosed a crime ... [plaintiff] complained about the way Detective Shepard conducted the investigation not that [misconduct?] was done."


Roberts tells the jury, "John Ruetten was interviewed. And he was crying when he was telling the detective, Detective Mayer way back when, 'I don't have any problems with an ex-police officer girlfriend.' He told the detetives back in '86, 'I don't have a problem with anyone else.'"

[Note: During Roberts examination of Detective James Nuttall on 3/18/19, Roberts asked the following question:

Roberts: So was it your understanding that he was crying when he was telling the detective, no, I don't have any problems with an ex police-officer girlfriend?
Nuttall: That's correct, sir.

Here is what John Ruetten told Detective Lyle Mayer in their interview on 2/24/86, the night of the murder:

Mayer: You were not having any family problems, or marital problems, or anything?
Ruetten: We were having the best time. We just got married.
Mayer: No financial problems? She's not having any problems with an  ex-boyfriend? Or you with an ex-girlfriend?

Ruetten: No.

During the crime scene walkthrough the following morning, 2/25/86, John Ruetten gave Detective Mayer Stephanie Lazarus's name and informed him that she was a police officer. There's no evidence that John in 1986 ever described Stephanie Lazarus to Mayer as a girlfriend or ex-girlfriend.

EDITOR'S NOTE: T&T is always happy to make a correction, if warranted, upon request. Sprocket]

Roberts tells the jury that after Francis developed the female profile, the Rasmussen murder fell into the lowest classification tier [#4] of cases to work within the Cold Case Unit and that Detective Shepard was "very busy."

Cold Case Unit Classification Level [Highest to lowest priority]
1. DNA hit [connected] to an specific person who is free [not in custody].
2. DNA hit to a specific person who is in custody.
3. DNA hit case to case but no specific person known.
4. No DNA hit to a known suspect.

Roberts tells the jurors that Jeff Thompson in his testimony said Francis "... didn't have a single bit of evidence Cliff Shepard [had] committed a crime."

Roberts tells the jurors that the Cold Case Unit's working conditions were so cramped that when Detective Shepard worked on a case, he had to run over to a storage unit to get a file and run back. Detective Shepard had over 100 cases on his plate, including serial killers.

[Note: It is my memory that I heard Detective Shepard testify earlier in this trial that when he was moved to the Grim Sleeper Task Force, the Rasmussen murder book was locked in a file cabinet behind his desk. Sprocket]

Roberts mentions again that Detective Nuttall never picked up the phone to call Detective Shepard.

Roberts tells the jury that when Detective Nuttall started looking into one of their own for the murder of Sherri Rasmussen, "... he didn't get any push back..." [from his superiors]. Roberts states that the Van Nuys unit kept the investigation under wraps because they knew Stephanie's husband also worked in the same building as them.

Roberts arms are flailing around as he talks to the jury. Roberts then talks about the Lazarus arrest.

Roberts tells the jury that the Plaintiff never told anyone or used the words "cover up" that it was her own counsel, a different counsel than the firm representing her now, who was with her during her interview by the Internal Affairs investigator who used that term. Roberts goes over the various people Francis told about Detective Shepard's statements and that every time she was asked if she was reporting misconduct by Shepard and Francis said no, that she was not making an accusation of misconduct. Like he did in his opening statement, Roberts plays portions of Jennifer's taped deposition for the jury answering these questions.

Roberts claims that the LAPD did not retaliate against Francis. She was not demoted and she did not lose any pay, so there was no retaliation. After the Lazarus trial Jennifer's supervisors gave her higher performance evaluations and she received a commendation. Roberts claims that Francis continued to testify in court on DUI toxicology cases.

Roberts tells the jury that after the Internal Affairs investigation, "... Plaintiff didn't like the outcome ... so we're here." Roberts tells the jury, Francis was "... sent to BSS although she was also under her own therapy at the same time."

[Note: This is not an accurate statement. Francis did not seek her own psychological counseling until after she was ordered to BSS. Sprocket]

Roberts then brings up things in Francis's personal life that she talked about with her own therapist. These are the same things Roberts mentioned in his opening statement, such as her father was dying of cancer during the same time frame. Roberts tells the jury her therapist testified "... she had a lot of problems going on ... these can be an extreme emotional mental burden ..."

[Note: Some of the things that Roberts tells the jury that Jennifer spoke in confidence to her therapist about I will not repeat here. It is my own personal opinion this information is private and would re-victimize Jennifer. Sprocket.]

Roberts tells the jury "... she was dealing with all [this] family stuff [during] the same time frame ... we [LAPD] didn't cause any of those personal things ..."

In closing, Roberts goes over the eight questions on the verdict form that the jurors need to fill out and how he feels they should answer each question.

Roberts finishes his closing about six minutes into the lunch hour. He apologizes to the jurors for taking up some of their lunch time.

Judge Fujie then asks the jurors if they would like to go to lunch now or listen to the Plaintiff's rebuttal arguments before they go to lunch. The jurors say they would like to listen to the rebuttal arguments before they go to lunch.

John Taylor presents his rebuttal arguments. Taylor tells the jury again that defense counsel misled them and cherry picked out information. He talks about psychosomatic symptoms and that they are not all in Jennifer's head.

Taylor brings up Harry Klann's deposition [Jennifer's immediate supervisor at the time] where he adamantly states he did not believe what Jennifer told him about Detective Shepard, a homicide detective, possibly covering up a murder. 

Taylor tells the jury, "Not one LAPD person, ... did you see one [person] who cared about Jennifer Francis."

Taylor talks about the LAPD being incapable of policing themselves. They [LAPD] want to know if they got away with it again. Taylor says, "You get to see how the LAPD treats one of their own ..."

Taylor tells the jury that the damages numbers he recommended to them "... those [numbers] are low. ... They know it. ... If [you come back with a number any lower] ... they [LAPD] will be clinking champagne glasses ..."

Taylor concludes his rebuttal argument around 12:20pm Juge Fujie then tells the jurors to return to the courtroom at 2pm. She tells them, "I bought you snacks [that are] in the jury room. No court funds were used." She says this is her gift to them.

3:39 PM
Some jurors exit the courtroom for a break.

3:49 PM
Jurors start to file back into the courtroom.

4:31 PM
No verdict today. Deliberations continue tomorrow at 9:30am.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Q&A With Matthew McGough Author of The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation

UPDATE 12:20pm: Corrected for spelling. Sprocket
My friend Matthew McGough did a Q&A with journalist Elon Green, which was just published in MEL Magazine.

Matthew's book also recently received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Having read the book, I wholeheartedly agree with Publishers Weekly: "This memorable and powerful work deserves a wide readership."

I've been very fortunate to travel along with Matthew for most of his journey in chronicling the Lazarus case and its aftermath. I first got to know Matthew during the Lazarus trial seven years ago. We were the only two reporters who attended every day of the trial. It's been a blast to be back in the trenches with him the last few weeks for the trial in the case of Francis v. City of LA. Matthew has been a true friend and mentor to me.

A special thank you to Linda Zaleskie of CNN for treating me and Matthew to lunch the last couple days.

I've heard people have been waiting for updates on the trial. I have been working on my daily recaps so please stay tuned. Today is a big day. The jury will hear closing arguments sometime after 9:30am.