Wednesday, June 28, 2006

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!”

1 comment:

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