Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Happy Birthday ~ Sweet Sixteen

We haven't forgotten Lauren.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Happy Birthday Sweet Lauren

Never forgotten.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Second Trial: Hung Jury #2

The second trial of The People of California v. Cameron John Brown ended with another hung jury that reportedly voted 6-6 for second degree murder or involuntary manslaughter. It remains to be seen whether Craig Hum will try the case a third (and final) time or if the People will offer Brown a plea - a common action taken at this stage. If Brown refuses to plead to involuntary manslaughter (a felony where his six years in L.A. County jail would be considered time served), he will likely be released on bail and retried for the higher of the two charges.

See HERE for last Daily Breeze report.

Details from the jury deliberations and notes from the courtroom are yet to be posted at Denise Nix's blog or elsewhere. It would be interesting if someone got an interview with the jury foreman.



Much of the discussion surrounding the Brown case had to do with Brown's intent - did he plan or hope for Lauren to fall off the cliff or was he simply reckless? Was it really Brown's parenting skills on trial? Would any of us survive the merciless scrutiny under which Brown's fathering was measured? Perhaps not, but while no parent is perfect, Brown showed a pattern of disregard for Lauren's safety throughout their short time together and both he and his wife acted with spite and cruelty toward Lauren's mother without considering the effect of that behavior on a small child.

Yet, being a spiteful non-custodial father or a jealous new wife isn't a crime; otherwise, our jails would not be full of small-time drug dealers, but middle-class working parents that swear at each other in court, threatent violence, file false abuse charges against their exes, publish blogs and "tweets" and Facebook entries defaming their children's mother (or father), and behave in the most incivilized and harmful manner.

Clearly, domestic issues bring out the very worst in some otherwise good people. If nothing else positive comes of this case, maybe it can bring attention to the damage that can be done to children by this kind of behavior. A beautiful little girl died as a direct result of the adversarial relationship between her biological parents. Some of us believe it was murder, some are convinced it was a "terrible accident"; either way, she is gone because of choices that were made outside her control, because people she depended on to guard her safety (in this case, her father), failed to protect her, and in his willing disregard for her and her mother, caused this tragedy.

We have yet to hear any remorse expressed by Brown or his supporters for their responsibility.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Highlights and Analysis of Defense Closing Arguments in People v. Brown

From online accounts published about Pat Harris’s closing arguments in People v. Brown, ostensibly a summary of the case that Cameron Brown did not, nay, could not have intentionally caused the death of his then four-year old daughter Lauren Key, various important points, contradictory points and ridiculous points emerged.

Harris argues that Brown could not have done what the prosecution accuses him of doing because it failed to prove a motive. In reality (versus the imaginary world in which the defense and its apologists appear to reside), the prosecution does not have to demonstrate motive. Sure, we like to understand motive as people; we seek closure and explanations for things that defy our inherent values, but it’s an unnecessary element in proving guilt in a court of law. Besides, there were easily assumed motives in this case which were simple enough: spite, envy, financial freedom: the oldest motives in the book.

One of the more common defenses of people who have no previous history of violence is that they are not the kind of people who would do something like throw a child off a cliff (or poison a husband, or strangle a wife, or drown her children, etc.). Reams of spousal and filial murder cases belie this myth. Just because someone has not demonstrated violent tendencies before does not preclude a planned act of murder. See also: The People of California v. Scott Lee Peterson. Geragos and Harris used this same argument to refute that boy scout Peterson was capable of murdering his wife; they paraded a “This is Your Life” crew of Peterson’s friends, teachers and family members to testify to what a wonderful brother/son/uncle/golfer he was. Peterson didn’t have so much as a parking ticket to his name.

This doesn’t proves Brown murdered his child, but it certainly doesn’t prove he didn’t. I’m sure most of us could find five people in our past to condemn us as well as praise us. It’s irrelevant to demonstrating proof of guilt.

That Hum referred to Brown as “the defendant” is also irrelevant; in most of the murder trials I’ve witnessed or read, the prosecutors almost always refer to the defendant as “the defendant” and not by name. In the first trial, Mark Geragos rarely mentions the victim by name. Did that not dehumanize Lauren as well? Don’t be a hypocrite!

Harris claims that because Brown made a two-hour commute to see his daughter, he was a devoted father. If he was really a devoted father, he’d have moved closer to Lauren and worked on gaining additional visitation with her where she could maintain her daily routine with the least disruption. Instead, Brown played the martyr. He probably commuted farther when pursuing his dating career! It could be argued that Brown asked for more time with Lauren to lower his child support award, not because he was interested in actually spending more time with her. If he was committed to becoming a good father, why not take childrearing classes? Why not spend time with other parents and other children to learn more about what makes a 4-yr old girl tick? Why continue to show ignorance of what children are all about, what is safe and unsafe for them, what makes them comfortable? Why impose your own hobbies and sports onto a little girl who is not athletic or adventurous? He treated her as nothing more than an extension of self, a mirror for him, rather than as an individual. When she didn’t reflect him, he lost interest in her. She became a burden.

Harris claims that Patty Brown had no relationship with Lauren, she hardly even met her, thus could not be pressing for custody. This startling revelation contradicts Patty’s entire modus operandi and all the vehement, inchoate logorrhea spewed over at the Kaldis blog. That may explain why Patty was never called as a witness to defend her husband. She, as was the case with regard to custody, child support and visitation issues, had no standing.

The defense fails to refute the evidence in this case: it never explains why Brown took Lauren to Inspiration Point, why he took the long route down the hill to the beach to call 911, why he failed to inform Sarah about the “accident”, why he lied about the altercation with Sarah at work (that was recorded), why he tried to have her deported, why he refused to allow the adoption after allegedly agreeing to it at first, why he didn’t remove the child from impending danger once he got to the summit of the hike, why he refused to talk to Sarah in the months and years following the tragedy, why he seemed so upbeat and carefree after his child’s death, among a dozen other questions the defense avoids addressing. We can only assume that Harris didn’t put either Cam or Patty on the stand because he knew they had no good explanations for their behavior that would exonerate them.

Brown's fate is now in the hands of the jury. We expect a verdict on Tuesday or Wednesday. Let justice delayed be served once and for all.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Jury visits Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point

"Today, jurors in the Cameron Brown murder re-trial visited five spots along the Rancho Palos Verdes cliff that figured prominently in the case. Basically, as they did during Brown's first trial three years ago, they retraced the purported path Brown and his daughter, Lauren Sarene Key, took before her fatal plunge on Nov. 8, 2000.

"They went to the Abalone Cove parking lot, the nursery school on the beach, up to Portugese Point, to Inspiration Point and ended at the archery range where Brown said he laid little Lauren's body after he fished her out of the surf.

"Brown, wearing jeans, a blue button-down shirt and handcuffs hidden by a sweater, accompanied the jury to the first three locations, but not the last two. I don't know why."

She plans to attend tomorrow's closing arguments.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lauren's Birthday

Lauren would have turned 13 years old today. Our thoughts are with Sarah and her family and friends.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Newton's Law & The Baggage Handler

I don't claim to be an expert in Physics; in fact, I dropped out of 12th grade Honors Physics because it required hours of homework that entailed too much Math, which interfered with my after-school job. Years later, I would have a career that required my learning a great deal about mechanical principles, machines, motion control, torque and horsepower. Thus, I understand a little bit about motion and how forces must act for motion to occur, about vectors and acceleration and the relationship between action and reaction. Incidentally, my experience with Physics is much greater than Ted Kaldis's, although he feels no shame in presuming he knows more about Physics than anyone, lay or expert. To me, the case that Brown threw the object is simply common sense.

Nevertheless, I will defer to a real expert. I suffer no illusions that "expert witnesses" are not paid well to say whatever their client needs them to say, but unlike psychology or economics, Physics is a pretty damn exact science. Rarely, if ever, do objects defy the laws of Physics.

In his original report, submitted back during the Grand Jury days, Hayes wrote this:

From a careful review of the autopsy report and post-mortem photographs, we determined that Lauren’s massive, traumatic injuries were consistent with a single, high velocity impact to the cliff face. Her injuries could not be explained from her sliding and tumbling down the cliff face or with multiple impacts to the cliff face before landing in the water of the inlet. ...

Basically, Hayes believes (and this trial is his third appearance) that Lauren could not have slipped and fallen and rolled without suffering certain types of injuries. The defense witness of the first trial (not sure who Harris has this time) said that the side of the hill was composed of soft, dry grass and not rocks. I don't know how convincing he was, but apparently not very - since none of the jurors voted to acquit.

Denise Nix reports in The Breeze:

Hayes and an associate also conducted trajectory experiments to see how fast a reasonably healthy adult man could throw objects in the 40- to 45-pound range, like Lauren.

Based on Lauren's injuries, the path the weights took over the cliff and the topography of the rock face, Hayes concluded that she was launched head first, hit her face and upper body on an outcropping before bouncing into the ocean 120 feet or so below.

At the last trial, Hayes showed a PowerPoint presentation including huge autopsy pictures, close ups of Lauren's injuries in her face, wrist, and chest. These pictures, combined with the upcoming field trip to Inspiration Point, are likely the most damaging evidence and will haunt the jurors for years.

Hayes probably showed the same topographical maps and land surveys and once again described that fundamental Physics will demonstrate how this object moved in space, what type of trajectory it had to have in order to land a certain way inflicting certain injuries. If the object had slipped and skidded down, it would have moved at a rate of 4.6ft/second. If thrown, the object falls at 15ft./second. It's very convincing, and it's hard to refute the laws of Physics.

The same team that brought us "The Incredible Running Leap Theory" is trying to claim that Brown would have fallen along with the child if he threw a 43-pound weight off the end of the cliff. A fit, athletic man who literally threw 43-pound objects hundreds of times daily for a living at the time, lacked the balance and skill to heft a 43-pound child 12 feet or so into the air over an edge? Really?

Sure, Hayes was paid, he was good, he has a good reputation. He's no different than any number of paid experts that testify at trials every day. That the Kaldis Twins want to impeach him is perfectly normal. However, unless the defense can better demonstrate how an object can move down a cliffside and has the video to prove it, they will be hard-pressed to outshine Hayes.