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