Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Defense Strategies

Based on the boilerplate methods that Mark Geragos tends to use (spectacularly unsuccessfully) in most of his criminal trials, allow me to postulate the upcoming defense strategy in California v. Brown.

First, Geragos may try to argue that Brown’s arrest was a conspiracy among the cops. Then, he may try to imply it was a conspiracy among the DAs. Or, would you believe, it was a conspiracy among the city leaders or county government that didn’t want to get sued for something that happened because of “negligence,” even though the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit expired long ago?

I can't wait for the Satanic Cult to make an appearance.

Geragos will present an interesting "version of the truth" and testify for Brown (in his questions to witnesses) that Lauren ran up the path, or was curious about the people, or ran ahead of her dad. Some of that may have happened. This is what they mean by a defense "version" of the truth. It's not the truth about the events of that day, but pieces of truth from Brown's experience with his daughter that the defense can use with some substantiation.

Will Geragos claim there was "manufactured evidence" as he implied throughout the Peterson trial?

I find it highly doubtful that the prosecution or cops would or could
"manufacture" evidence against Brown. All of the evidence is circumstantial, including the interpretations of the cliff side topography, the “science,” and the motives. What is not "circumstantial" is the law of physics involved in various types of falls.

The cops could not manufacture Brown's statements. He made them. They could not manufacture Lauren's injuries or her autopsy report without a "conspiracy" among invesgators, medical examiner/coroner, and later the DA. They could not manufacture facts like Brown's hiking boots or the physical geography of the treacherous place Brown took his daughter for a “hike.” Or her inappropriate footwear, the time of year, and her reported reluctance to go with her dad that day. Never mind the burning question: why would they want to? It's not as if they have no other cases to investigate, no other murders in Los Angeles County to bring to trial.

The defense will attempt to explain Cam's behavior as that of a victim who was duped by police, shocked by the "accident," and incapable of committing the crime. One of the common defense strategies we have already seen implemented is the attempt to gain our sympathy at how police "demonized" its client, the accusations of a "lynch mob" mentality, and characterizing the cops' treatment of Brown as underhanded, unprofessional, and with that tired expression, "tunnel vision."

When the evidence is not easily explained away, such as the injuries
and the biomechanics, and the laws of physics, the defense will likely argue that the science is "junk" and Dr. Ophoven (a possible defense expert witness) will attempt to explain away the injuries or use her stastics about demographics for which she is famous.

According to the laws of evidence:

Attorney arguments, motions, and comments, or statements by the judge and answers to questions which the judge has ruled objectionable are not evidence. Charts, maps and models which are used to demonstrate or explain matters are not evidence themselves, but testimony based upon such items and marks on such material may be evidence.

The jury will have to consider the many times Brown could have changed his mind instead of going forward with his plans: on the drive there, when he got to the playground, after Lauren was tired of swinging, during the hike, before he got to the end of the path, when he arrived at the top, and when he (presumably) picked her up for the last time. That he continued at each juncture demonstrates premeditation and malice aforethought.

Just as in Peterson, if Mark Geragos really had exonerating evidence that Brown was being framed or could not have committed the crime of which he is now standing trial, he would have presented it two years ago and not let his client sit in county jail for over 30 months.

We now know Geragos will likely argue the "science" and not the
circumstances of the alleged murder. He will be hard-pressed to
convince a jury that Lauren made a flying leap off the cliff, but he
has to adhere to the injuries being inconsistent with a rolling-type
fall that would have occurred had she lost her balance throwing rocks
off the cliff.

The defense is not required to prove its client innocent, or present an alternative scenario (i.e., the Incredible Flying Leap Theory); the jury is instructed not to hold the fact that the defendant does not testify against him. It stands to reason, however, that an innocent man would take the stand to explain his behavior, defend his hike, elicit compassion if not reasonable doubt from the jury, and dispel the notion that he is a "monster." If Brown does not take the stand in his own defense, it will, whether the jurors openly admit it or not, serve to authenticate the People's character assassination.

Geragos has no face cards in this hand. He must bluff his way through
this trial and hope for the best.

Trial Begins

Tomorrow, May 30, jury selection will begin in the long-awaited murder trial of California v. Brown. Cameron Brown, former baggage handler and surfer, has been accused of murdering his four-year-old daughter, Lauren Key, by causing her to launch from a 120-foot cliff in Palos Verdes, California. The alleged murder occurred in November 2000 and it has taken over five years to bring it to trial.

Lauren Key would have been 10 years old in August, had her life not been cruelly abbreviated by this incident. According to the grand jury testimony, police reports and news stories about this case, Brown took Lauren to Inspiration Point on a hike where he claims she “slipped and fell” from the treacherous cliff while tossing stones over the edge while her indulgent daddy sat four feet away pointing out landmarks. In Geragos’s 995 Motion to Dismiss, the defense proffered “The Incredible Running Leap Theory” to explain the injuries Lauren suffered that were not consistent with a slip and fall on that rocky terrain.

For the background on this case, please see previous entries in the blog category, “Geragos Watch.” (Or just click on the Permalink of this entry to get all the Brown case entries. The Permalink is the time stamp below each entry.)

Some interesting facts emerged from the recent pretrial hearings, including validation of my hypothesis that Brown was suffering substantial financial problems (“Cameronomics”) that may have given him a motive for eliminating the $900 a month child support obligation for Lauren. The defense intends to dispute the financial motive and offer evidence that Brown was too encumbered by an alleged back injury to hoist a 40-pound girl off a cliff. This is pretty ridiculous, since most of us can easily throw a 40-pound weight without any discomfort. Since Brown is a large, healthy, athletic surfer, hiker and cyclist, and made a living tossing bags in an airport, this will be a tough sell.

Expect the usual “battle of the experts” to support or debunk the scientific evidence employing biomechanics, physics, anatomy and physiology. Let’s just hope Geragos can find a better “expert” than the laughable obstetrician, Dr. March, who bases the rate of human gestation from the date a woman announces the result of a pregnancy test.

As we recommended in our discussions previously, the State wants to take the jury to the scene of the crime, but according to a story in The Breeze, the honorable Judge Arnold has not yet ruled on a potential field trip.

Yours truly and this blog were referred to in the article:

Brown's case has also provided fodder for crime buff bloggers, including an author who closely watches Geragos and reported online about one of his most recent high-profile cases, the Scott Peterson murder trial.

We’ll be following this trial as closely as possible, with reports and observations from friends who will be attending. Stay tuned for updates.

Little Girl Lost

Earlier this month marked the fifth anniversary of four-year-old Lauren Key’s terrible death from a 120-foot hurtle off a Pacific coastal cliff. Lauren’s plummet appears to have been the result of being thrown by her reluctant father, Cameron Brown, who has been sitting in jail for over two years awaiting trial. None of us would want to blame a father for such an unnatural and inconceivable act, but the evidence that was presented to the Grand Jury leaves us little choice.

At the very least, Brown is guilty of astonishing negligence and stupidity for taking his daughter to an obviously dangerous area in the first place. There is not one among us who wouldn’t have, upon discovering the treacherous conditions, grabbed up our child and headed back down the path in an instinctive, adrenalin surge. As a contrast, in the Brown case, the lack of Lauren’s footprints or any sign of her playing along the edge of Inspiration Point throwing rocks, as he claimed, leads us to conclude that he carried her up there. As the mother of three girls, I believe it is more likely that Lauren complained or ran out of steam earlier in the mile and a half hike from the playground to the cliff side.What could Cameron Brown have been thinking as he carried that little girl up the path with his unspeakably cruel intentions? Was he hoping nobody was up there? Hoping he had a clear shot and no witnesses to see his awful act? Did he hesitate at any point? Did Lauren struggle in his arms, or did she lean passively against his shoulder as he spoke softly to her about what a neat view there would be or what treats awaited her at the end of the hike?

I impose Brown’s imaginary dialogue and apprehension to this extraordinary scenario because I have no place in my experience from which to draw actual words and thoughts. None of us does. None of us can even think about it without sensing a sharp ache in our hearts or feeling our throats constrict with panic. We clench our minds trying to fathom for a moment Lauren’s final terror as she fell from the cliff, or Brown's thoughts as he watched her disappear. It’s a doorway to a bleak madness we are paralyzed from opening; these are dark places we dare not go.

According to a reporter from The Breeze assigned to the trial, there has been yet another postponement until some time early in 2006. The next hearing is scheduled in early December, but there are no official court documents to explain the delays – whether from the People or the defense. I hope to have a copy of the autopsy report to share with the readers before trial. Meanwhile, Brown will spend his third Thanksgiving and Christmas in county jail; a small consolation when we recall that if Lauren were alive, she would be a whimsical, happy nine-year-old looking forward to the holidays, as my Lauren is.

At every turn, Sarah Key-Marer faces a painful reminder of her loss. In August, Lauren’s birthday; in November, her death; in December, she spends another Christmas missing the surprises and joy Lauren would have brought to the occasion. Time has probably not healed the wounds, yet, and the trial delays may only prolong the unremitting grief. In our days ahead of family gatherings, celebrations, and holiday miracles, take a moment to send healing and serene thoughts to Sarah, and remember her little girl lost.

Background on the Prosecution

Since long before the denial of Mark Geragos’s Motion to Set Aside Indictment Pursuant to Penal Code 995 in the case of California v. Brown, defendant Cameron Brown has remained in custody without bail. When the prosecutor, Craig Hum, made the decision not to ask for the death penalty, thus reducing the status from a capital charge to a first-degree murder charge with aggravating circumstances of “lying in wait,” Brown should have been eligible for bail. In fact, Brown has been in jail since his arrest in November 2003.

According to one unconfirmed report, Geragos asked for his client to be released on his own recognizance after the grand jury indictment, but was denied. I’m not certain why Brown was denied release to await his trial, scheduled in October, from the comfort of his home with his new wife, but I can only conclude that he was deemed a flight risk. From what I have gathered by reading the message board where his brother-in-law has posted for several years, Brown’s parents in Colorado are wealthy, Brown grew up in an exclusive and affluent neighborhood, and his wife, Patty (ten years’ his senior) has a masters degree and is well employed. We know somebody has to be footing the bill for Geragos, and it can’t be cheap.

One interesting case that Hum successfully tried (and that was recently upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a notoriously lenient body that has a reputation for reversing capital convictions) involved the Vietnamese gang murder of an Oscar-winning actor, Haing Ngor, who played the photojournalist in “The Killing Fields.” A federal district court judge had reversed the convictions in 2004 because of alleged impropriety by Deputy District Attorney Hum. Brown’s apologists on the Usenet board are accusing Hum of “inventing evidence,” “cooking the autopsy report,” and having a “turkey” of a case that he should be “ashamed” of bringing to trial. We’ll see about that. I find it rather hard to believe that yet another group of California district attorneys are willing to risk their careers, reputations, and possibly freedom to “frame” a nobody baggage handler for murder. Does this sound familiar?

Two of the California cases we followed on the blog closely, the Bullwinkle murder and Peterson, were tried by district attorneys who were subsequently awarded with judgeships. Will there be a similar future for Craig Hum after he wins the Brown trial? Maybe we’ll bring him luck.

Some interesting (but not yet verified) information has surfaced about Cameron Brown, his surfing habits and knowledge of the area where he took Lauren to hike on that fateful day in November 2000, two years before his arrest. His apologists protest that he was not familiar with Abalone Cove and didn’t foresee the danger of the cliff at Inspiration Point. If this were true, once he approached the top of the hill and realized that it was no place for a child to be “throwing rocks” or running around, he would have turned around and brought Lauren back down. Instead, he sat on a bench (according to one of his five stories) and pointed out interesting landmarks as she gathered stones perilously close to the 120-foot drop.

An anonymous poster who claims to know Brown suggested that Brown was very familiar with the area, had regularly surfed up and down the coast from Carpinteria to San Onofre, and that he knows the Palos Verdes cliffs “like the back of his hand.” He also shared a story about Brown in Colorado in the 1980s when Brown got into an altercation with another man and threw his backpack off a cliff. The poster said he might have thrown the man off the cliff had there not been 10 witnesses. Whether this is true or not may be confirmed at trial if the People introduce witnesses who can testify to Brown’s temper.

Brown grew up in Colorado and was an avid skier, hiker, and outdoorsman. Comfortable territory would include hills, mountains, wilderness and eventually the ocean. It stands to reason that he took Lauren to a place with which he was familiar and knew there would be very few people on a cool November afternoon. Obviously the prosecutors believe this, or he would not be in jail awaiting trial for murder.

Much of the Brown case will focus on Lauren’s injuries and the scientific reenactment of her descent from the cliff to sustain the types of injuries recorded in the (still unavailable) autopsy report. So far, I have not heard or read of any evidence found on the cliff to suggest she rolled down, such as blood, skin, hair, or torn clothing on various rocks and abutments that would be prevalent if she, in fact, tripped and fell by accident. I can’t see how, five years later, this case would be going to trial unless there was substantial evidence to demonstrate that Lauren was thrown off the cliff. There were no child-sized prints found near the edge of the cliff where Brown asserts Lauren lost her balance. The impressions found were adult-sized but not conclusively matched to Brown’s shoes. Not knowing the type of soil, sand, grass or other elements of that area, I can only guess that the ground was hard at that time of year and didn’t sink much under the pressure of Brown’s (or others’) shoes. However, there should have been some indication of Lauren’s presence on the cliff side had her activity been as Brown described.

Other gossip I have heard: Brown bragged that he had no more than a fifth-grade education; Lauren’s mother, Sarah Key, had another boyfriend at the same time she was seeing Brown (how dare her!); that Brown and his bride, Patty Kaldis, were married in Hawaii (and thus not strapped for cash, despite the credit report on Brown that showed several repossessions and NSF checks that bounced); and the adamant protestations from his brother-in-law that he “loved his daughter” and that the charges against him are an “egregious travesty of justice.”

Does that song ring a bell? “Scott loved his wife and would never do anything to harm her! The police have bungled this case! My kid’s gonna walk!”

The 995 Motion to Dismiss

Before we review the relevant issues proffered in Geragos’s 995 motion, it's important to highlight a few facts that the defense did not discuss, but that we hope the People bring forth in the trial.

  • Similar to Peterson’s long-distance fishing trip to the Bay when there were dozens of closer waterways that were better suited to his boat, Cameron Brown took his daughter in mid-afternoon in November to Abalone Cove/Inspiration Point, an inconvenient and inappropriate area for a child, passing up hundreds of better playgrounds in safer areas with friendlier topography.
  • Brown was familiar with Abalone Cove and Inspiration Point, and may have recalled seeing a playground in the area; but, the playground is part of a private nursery school and is not intended for public use. Why would Brown, with only a few hours of visitation, choose to trespass on a rinky-dink nursery school playground rather than access any number of big, public playgrounds with better equipment? No parent on that jury will find that reasonable. Most will infer that the trip to the cove was part of a premeditated plan, just as Peterson’s trip to the bay made no sense to anyone, no matter how Geragos tried to spin the “fishermen drive 90 miles to fish for an hour on Christmas Eve” nonsense.

  • Sarah Key and Cameron Brown settled a civil suit (wrongful death) back in October 2001. From the court record, it appears that an insurance company (perhaps a life insurance policy?) paid Key for liability of Brown’s actions, based on his admission that the incident was the result of an accident. However, the case was dismissed with “partial prejudice,” meaning that some issues may be retried, and if Brown is found guilty of murder in a criminal trial, the insurance company that settled with Key may go after him for reimbursement.

  • Key's acceptance of the settlement does not have any bearing on criminal charges levied at Brown by the State of California. If, in 2001, she accepted Brown's version of events, so what? She obviously changed her mind when the investigation showed that her daughter was thrown off the cliff. Despite Brown's apologists' protestations, the insurance company's settlement in the lawsuit is irrelevant to the issue of his criminal culpability.

  • Cameronomics: It is possible that Brown was in arrears with his child support in the neighborhood of $40,000. According to CA child support law, Brown’s obligation began August 1996, the date of Lauren’s birth. By the time Key secured a court order for support, Brown was not only being garnished the $1,000 a month, he was also paying a percentage of the arrears and forfeiting any income tax refunds and other bonuses until the arrears were paid. Just as in Peterson, when examining the real ledger, the financial motive becomes much more significant. Prepare for Geragos to try and point out how financially solvent Brown and his new wife were, and that the monthly support was not debilitating. He will conveniently omit the arrears.

  • California v. Reardon – It would behoove Geragos and his crackerjack researchers to review the 1992 murder trial in San Diego County where the defendants were convicted of pushing a young woman off a cliff near Big Sur to collect on a $35,000 life insurance policy they had recently taken out on the victim. The prosecution in that case brought the jurors to the scene of the crime and reenacted their theory of events. If the prosecutors in Brown are on their game, they will beef up their demonstration, or request a field trip for the jury.

The 995 Motion

The main evidence against Brown is the autopsy report that concluded that Lauren died from head injuries sustained from the impact of a long fall, and that those injuries were inconsistent with rolling down a cliff. Geragos includes a summary of these findings in his motion:

Deputy medical examiner Ogbonna Chinwah classified Lauren's death as a homicide. He testified that Lauren's injuries were inconsistent with an accidental fall. Dr. Chinwah opined that an individual who falls inadvertently from the edge of a cliff would have injuries all over the body because he or she "would seek a means not to die. The individual would try to grasp at anything that is available there." Consequently, "there will be abrasions all over the arms, all over the abdomen, the legs and so forth, which were quite absent in this case here." Dr. Chinwah further testified that the injuries were consistent with one impact from a fall.

I have not been able to procure a copy of the entire autopsy report, but there is one page available on Brown’s brother-in-law, Kaldis’s Web site that describes a number of abrasions on the chest area, abdomen and extremities, and severe contusions on her forehead and other skull fractures. Notably, there were no injuries on the front of the arms or on the inside of the hands, where you would expect them to be if Lauren had slipped and fallen instead of having bounced off rocks and jutting ridges in her descent.

Adult-size shoe prints were found near the edge of the cliff, but no impressions of a child’s foot. This fact inspired Brown to invent an entirely new scenario whereby Lauren ran toward the edge of the cliff and somehow tripped and catapulted off, rather than merely slipping as he claimed in his first few stories. Expect the defense to attempt to create reasonable doubt from this unlikely revisionism and from selected injuries in the autopsy report that support an accidental fall. Nonetheless, the jury will be privy to the entire report and testimony from several experts on these types of injuries. Unlike in Peterson, where there was a dearth of scientific information on the condition of pregnant women immersed in salt water for four months, there is a plethora of good data on the distinct injuries obtained from various types of falls.

And, as expected, we have Cameronomics:

Jane Ngo, a supervising investigative auditor for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, testified that 39 percent of Cameron's salary was garnished for purposes of child support. Following a review of Cameron's financial records and credit reports, she concluded that the child support payments created a severe financial hardship on Cameron. Interestingly, she failed to factor into her analysis income by Cameron's wife.

While I do not have access to Brown’s credit report yet, I will go out on a limb and speculate that Brown, based on his friends’ letters of support describing his expensive toys and hobbies, was in hock up to his eyeballs and suffered severe hardship from the child support garnishment. Let’s hope the People have a good forensic accountant to testify to the actual state of Brown’s financial affairs.

A biomedical engineer, Dr. Wilson Hayes, testified at the grand jury hearing that “Lauren’s cause of death was intentional.” Geragos disputes his findings because “Hayes’ s research involved the study of falling in the elderly” and had no experience in “studies of falling in children,” as if children and the elderly are separate species. We already know from Geragos’s obtuse arguments in Peterson that he knows nothing about fetal development, pregnancy, women’s health or babies; thus, his ignorance of children’s physiology comes as no surprise.

Dr. Hayes's damning conclusions (edited for brevity):

1) Lauren Key-Marer died as a direct consequence of a single, high speed impact to the cliff face at Inspiration Point…

2) These injuries are inconsistent with a slip and/or trip and fall from the point of departure …

3) Lauren's fatal injuries were, however, consistent with her having been thrown from the point of departure at an angle of about 22.5 degrees from the horizontal at an initial velocity of 10 ft/s in an initial orientation with her feet down and the force applied lightly above the center of gravity.

4) The fall trajectory that would produce such an impact is well within the physical capabilities of a reasonably fit adult male and can be produced by picking up the child, supporting her under the buttocks and pushing forcefully at a point slightly above the waist in an outward and slightly upward direction.

Geragos goes on for the next 20 pages of the motion to attempt to refute Hayes’s expertise, the acceptance of his scientific methods (re: the requirements of Kelly-Frye), and to cite cases that refer to falls from stairs and other experiments that have no direct bearing on Hayes’s findings.

After slogging through the usual claptrap (summarily rejected by the judge), I discovered what may be the key elements of Geragos’s defense:

  • Since Hayes didn’t conduct any of his “throwing experiments” at the actual site of the “accident,” they are invalid as evidence. Geragos must think the laws of physics and gravity somehow differ at Inspiration Point. I hope this argument will be debunked with onsite testing data at trial.

  • Dr. Hayes did not mention in his report or at the grand jury proceedings any experiments to determine the trajectory of a fall where the child runs (rather than walks) and trips off the cliff.

    I will dub this preposterous hypothesis “The Incredible Running Leap” defense. At best, this would show Brown to be a brainless menace to society; at worst it will be laughed out of court.

  • Case law is also clear that an indictment based solely on hearsay or otherwise incompetent evidence is unauthorized and must be set aside on motion under section 995...scientific evidence [must] be relevant and reliable to be admissible.

    This argument is reminiscient of Geragos’s ludicrous claims in Peterson that GPS was a “fairly new technology” and that the dog tracking evidence was “voodoo.”

  • Already with an eye on appellate issues, Geragos argues that conducting an experiment using anthropomorphic dummies to simulate the fall of a child down a flight of stairs did not satisfy the Kelly-Frye test because the methodology is not generally accepted in the scientific community; therefore, Hayes’s prejudicial findings would be inadmissible in the Brown trial.

I found the Dellinger appellate case Geragos cited, which contained this important opinion:

We have not undertaken the monumental and inappropriate task of evaluating the legitimacy of the entire field of biomechanics. Rather we have restricted our review to the cavalier throwing of an anthropomorphic dummy down a flight of stairs and confirming the results with a finite element analysis. The field of biomechanics was not on trial here; only the reliability of the two procedures employing biomechanical principles used by Dr. Ward.

Regarding the scientific acceptance of anthropomorphic dummies, here are some common applications:

Anthropomorphic 'crash test dummies' are commonly used by vehicle manufacturers and research organizations to determine the exact effects that crashes have on vehicle occupants.

The U.S. Military has used Anthropomorphic Test Dummies since the 1950's. These dummies were utilized during high altitude balloon tests, ejection seat tests, all sorts of crash tests and of course parachute tests.

Geragos tries to further discredit Hayes for lacking expertise in the biomechanics of children’s falls (truly desperate); that Hayes failed to factor in the possible “incredible running leap” theory; and continued reiteration of the complaint that Hayes didn’t hike up to Inspiration Point and throw his 40-pound bag off the actual cliff.

From these anemic points, I can only conclude that Geragos is either a master of self-sabotage, or a genius avenger disguised as a high-profile defense attorney.

More Background on Brown

From the 995 Motion (a request to set aside an indictment against a defendant using supporting points and authorities; a routinely filed and routinely denied motion following a grand jury or preliminary hearing in which a defendant is held over for trial), we learn the history of Brown’s relationship with Lauren’s mother, the chronology of events that led to the fatal “hike” to the cliff, and a prelude to some of Geragos’s arguments to impeach the evidence against Brown in the upcoming trial scheduled for October.

Sarah Key and Cameron Brown met in November 1995 and within a month, Sarah discovered she was pregnant. I doubt this was planned, considering it was extremely early in the relationship; but we are not privy to Sarah’s history, and I am reluctant to cast aspersions on her fertility. Cameron’s reaction was to insist she have an abortion, and when Sarah refused, even after some alleged counseling the couple attended, Cameron and Sarah broke up. About six months later, Lauren was born on August 29, 1996.

It is not clear exactly when Sarah filed for child support in Orange County, but for the first two years (sadly, half) of Lauren’s life, she did not hear from Brown or receive any financial support. Brown contested paternity in the summer of 1998, probably after he had met his wife-to-be, Patty, and whom, I suspect, he never told about Lauren’s existence. When he was served with child support papers, he likely at first denied that the child was his, and when paternity was established, he might have told Patty it was just the result of a “one night stand,” which wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration.

In February 1999 Brown was ordered to pay $1,000 per month, which I assume was garnished from his wages as a baggage handler for an airline. Keep in mind that this man threw luggage around all day for a living. He could easily heft 45 pounds and was adept at using his legs to propel heavy items onto a cart or into the belly of an airplane. (Credit and thanks to Country Gal for reminding me of that fact.)

Five months after being ordered to pay the rather steep monthly support, Brown filed a request for 117 days of visitation with Lauren and a reduction in the award; a surprising amount of time for a child he had not yet met. Incidentally, since custodial payees do not write the law, I can’t see how Brown or any of his apologists can blame Sarah for the child support amount, because it is a statutory calculation formulated and enforced by the state. Apparently, Brown was advised that if he had custody of Lauren for a certain number of days, his financial obligation would be reduced. Clearly, his motives from this point on were strictly financial. Why else would he suddenly want a relationship with a child he had previously denied, and to whom he had not so much as sent a balloon in the almost three years of her life?

Sarah, no doubt, was alarmed by the amount of visitation Brown was requesting and arranged for them to consult with a mediator to work out a “graduated visitation schedule.” At this point, Lauren was almost three years old and Sarah had met and married a man named Gregory Marer.

Brown visited Lauren once a week for a few hours, sometimes picking her up at Montessori school and dropping her off at home in the evening. Within a few months, however, Cameron and Sarah were arguing in front of Lauren about her visiting Cameron’s mother and other issues; naturally, Lauren’s behavior was affected by this disruption of her world, and she began to have emotional episodes and outbursts. While we would expect this from any three-year-old, I think Geragos uses Lauren’s alleged rebellious behavior after meeting her father to set up the accidental fall scenario.

In February 2000, Sarah informed Cameron that her husband had offered to adopt Lauren, which would release him from his financial obligations. Needless to say, Cameron immediately agreed to this arrangement, since, by this time, he was engaged to Patty and hoping to relocate to Northern California.

Possibly because adoption procedures could drag on for a year, Brown continued to pursue the modification to the custody and child support in order to save money before the adoption was finalized. After all, every month that went by was another grand down the tubes. In response to his litigation, Sarah filed a declaration that was “unflattering” to Brown’s parenting abilities. Whether or not true at the time, the complaint of negligence proved eerily clairvoyant. Brown (like a good little narcissist) was incensed by this insult, and threatened to “get Sarah for this." The Marers postponed adoption procedures, since Brown was not speaking to Sarah, and a few months later CPS arrived at Sarah’s door to investigate allegations of abuse. (How utterly unoriginal.)

The Deadly Decision

On November 8, 2000, Brown picked Lauren up from school for his visitation and, according to witnesses at the school, Lauren was visibly upset and did not want to leave with him. Brown stated he was going to take her home, but instead decided to “spend some time alone with her” and drove to a playground in Abalone Cove, at the foot of a steep cliff overlooking the ocean.

And now for something totally absurd: Brown claimed that Lauren ran up the hill ahead of him and that he had trouble keeping up. From what we have learned about Brown, he was a great outdoorsman, sailor, surfer, cyclist, ten-wheeler, and hiker, and was employed in a job that required physical exertion. Are we (or the jury) to believe that he couldn’t keep up with a four-year-old girl skipping up a hill? When Lauren reached the top of the hill (and no mention of his trying to stop or discourage her), she entertained herself by throwing rocks off the edge of this 120-foot cliff into the ocean below as her dad sat on a bench four feet away. Right. First, Brown recounted that he heard a “nervous ah” and saw her feet going over the cliff. Later, during questioning by police, he changed his story for the third time:

He recalled actually pointing to his left at the Portuguese Bend Club or where Marineland used to be, one of the two; he said he heard her say, 'oh, oh,' and he looked back, and this time he saw her upper body from the back and basically the left side, he described seeing the left side of the young girl, going forward and go over the cliff head first, and at that point had surmised to us, as if she was throwing a rock and had hurled herself forward.

Brown said he ran down to the nude beach below, borrowed a cell phone, called 911, then ran back up to cross over to the other side of the cove where he found Lauren’s body floating face down in a shallow inlet. He stripped down to his boxers and shoes (because he saw that on “Baywatch” and didn’t want to be uncomfortable in wet clothing later on, God forbid, as if that would dawn on a distraught parent at that time), and waded into the water to retrieve his daughter’s body. According to the 995 motion, Brown had to wait five hours to be interviewed. I wonder if his shoes dried by then. We know he was worried about being on camera when the media arrived:

Brown was concerned about his appearance for the television news cameras, complained about his wet shoes, discussed with a deputy the outcome of the disputed presidential election, didn't try to see Lauren after her body was recovered and showed no emotion.

I'm sure all of us would be concerned about our squishing shoes or primping in front of a mirror to make sure we were ready for prime time as our little daughter lay recently dead on a slab in the hospital morgue. Brown obviously consulted his copy of the the "Narcissist's Playbook For Grief," too.

Background of California v. Brown

This past April, Mark Geragos, attorney for Cameron John Brown, accused of pushing his four-year-old daughter, Lauren, off a 120-foot cliff at “Inspiration Point,” filed a Motion to Set Aside Indictment Pursuant to Penal Code 995. The motion was denied, and Brown’s trial is scheduled for October.

The 995 Motion contained some very good background material on the case and a preview of the defense strategy, as well as the usual irrelevant rhetoric borrowed from the Flat Earth Society regarding the scientific method employed to test the theory that Lauren was thrown from the cliff rather than ran headlong off the edge or slipped while throwing stones (depending on which version of Brown’s story you heard). Before we review the 995 Motion and the background story of how Lauren and her dad came to be at Inspiration Point on November 8, 2000, here are a few “character references” submitted by Brown’s friends, posted on a website (Excerpts of the support letters in italics.)

One trait that has stood out, is his volunteer efforts to friends, acquaintances, and sometimes strangers alike.

helping a neighbor with moving, engine work or yard work.

Sounds a little like Scott the Renaissance Kid.

We shared a love of skateboarding, snow skiing, camping and other outdoor sports.

He was always into something- one time it was VW buses. Then it was a deuce-and-a-half old army truck.

We have hiked and biked all over Colorado and Utah. Cam is definitely an outdoor enthusiast and wants to share his love of the outdoors with everyone he meets.

Every time Cam and I would get together it feels like my life would shift into high gear and some type of adventure would ensue.

Here's a guy who always wrote Lisa and I a "Thank-you" letter after he would come out for a visit to go fishing, skiing, snow boarding, hiking...

he informed me that he had sold his car and purchased a sail boat on which he would be residing. "How very Cam!" I thought to myself.

Cam showed up at my house driving a 1950's army truck ... a HUGE army truck with ten tires! That's right, Cam didn't go 4 wheeling (that's for average folk), he went 10 wheeling!

Do you see a pattern, here? It sounds as though Cam liked toys; expensive toys and freedom.

One thing I remember about Cam was making sure his grandmother got her swiss chard.

Well, at least he had a real grandmother.

Always remembers birthday and Christmas greetings. He returns phone calls when he says he will and makes an effort at keeping friends.

can't wait to have Cam meet him and spend time with [my son], I would never think twice about having my son spend time with Cam alone or when he is old enough to even go out camping etc.

He plays with our two kids and I've witnessed him being real lovable with all animals.

Reminiscent of testimony in the Peterson penalty phase, here's good old Uncle Cam. It’s easy to be fun with kids and pets that are temporary and not your responsibility.

We discussed many things, and he helped me understand the true meaning of life. That was enjoying the finer things of life, but not living to lavishly.

Is that the meaning of life according to Cam Brown? Fascinating!

He was always nice and respectful to others and will always be one person who should be free to continue his mission of goodwill.

I wouldn't be surprised if that idea was taken from one of Brown's letters from jail. He has a spiritual mission, you know.

Cam has always had a good paying job and he was never desperate for money. Cam was never the type to have want or need for a lot of money. The whole theory by these detectives is absurd.

I disagree. The numerous accounts of his freewheeling and extravagant lifestyle would be severely impacted by a $1,000 a month child support award. Lauren was going to cramp his style, undermine his new marriage, and create a significant hardship to a guy like Brown. So much so that he believed that the only solution was to eliminate the problem permanently.