Tag Archives: Santa Monica

DA Criticizes Clark, But Gave Her Bonus

Gil Garcetti, who served as Los Angeles County District Attorney from 1992-2000 and oversaw the charging and prosecution of O.J. Simpson for the murders of Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman, said in an interview last week that he didn’t pick Marcia Clark to prosecute Simpson and, in fact, didn’t even want her to do so.

Clark, Garcetti said, made mistakes, ignored the prosecution’s jury consultant’s advice and that the case suffered from being tried downtown instead of in Santa Monica which was the jurisdiction where the murders were committed.

I found Garcetti’s assertions surprising and, frankly, rather specious.

First, Garcetti was THE District Attorney. He was the boss, the head of the District Attorney’s Office. So if he didn’t pick Marcia Clark to prosecute Simpson, who did? If he didn’t want her, why didn’t he tell her no, if she said she wanted the job?

Second, if she made mistakes, didn’t Garcetti bear at least some responsibility? He was head of the office. The trial was nearly 10 months long. If he saw his deputy make mistakes or didn’t agree with her strategy in this most visible trial in the world and whose outcome would reflect on him and his office, and could possibly affect his re-election in 1996, shouldn’t he have spoken to her, stopped her or possibly replaced her?

Third, is Garcetti blaming Marcia Clark for the case being tried downtown instead of Santa Monica? Garcetti’s the one who filed the charges downtown and did so in June of 1994. There was wide speculation, both in the media and privately, that in doing so the D.A. had made a big mistake.

I don’t know why Clark didn’t listen to her jury consultant, but it was obvious to me that she didn’t. What I don’t understand is why Garcetti is now criticizing her for that. Whether or not he was micromanaging the trial, which was alleged often during those nearly 10 months, surely he had an eye on things enough to realize that she wasn’t using the expertise of the consultant his office had hired and was paying for (with taxpayer money). Did he have such a complete hands-off policy that he provided no oversight or direction.

And if Clark did do such a lousy job, why did he give her a nearly $15,000 bonus right after the case was over — a move that angered a large number of Clark’s fellow deputy district attorneys.

Maybe he intended the bonus to be an incentive to do better, given how poorly she performed.

His treatment of a deputy D.A. who had a solid record of wins and successfully prosecuted Lyle and Erik Menendez in the retrial in which they were charged with murdering their parents (and are now serving life sentences), seems to have been proof that Garcetti didn’t reward great performance. Instead of giving Menendez prosecutor David Conn a bonus, Garcetti demoted him from the downtown major crimes unit to an outlying office in Norwalk.

Or did someone else, not the man who was supposed to be in charge of the entire Los Angeles County district attorney operation, give or approve giving Clark a bonus and exile one of his best prosecutors of heinous criminals (Menendez brothers, cocaine dealing TV star Dan Haggerty, serial killer Bill Bradford and Cotton Club murderers) to the suburban city of Norwalk?

I really do find Garcetti’s criticism of Clark wanting.

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No Courtroom Camera, No Trial Buzz?

Although I have witnessed the difference courtroom-camera coverage can have in media reports of trials and, in fact, I wrote about that in my 1997 Court Manager article “What A Difference A Lens Makes”  http://jerriannehayslett.com/pdf/What_a_Difference_a_Lens_Makes.PDF, and even though I support cameras in courtrooms, I take exception to the assertions in this National Public Radio report that aired yesterday.

Lack Of Video Kills Media Buzz At Whitey Bulger Trial

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=196691613

In this broadcast, NPR reporter Tovia Smith says:

“It all raises that age-old question, if a blockbuster trial happens in court and no cameras are around to broadcast it, can it really be a blockbuster trial? Harvard Law professor Charles Nesson says not really.”

Then Charles Nesson says:

“It makes it literally invisible, not a public trial.”

I beg to differ.

Who, including NPR’s Tovia Smith and Harvard’s Charles Nesson, can possibly argue — at least with a straight face — that the 2005 Michael Jackson child molestation trial in Santa Maria, California, wasn’t a “block buster” or that it was “literally invisible”? No cameras in the courtroom for that case.

I know, not only because I could not watch any of the court proceedings on television, but because I consulted on that case and discussed with the judge his thinking on whether or not to allow cameras in.

And how about the 2004 Martha Stewart insider trading trial? No cameras there. Yet every aspect of the courtroom proceedings was aired by the legions of reporters covering it?

Don’t you think the media would have covered every inch the so-called 9/11 20th hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui’s 2002 trial, had he not pled guilty before the case went to trial? Cameras would not have been in that courtroom either, since it was a federal case in a federal courthouse and, except for couple of limited experiments with civil cases, federal court system does not permit camera coverage.

And what about the 1996-7 O.J. Simpson civil trial in which Simpson was sued for wrongful death by the families of murder victims, Simpson ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman? The judge presiding over that trial vehemently denied camera access to his Santa Monica courtroom, yet the media no only covered the actual trial (but maybe not the accompanying circus outside) nearly as closely as they did the 1995 criminal trial, the Santa Monica police issued riot gear and marshaled its mounted units to keep the raucous crowd outside under control.

Most people I poll in presentations I do on high-profile trials think the trial of Scott Peterson, convicted in 2004 of killing his pregnant wife Laci on Christmas Eve of 2002, was televised. It wasn’t.

A number of lawyers and even judges who previously were anti-camera, subsequently have reversed their thinking.

One notable lawyer is Peterson’s defense attorney Mark Geragos, who firmly believes his client is not guilty.

Geragos said at a 2005 conference, which I quote in my book Anatomy of a Trial, “I think we should have had camera coverage to get the facts out there for people to form opinions for themselves. The venom the public expressed about Scott Peterson was based on urban legends. It was not based on the evidence presented at trial.”  http://courtsandmedia.org/conferences/rnccm-conf05-reno.html

I think I agree more with the comments posted at the end of the NPR story that with the premise of the story itself. Here’s a particularly cogent one posted by Sam Hedrick:

“The longer I listened to this story, the madder I got. It’s a bunch of reporters whining because they can’t take video cameras into the courtroom and are missing out on some “great television”. These are not journalists,they’re talking heads. News isn’t supposed to be about making entertainment, it’s about conveying information. Without that, it’s just more worthless crap. This is a trial about a man’s life- maybe a life wasted, but nonetheless this is about justice, not TV.”

 

Simpson Older, Grayer. Aren’t We All

You can not only see an O.J. Simpson who’s five years older since his 2008 robbery conviction in Las Vegas in this story, you can watch video of him chatting and joking with his new attorney in his bid to blame his previous lawyer for his current predicament.

O.J. Simpson Makes Bid for New Trial, in First Public Appearance in Four Years http://abcnews.go.com/US/oj-simpson-makes-bid-trial/story?id=19169053#.UZIndaKsh8E

Even though I spent time in his Vegas trial courtroom and in the Los Angeles courtroom of his 1995 trial for murder and Santa Monica courtroom where his 1997 wrongful death trial took place, it’s this Oct. 3, 2012, story that was linked to the one above that interested me:

O.J. Simpson Acquittal Anniversary: Where Are They Now?  http://abcnews.go.com/US/oj-acquittal-anniversary-now/story?id=17377772#

A couple of these people seem to have hardly aged at all, while others, well … .

I also wonder why Mark Fuhrman is the only one still amongst us whose 17-years-later photo is not included, particularly given that he has “successful career as a New York Times best-selling author and TV analyst. He is a forensic and crime scene expert for Fox News and hosts a radio show in Spokane, Wash.” So, it’s not as if he’s been hiding under a rock and no current photo of him could be found.

Small Government = The U.S of Shrinky-Dink

A recent newspaper headline read:

“OSHA Proving Weak as Workplace Watchdog” http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/03/31/us/osha-documents.html#document/p49/a95196

How was that news, I wondered. This has been the direction of the United States for years, pretty much striving for the Grover Norquist goal of shrinking government down to the size “where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

The companion mantra to “cut spending” translates to cutting, primarily, government agencies’, offices’ and services’ budgets. The biggest budgetary expense for the vast majority of any operation, whether public or private sector, is  workers.

As I see more and more evidence of how these budget cuts are affecting the country, primarily in the form of reduced protections to Americans’ safety and well being, I am reminded of visits I had to two countries in the past couple of decades.

One was Bulgaria in 1997. I was participating in a court-media program sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Center and Eastern European Law Initiative and a Bulgarian legal organization. We presented three sessions of three days each in three different areas of the country. The first location was the Black Sea coastal city of Varna. My first day there was a jet-lag recovery day. After an afternoon nap, I was delighted to find street musicians playing within view of my hotel window. I decided to go down and listen. It was a lovely autumn day, so after enjoying the music I took a little walking tour and wound up on a beach.

It reminded me somewhat of Santa Monica, except for being deserted and neglected. Rusted remains of recreational equipment that looked like it might have been a playground merry-go-round and swings dotted the sandy expanse. Weedy growth erupted here and there. Black slashes of grafitti, forever ubiquitous in some parts of Europe, scarred every surface. Obviously, no one was putting any money or effort into maintaining it. What a shame, I thought. What a waste–or abuse–of a beautiful natural resource and what could have been, and no doubt at some point in the past was a wonderful community asset. http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/european-international-sites/69849-fallen-restaurant-bulgaria-march-2012-a.html

The other country was Indonesia, specifically Jakarta’s so-called “old area” of Batavia, which contains the Grand Canal. That was dug during the Dutch occupation of the city and the islands, then called Dutch Indo-China, that make up that country.

On one of my trips there as a court consultant in the mid-2000s, evidence of that long-ago Dutch influence still remained in the architecture as well as its artificial waterways — as if that water-rich with multiple natural waterways area needed them. The rooftops of buildings built in the Dutch style were caving in and paint had long since peeled off facades leaving hulks of gray-boarded derelicts. Homeless people had taken up residence under archways and strung their laundry between promenade support columns.

And the Grand Canal was one giant garbage slough. It didn’t have to be that way, according to an NGO colleague who had spent considerable time in that country. The problem was lack of maintenance. People threw trash in it. No one cleaned it out. All the refuse piled up, damming the water and hindered the flow.   http://www.panoramio.com/photo/77280331

Why were conditions like those in Bulgaria and Indonesia so wretched? What led to the deterioration? Mostly, apathy. Governments that were either corrupt, starved for funding or just didn’t care. And no one else–certainly no one in the private sector–willing, interested or able to pony up the money to make things right.

I see this county headed in the same direction. Shrinking the size of government–Grover Norquist would have it small enough to be drowned in a bathtub–and cutting government spending means no money for agencies that were intended to protect and serve, such as OSHA, our courts, law enforcement and fire departments, without the means to function.

That feeds into a downward spiral of the public believing–with great assist from small-government flagellators and their propaganda–that whatever government agency has suffered near-fatal budget cuts is not effective and, thus,  should get even less, not more funding. People become disillusioned with the agency or service to the point that they (1) hold it in contempt and (2) don’t fight for it.

An example is a county park near my house. Funding for what at one time was a system of beautiful, well-equipped, well-maintained parks that wove through the county like a string of pearls. As the “cut taxes” mantra gained steam across the country, the parks budget was repeatedly cut, leaving less than a skeleton staff.

The results have been visible, first in the form of weeds that have marched like an occupying army across the green expanses to the point that they go from carpets of bright yellow as dandelions bloom, to gray ground fogs as the dandelions go to seed, to dingy brown for the rest of the summer. Mowing has been confined to just a six-foot swath around the edges of those now-weed-choked expanses, leaving waist-high growth that is neither fun or safe to play ball, chase or tag. Tree branches and even trees in strong winds and storms lay for weeks where they land. Picnic tables and benches disappear. Damaged playground equipment isn’t replaced. Every summer, it looks more and more like that beach in Varna, Bulgaria.

So guess what? Fewer people use that park. So, funding is cut more because small-government, cut-spending proponents can point to it as proof that it isn’t needed. It seems these and the apathetic populace who never think about parks, much less use them, don’t understand the role attractive, well-maintained parks in their community play in raising their property values and how weed-choked, trash-strewn parks with little or broken equipment drags their property values down–and become meccas for crime.

The same thing is happening in all facets of government–death by starvation–including the justice system.

The irony is, the same people who oppose government funding of community assets like parks and beaches, present themselves as strong on law and order, and have a quiver full of communist/socialist-baiting tactics.  Yet, it is the very policies they push that lead to playgrounds for increased crime and the deterioration of public facilities that occurred in Bulgaria during post-WWII Soviet Union’s communist domination of Eastern Europe.

From my perspective, the small, weak government direction the current crop of spending cutters are taking this nation in is dragging it down to the middle of the pack of rinky-dink countries of the world with few protections for its citizens.

It’s Baaaaacccck! The Specter of Michael Jackson

AP Special Correspondent and doyenne of high-profile-trial reporters Linda Deutsch shared a link to her story about yet another Michael Jackson lawsuit in the Los Angeles courts along with this question:

“Ready for another Jackson trial?”

http://customwire.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_JACKSON_CONCERT_PROMOTER_SUIT?SITE=NDBIS&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2013-03-21-17-29-30

My reply:

How many remember the first — Chandler vs. Jackson — in 1993? Well, it no doubt wasnt’ the first Jackson court fracas and it didn’t even go to trial — settled pretrial, but not without a media melee outside the Santa Monica courthouse at a pretrial hearing that more than rivaled the Rodney King-beating trial up the freeway in Simi Valley the previous year. Family members must be pros by now.