Tuesday, August 29, 2006

In Memory of Lauren - on her Birthday

You were loved, little girl, even before you were born. You are loved now, even though you are gone. In the words of e. e. cummings:

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near


nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing


To Lauren's famiy and friends, our sincerest wishes for peace.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Once Upon a News Group - Ted Kaldis's Preposterous Pomposity

It would be difficult to list all the allegations, predictions and theories Ted Kaldis posted on Usenet the past two years that proved to be erroneous or simply fiction, but here are a few of the most memorable – mainly because they were repeated ad nauseum ad infititum and resembled an endless loop of insipid muzak:

• The case was a “turkey” and would never go to trial.
• The case would be dismissed and Geragos’s 995 motion would be accepted.
• The preliminary hearing would exonerate Brown; then when the prosecutors called a grand jury, Kaldis predicted that the grand jury would not hand down an indictment.
• That Cameron Brown was railroaded by an aggressive DDA who had ambitions to run for public office.
• That the Palos Verdes Conservancy had organized a conspiracy to charge Brown with murder to protect their fundraising efforts and/or liability issues.
• That the county was liable for Lauren’s death, even though the statute of limitations for a lawsuit had run out.
• That Sarah Marer’s acceptance of an insurance settlement for Lauren’s wrongful death would disqualify the matter for criminal prosecution.
• That Brown’s trial was a violation of his Constitutional rights and that his civil rights were ignored because he was refused bail or that this was some sort of “double jeopardy.”
• That main players in the trial: Sarah Marer, Jeff Leslie, and other law enforcement officers had perjured themselves on the witness stand.
• That Sarah Marer was somehow able to enlist the LA Sheriffs, the DA, and subsequently a reputable jurist in her vendetta against Brown.
• That the DA has nothing better to do than try innocent people for murder; even ordinary, unglamorous baggage handlers.
• That his twin sister Patty got all the “cute genes.”
• That Hayes was a hack and would be disredited at trial. Also, that Hayes had some unseemly events in his history that would embarass him on the stand.
• That the defense never delayed the trial; all the delays were due to the prosecution.
• That Brown would be acquitted at the trial.
• That Mark Geragos was a great lawyer. (ROFL...sorry.)
• That the prosecution shopped for an expert and found a "paid wh*re." (His words, not mine.)
• That there would be “H-bomb-class” revelations at the trial.
• That we who were participating in the discussion didn’t know anything about anything and that he knew everything and it would all be clear once the trial took place; if the trial ever took place, of course.
• That Brown was a “loving father” who “doted” on his daughter and was “overly permissive” because of his affection.
• That the defense would have a "Perry Mason" moment with a surprise witness whose testimony would exonerate Brown.
• That the Browns were fit to take custody of Lauren from her mother, since Sarah was unfit, an illegal immigrant, and that the Browns lived in a tony neighborhood and had more money.
• That the Browns were in excellent financial shape and could buy and sell us all into slavery tomorrow.

Feel free to add those you recall that I missed.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Once Upon a News Group - Part III

Patty Brown first began posting using her real name on my blog last summer after I published an analysis of the case as I knew it at the time (republished in this blog). At first, I thought it was Ted or someone else posting as Patty, since I found it hard to believe that the wife of a defendant charged with first-degree murder would be so indiscrete; especially in a venue where most (if not all) of the participants were clearly in the "guilty" camp. It was a hostile environment where she was either viewed with skepticism at best, or believed to be a “troll” at worst.

A couple of months later, Patty began to participate on one of the bashing blogs and was warmly embraced by the mutts; one of them, not surprisingly, was “Just Amazed” from Usenet (formerly “Mistyblue" from Free Republic; and if you know anything about that message board, you know what kind of politics are expressed there). Eventually, many of the mutts kicked Patty to the curb once they had more information about the case during the trial. (As it is with thieves, there is no honor among psychos). The “moderators” of the bashing blog forbade anyone from discussing the Brown case; how ironic, since all of the posters from that group originated from discussions about the Peterson case or other murder cases that I reviewed on my blog. When taking a position on the Brown case was verboten in Muttville, it was obvious that the mutts were welcoming Patty simply because she shared their contempt of me. Their commonality was a tenuous thread and ultimately snapped when the facts of the case and Ted Kadis’s lies were revealed on Usenet and other forums to which the mutts were privy.

Meanwhile, a strange satellite blog appeared where the author promised to share his observations about various “blog wars” around cyberspace; however, he only managed to post three entries, two of which were devoted to yours truly. He linked his blog to the kennel, and all the eager mutts clicked on this link to read yet more absurd blather about how I had acquired a little army of brain-dead minions who were mesmerized by my sociopathic charms, or other such nonsense. The blog author embedded a site meter to the main page but forgot to make it private, so anyone could click on the meter and see the IP addresses of the people reading his site, including those originating from Muttville. This careless error proved to be the mother lode of information, and I and others noticed that an IP from the Ventura, California area had visited this site several times a day. This IP matched exactly one of Ted Kaldis’s IPs from his posts at Usenet, and the IP of the poster named “Patty Brown” at my blog. Curiouser and curiouser.

Was Ted posting as Patty on my blog and at the kennel? That was our first guess. He vehemently denied this and insisted that they shared a router. I concluded that this could only be the case if he used her computer or lived with her. At that point, Ted had to admit that he was living with his sister who, as it turns out, was his fraternal twin as well. Kaldis had posted on a high school reunion site where his and Patty’s graduation year were the same. Ribald and rambunctious ridicule resulted. Ted’s fellow posters on Usenet found this peculiar revelation to be irresistibly whacky and tormented him for weeks with amusing speculation as to why he would be a stow-away on the ill-fated Brown boxcar destined to derail in short order.

I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Once Ted and Patty’s IP were exposed as the same, Patty challenged Ken Smith from the safety (and censorship) of the kennel to view the information she had gathered that she believed would exonerate her husband. Apparently, she hoped to persuade Ken that Cam had been railroaded by a corrupt and single-minded district attorney and that Lauren’s death was an accident. I’m not sure what she sent Ken, but based on the lack of his subsequent defense of Brown, I assume it wasn’t very convincing. Patty and Ted continued to post disparaging comments about me with their little pals, and they basked in the mutt sympathy. I believe this just served to make them look like bigger fools.

In Usenet and on my blog, I speculated that Patty had something to do with Lauren’s death. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but my intuition told me that she was involved in some way. As it turns out, she was, even if it was just because she nagged Cam to death about getting custody of Lauren (although, that would have been virtually impossible under the circumstances), or because she complained about the money it was costing them in child support. I never believed the Browns were all that well off, especially since we knew that Ted had been living with Patty for several years. Hers and Brown’s credit profile and all the judgments against them and the lien on her house were proof enough.

When Ted posted on Usenet that Patty and Cam had filed for “joint custody” I asked to see the court documents, because I knew it had to be based on bogus information or had never been formally filed. I knew that there was no way that Patty and Cam could demonstrate that taking that child at the tender age of 4 from the only home and parent she knew would ever be in her best interests. Based on the law, the Browns would have had to design a shared parenting agreement that mapped out all the arrangements for where Lauren lived and how she got to school. I knew that the Browns would have had to relocate near Sarah in order for this to be considered by the court. When none of those things ever occurred, I knew that either Ted was lying or that Patty and Cam were lying. The custody issue had never seen the light of a courtroom, and would not even if Lauren were still alive, despite Patty’s diligent research or the Brown’s spurious allegations that Sarah was physically abusing Lauren.

It was outrageous that Patty would consider taking that child (re: “full custody”) from her mother just to spite her husband’s ex-lover or to further solidify her newlywed bliss. Later, the prosecution would posit that this was a way for Patty to have her cake and eat it too. Perhaps her experiments with voodoo or witchcraft were designed to harm Sarah, never imagining that Cam would ultimately kill Lauren. One could argue that Patty Brown indirectly caused Lauren’s murder, and the guilt of that has compelled her to make reckless decisions and expose herself to unnecessary scrutiny. Meanwhile, her twin brother’s frantic theories and protestations on Usenet were becoming equally implausible and desperate.

To be continued.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Once Upon a News Group - Part II

Let’s digress a little and consider the impact that crime forums, news groups, and web logs (blogs) have had on the criminal justice system in general, and murder trials in particular. Before the Internet became a source of instant news and vast information (some credible, some not so credible), we relied on local news sources for updates on criminal cases or current trials. While the Simpson trial was televised, most trials are not, and those of us with jobs and commitments don’t have the luxury of watching trials on Court TV.

Over the past 10 years (and exponentially in the last three years), numerous crime forums, message boards and blogs created the opportunity to follow a criminal case live from the earliest news reports through the verdict and aftermath. The age of instant communication changed the course of crime reporting forever. When I opened my blog in January 2003, I never predicted the kind of following it would attract because of my interest in the Peterson case. My blog was never specifically designed to be a “true-crime” blog, but the Peterson case took on a life of its own. I received leads, inside scoop, emails from people in Modesto and Fresno, tips from people in San Diego, and rather startling information from a person directly involved in the investigation. All because I had a blog that hosted a highly popular discussion section that was well monitored (no small task) and that weeded out the idiots, of which there were many.

Back in the early part of 2003, there weren’t many blogs that covered crime stories, and none that covered the Peterson case in any depth, so I was an unwitting pioneer in that regard. Because of my ability over the subsequent three years to attract a thoughtful and intelligent group of posters, and my ability to construct a well organized and researched summary of a case, I was contacted by parents and friends of victims, law enforcement, lawyers, district attorneys, and of course the random crackpot that threatened me.

In the past three years, blogs have become a reliable source of news, political discussion, inside information, and investigative reporting, and often scoop mainstream media because of their real-time, spontaneous format. Nearly everybody and his uncle has heard of blogs by now, most people with Internet service have read one, and all the news media have a stable of “bloggers” specializing in a specific subject.

By the time I began writing about the Brown case, I had been around for three blog years, which on the Internet is like dog years. I had attracted a wonderful community of posters that became friends in “real life”, as well as a slew of detractors that made a mini-career out of creating bashing threads in crime forums like Court TV and Websleuths to discredit and criticize me for everything from my eyebrows to my modifier-laden prose. Yes, cyber celebrity certainly has its downside.

This is the backdrop for the extraordinary events that occurred when I began to post at Usenet and report about the Brown case on my blog. Imagine all the nameless, faceless individuals reading the entries on my blog or following the various discussions on Usenet; people who know Sarah, knew Lauren, know Ted Kaldis, are coworkers of the defendant, are paralegals working for the defense or prosecution, grew up with the Brown family; countless lurkers who have one or two degrees of separation from the case. Imagine the scrutiny with which everything I and others wrote was under. Imagine how useful the debates among the posters at the news groups and my blog were for the people involved in this case. They must have sprung out of bed every morning with glee, rushing to see how we had helped them do their jobs. Did we realize that? Perhaps; but, blogging is essentially an exercise in vainglory, so the positive and negative impact one’s blog has on a particular case is secondary to its function as self-aggrandizing performance art.

Thus, it should have come as no surprise when we discovered that our conversations were being closely monitored; it was no surprise to me to see the IP addresses of law enforcement, media, government agencies, and an assortment of curious people on my blog daily. I was used to it. However, little did I know that a cadre of my detractors would eventually organize (thanks to my lack of foresight, but who can predict these things?) and produce a number of bashing sites dedicated to defaming me. I probably hold the dubious distinction of having more hate blogs devoted to me than any non-celebrity blogger in the blogosphere. Fortunately, because of Newton’s Laws, the universe has balanced this negative energy with positive energy, and I have attracted the most wonderful friends and supporters that any blogger could ask for.

I wouldn’t have bothered giving you the background of this if it were not essential to understanding the events that followed. Now that you have the big picture, we can continue our story.


As Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. once said in a commencement speech, “Life is full of good guesses and bad guesses.” So it is with discussing murder cases on the Internet. Unlike in the Peterson case where dozens of media groups reported every speck of bellybutton lint, the Brown case received scant news coverage. Where the court documents in Peterson became available within days after being filed by the defense or prosecution, we had no ready access to the motions or decisions in Brown. The autopsy report was sealed indefinitely, there was nothing forthcoming from the prosecution, and the normally publicity-grubbing Mark Geragos was uncharacteristically silent.

With this dearth of official documentation, we were left with our speculation and reading between the lines of Ted Kaldis’s strange and cryptic posts on Usenet. Many of us had valid theories regarding the incident on November 8, 2000. I predicted that Brown was in debt, that he had poor communication skills, that he had probably run through a series of shallow, physical relationships that resulted in ill will, and that he married a woman ten years his elder for her financial security and geographic location. Some of my guesses were proven to be accurate, others will always remain presumption. This is not rocket science; most people accused of murdering their spouse or child share many personality and lifestyle traits. Like amateur profilers, we look for patterns and statistics; however, we bring our prejudices and projection into the discussion and sometimes this taints our point of view. In the news groups, the fact that Ted Kaldis was Brown’s brother-in-law, and that he had made so many enemies in Usenet over the years because of his obnoxious behavior, his support of Brown was instantly suspect and summarily rejected. In retrospect, it would have been far better for Kaldis not to have introduced the Brown case to his associates in Usenet at all. I believe he did far more harm than good to his twin sister’s husband’s case.

Unfortunately (but predictably) for Team Cam, Kaldis was incapable of stifling himself. What we didn’t anticipate was that his sister Patty, the defendant’s wife, would eventually post in my blog and on one of the hate blogs using her own name. Whether she did this out of a reckless desire to refute some of my speculation about Brown, or because Ted’s participation had spiraled out of control, we may never know. What we do know is that because she chose to participate in bashing me for having my opinions, theories and the audacity to publish them, she made herself vulnerable. Although I didn’t have the time or resources to investigate Mrs. Brown, several loyal friends and supporters did. What they discovered about the Brown’s financial profile was even more dire than we had speculated. This unflattering reality was substantiated recently at the first trial. But, this wasn't the only thing we found out because of Patty Brown's participation in "Muttville" (my pet name for the bashing blog)...

To be continued.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Once Upon a News Group...

Beneath the surface details of the People v. Brown lies a subculture of sorts; a back story about the participants in the online dialogue of the case that dates back many years.

Before any of us had ever heard of Cameron Brown or Lauren Key there was a group of posters from the newsgroups (now called “Usenet”: a conglomeration of mostly uncensored discussion groups that sprout like mushrooms on manure) who had been posting together on various topics including law, politics, elections, religion and pop culture. One of the ubiquitous posters was Ted Kaldis, a thoroughly repulsive individual whose racism, bigotry, religious fanatacism, misogyny and hypocrisy rival the most boorish character in a Charles Dickens novel.

My introduction to Usenet was through CountryGirl, who sent me a link to an interesting discussion on the “alt.fan.bob-larson” group last July regarding the Brown case she had come across. I was vaguely familiar with Usenet and had occasionally viewed threads in there to read about true crime stories I was following at one time or another, but I had never posted there. I had my own blog where I had followed the Peterson case and a few other murder trials in California and made no secret of my disdain for Mark Geragos. My interest in the Brown case stemmed almost exclusively, at first, from the fact that Geragos had signed on as Brown’s attorney. As I became more familiar with the facts, I found the case to be extremely compelling for me on a deeper level than merely chronicling another potential Geragos catastrophe.

I joined the news group and began posting some of my opinions and research about the Brown case, and was welcomed by a number of “regulars” there – kind of like the bar, “Cheers”, including Ken, Kent, Wayne, and Dane. I learned that their mutual nemesis, Ted Kaldis, was related by marriage to the defendant, which was an interesting twist. Needless to say, because I was obviously in the camp that believed Brown was guilty as sin, Kaldis was rude and aggressive to me from the outset. That didn’t faze me too much, since running a blog for three years had inured me to trolls and ad hominem attacks. You have to have a pretty thick skin to run a blog with 400 comments a day from so many virtual strangers, including all manner of idiots, nutcases and apologists for the defendant.

Within a week or so, a new poster joined the group calling herself “Interested”, who, it seemed, was a lot more interested in attacking me than she was in the case. “Interested” was rebuffed by some others in the group after her comments became more bizarre and insulting. Some of us believed she was working for Team Cam because of her tendency to argue rather obscure and sometimes obtuse issues. Suddenly, she left, only to reincarnate a few weeks later as “Just Amazed”; and I was certainly quite amazed at what happened next.

To be continued.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Judge Arnold has declared a mistrial. 2 jurors were not going to change their mind. It was 9-2 1 abstaining on Friday. 9 guilty. They said it wouldn't help to have the attorneys argue.

Jury Update Monday August 14th

KFI just reported the jury was still deadlocked today. The vote on Thursday was 9-3; Friday was 10-2 (SF said 9-2 but that is only 11). The issue reportedly is the element of murder: malice aforethought.

Craig Hum and Mark Geragos will each have a half hour to argue to the jury on that issue this afternoon. Evidently this is more common than reported; no jurors will be allowed to ask questions.

More later as it becomes known....

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Reasonable Doubt

REASONABLE DOUBT (from the law dictionary)- The level of certainty a juror must have to find a defendant guilty of a crime. A real doubt, based upon reason and common sense after careful and impartial consideration of all the evidence, or lack of evidence, in a case. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt, therefore, is proof of such a convincing character that you would be willing to rely and act upon it without hesitation in the most important of your own affairs. However, it does not mean an absolute certainty. The definition of reasonable doubt applies specifically to the guilt-innocence phase of a trial; although the rules are not of constitutional dimension per se . . . [they] serve to implement the constitutional requirement that a criminal conviction cannot stand except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Sometimes referred to as "to a moral certainty," the phrase is fraught with uncertainty as to meaning, but akin to “you’d better be darned sure.” By comparison it is meant to be a tougher standard than "preponderance of the evidence," used as a test to give judgment to a plaintiff in a civil trial.

To the jurors, the presiding Judge should have clarified the definition of reasonable doubt and instructed them to act upon their intelligence and common sense: did the prosecution prove that the defendant committed the crime in question, or are there gaping holes or leaps of logic that derail that conclusion? “Beyond a reasonable doubt” implies that the circumstantial, direct, and physical evidence soundly demonstrates the defendant’s guilt. It does not ask the jurors what else could have happened, but rather what probably did happen, based on the presentation of facts.

The scenario laid out by the People in Brown includes the fact that the trail from the parking lot to the top of the point was over a mile and a half long. It is not reasonable to believe a four-year-old child made that trek willingly; especially considering it would have been a three-mile round trip. If you have children, you may recall thinking on Halloween night that you could only go so far, since you had to walk back home again! Reasonable people think like that. Parents of small children defintely think like that.

The People also presented evidence (subject to a certain amount of interpretation, since nothing is absolute) to demonstrate that Lauren's injuries were incosistent with a "tumble and fall", but were consistent with a long fall. Even if there were a few injuries that resembled something that would happen during a tumbling fall, the fact that the defendant's story contradicts this possibility sort of forfeits it as "reasonable doubt".

The concept of reasonable doubt is misunderstood, misrepresented and misapplied rampantly throughout the news media, conversations, books and by the layperson who doesn't read the law. That's why it's the prosecutor and the judge's burden to make it crystal clear. Let's hope Hum and Arnold did or will before they give up on this jury.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Hung Jury?

Judge Arnold sent them back to deliberate. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Cognitive Dissonance and Child Murder

Nobody wants to believe that a father would kill his child, no matter what the circumstances; especially a father who seems mentally normal and capable of making intelligent decisions that affect his life, such as marriage, employment and recreation. Even calculated decisions that are self-centered are still decisions. We think of a parent that kills his child as someone who must be mentally ill. A seemingly normal person could not violate the laws of nature so blithely. Our natural resistance to trusting evidence that points to a father killing his child in cold blood out of entirely selfish motives is referred to as “cognitive dissonance”. It’s a wall our minds build against accepting facts contrary to our ingrained belief system.

The jurors in California v. Brown are probably experiencing this cognitive dissonance as they deliberate the evidence in the case. They have to not only wrap their minds around the science and gruesome medical facts of a child falling from over 100 feet to her death, but also the incomprehensible concept that a father would intentionally throw the child over like a piece of stray baggage. Theirs is not a task any of us would envy.

Does the jury trust Craig Hum and Jeff Leslie? Do they trust Geragos? Has Geragos kept his promises? Judging by his opening statements, he hasn’t. Instead, he resorted to “bait and switch” maneuvers with regard to witnesses he promised to deliver, including one who saw Brown crying over his daughter’s body, screaming, “Don’t die! Please don’t die.” What happened to that witness? Similarly, Geragos promised to refute the forensic and scientific evidence as “hooey”! Judging by what was reported in newspapers and on the radio, that didn’t happen, either. If the defense possessed the “exculpatory evidence” it claimed, why didn’t it present this months (or years) ago when Brown was cooling his heels in jail? If the jury’s trust in Geragos is realistically scant, perhaps the length of the deliberations (going into its fourth day) is due to cognitive dissonance. I suspect there are a couple of hold-out jurors who cannot grasp the cruel reality of this murder.

Geragos struggled to sell Brown as an innocent, falsely-accused man incapable of violence or malicious intent toward his child. He tried to convince the jurors of Brown’s loving relationship with Lauren without putting him on the stand. He tried to defuse the economic motive by arguing the unlikely scenario that the Browns had access to $60K in retirement accounts and property value. Besides trying to portray Brown as a great father and provider, he attempted to refute the scientific and forensic evidence with relatively weak witnesses.

Did Geragos’s lame defense actually send a signal to the jurors that his client is guilty?

The jurors will want to leave this trial feeling good about their decision. Will they be able to face their families, communities, and selves with a “not guilty” verdict? Will they hang and thus prolong the already tortuous agony to the victims’ family and leave the decision to another jury of their fellow Californians?

Can they acquit Brown based on a few snapshots, a birthday cake and a life-sized doll? I submit that they will not. They will overcome their cognitive dissonance and bring back a verdict of guilty. Keep the faith.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Country Girl's Summary of the Defense Closing Arguments - and Rebuttal

Mark Geragos stood directly in front of the jury box when he gave his closing arguments. He likes to get up close and personal; I think it’s his way of pseudo-connecting with the hoi polloi. “I’m just the guy next door! You can trust me!” But he comes off as an oily used-car salesman. He started out by saying that most lawyers despise coming on right after lunch because the jurors tend to nod off. (Then he taps the jury box railing. Don’t you dare fall asleep during my swan song!)

He said he only gets to speak once—Hum gets another chance to talk after he’s finished, but Geragos only gets one chance to speak. (So listen up and listen good!)

This case is nothing more than an accident, he claims. The jury should come back with a not guilty verdict.

The prosecutor has demonized Cameron Brown, referring to him as The Defendant, calling Geragos the Defandant’s lawyer. They are dehumanizing Cameron Brown. They made him subhuman to the jurors. They portrayed him as a man without emotions. Oh, but he was a man with an endless capacity of love for his daughter.

He talked about Inspiration Point. You (jury) went out there yesterday - the prosecution is trying this case on emotions. “If it looks dangerous you must convict!”

He talked about reasonable doubt and used visual aids to show the jury instruction about reasonable doubt. Read it to them like they were kindergartners.

He said the jury needs to look at what the evidence said, not what the prosecution wants you to believe. He said the prosecution said innocent people don’t have to lie. Sarah lied! Sarah lied when she said Cameron Brown laughed on the phone. You heard the tapes and there was no laughter. The prosecution said they broke up because Sarah was pregnant. The fact is they broke up over an argument about a car loan.

He showed the birthday pictures again of Lauren and Cameron. This reminded me of the famous “curling iron” picture he kept showing the jury in Peterson. He seems to hone in on one image and reiterate its alleged significance over and over again hoping just one juror will have a Ger-Eureka moment.)

He showed the jury the email to the CalTech professor, Joel Burdick, where Danny Smith asked if Burdick could use “magic” to prove Lauren was thrown. Why did the defense have to show this to you? What did the prosecution have to hide it? They never called Danny Smith. They never called the last person to see Lauren alive. It would have been the neutron bomb of their case. (This was Terry Hope. On cross—he said Cameron gave him a strange look and he told detectives he felt “something was wrong.” Similar to Diane Jackson who saw a white van parked across the street from Laci Peterson’s house the morning of December 24 who “looked at her funny.” Does anyone else see a pattern, here?)

He said that his cross of Hayes dismantled his testimony. (More Gera-Logic.) He showed a video of Hayes’ assistant with a harness and went on about how the rope got tight and that’s what kept him from falling forward, not the laws of physics.

He said the prosecution doesn’t want to tell you about another choice of involuntary manslaughter. The jury will receive instructions tomorrow about that.

He hammered Jeff Leslie for not taping the interview with Cameron Brown and told the jury they will receive instructions about statements made by a defendant out of court to police officers and that they should be taken with extreme caution. (Hindsight is 20/20.)

Yet he turned around and said that the witness who gave Cameron the cell phone at the nude beach said Cameron sounded much more frantic than he did on the tape and so the jury should go by what the witness said an not so much the tape. Keep in mind that Geragos cherry-picks what he wants the jury to consider, regardless of its inconsistency. Yes, let’s bash the cops for not taping the interview but instruct the jury to disregard the same cop’s eye-witness testimony about Brown’s demeanor.

He talked about how Brown spent six hours with law enforcement, but was expected to call Sarah after that? To what end? He’s married to Patty! (This elicited audible groans from the gallery.)

He said that if defendants don’t have an “Oprah-style moment”, they are considered guilty. If Cameron reacts—he’s condemned. If he doesn’t—he’s condemned. He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. (Geragos hasn’t yet written the playbook on how accused murderers should act in court, eh?)

He brought up the financial issues (Cameronomics) and said there was no evidence that Patty didn’t share her money with Brown. He said the prosecution even got his fee of $250K in front of the jury, which is cheap for three lawyers on a case for three years.

He also mentioned the guy who yelled “Guilty” at IP during the trip. I haven’t a clue why he would bring that up---but it woke me up because I was nodding off about then.

He said they (the prosecution) are going to slam Cam. That’s their case. So when the prosecutor does his rebuttal, think of things to rebut him. (Yeah, he actually said that in so many words)

4pm - Hum’s Rebuttal

It’s not your job to rebut my argument as the defense just asked.

The defendant’s lawyer didn’t deliver what he promised in opening statements. Where’s the Don’t Die Guy? If the defendant’s lawyer wants to bring witnesses or evidence that we don’t—we aren’t hiding anything—they are free to bring it themselves. Nothing stopped them from doing that.

The defendant’s lawyer implied that Jeff Leslie lied about the defendant’s story. If Jeff Leslie was going to make up a story, wouldn’t it be a better story to say that 10 minutes into the interview the defendant confessed? Why make up this story? It makes no sense. Jeff Leslie has no reason to lie.

We have to include involuntary manslaughter because it’s the law…we don’t want you to convict him on that. He’s guilty of first degree murder. We know the truth!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Country Girl's Observations at Closing Arguments

Craig Hum is the epitome of the tall, dark and handsome DA. The only thing missing was a white hat. Pacing the floor, never sitting down, it was obvious he took his job very seriously. He approached the podium near the jury with a quiet but passionate determination to tell the story of how and why Lauren Key Marer was killed by her biological father, Cameron John Brown.

Next to him at the prosecutor’s table was Detective Jeff Leslie, the homicide detective characterized by the defense as the demon of the Brown trial just as Brochinni was in the Scott Peterson trial. It comes with the job, and Leslie has the broad shoulders to handle it. He has an actor’s good looks and rarely smiles; but when he does, his eyes twinkle. He’s an imposing figure. Hum and Leslie proved a formidable team for Lauren.

While Team Geragos had laptops, Team Hum carried its case files on a cart with Leslie providing the muscle. There were dozens of binders stacked on the prosecution’s table: evidence of the nearly six years it took to get this case to its final showdown. Jeff Leslie could have taken the easy way out and accepted Brown’s word that Lauren’s death was an accident. He could have ignored all the red flags and warning bells going off in his head. But to do that would be to ignore Lauren’s final moments. She was a precious angel, gone just weeks after her fourth birthday. Gone were her beautiful eyes and her infectious smile. Leslie knew it was no accident, and so did Craig Hum. And now, he hoped to summarize the proof to the jury that would decide Cameron Brown’s fate beginning today.

My daughter Heather and I arrived late Wednesday night and stayed at a hotel near the Torrance courthouse. By the time Luke and I scouted out the ice and snack machines and Heather got the kids settled in, it was midnight before I got into bed. I called for a 6am wakeup call and a taxi for 7am. I was afraid I wouldn’t get a seat since all of the Los Angeles television stations covered the jury’s trip to Inspiration Point in their evening news. Cameron Brown was shown standing between two armed deputies with his hands and ankles chained. Geragos and Hum were both interviewed. The press that Ted said would be ‘all over this case’ finally showed up.

My cabbie questioned why I wanted to get to the courthouse so early the next morning. The parking lot was completely empty and the building was locked. I told him I was there for closing statements for a trial I had been following and wanted to make sure I got a seat in the courtroom because of the media attention last night.

I waited outside for the building to open at 7:30am and the guard inside waved at me, pointing at his watch. I nodded back to him that I knew I had a 15-minute wait and a within a few minutes, people starting arriving. At 7:25am, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s prisoner’s bus pulled into the drive, going around the back of the courthouse. Cameron John Brown had arrived. I felt a chill go through me. Later in the day, a friend of Sarah’s asked me what drew me to this case. She probably thought I was crazy. I can’t point to one single reason because there are many. I am a mother with two beautiful daughters and a grandmother with four beautiful grandchildren. My first granddaughter was born just two months before Lauren’s death in 2000. When I hold my grandchildren, I find it impossible to believe there is such evil that could hurt a child. But I know it exists. It came that morning in a bus. It was there, going in the building, and soon I would be in the same room with it.

The guard unlocked the glass doors and I was the first visitor in the building. After going through the metal detector, I asked where I could find Department G. It was on the fourth floor. I took the elevator up and found myself alone in a large glassed in corridor with several courtrooms overlooking the parking lot. People trickled in but they all sat in front of other courtrooms. I checked out the docket for Judge Arnold’s courtroom and saw that the Cameron Brown case was #11 for that morning. One case was crossed out, so there were 10 other cases being heard before the closing arguments were to begin. These turned out to be probation violation hearings and they only lasted a few minutes each. Still, I had time, so I asked a woman who worked on that floor where I might find a cup of coffee. She said she was headed to the cafeteria and would show me the way.

I got a cup of coffee and checked in with Loretta to let her know I was in the courthouse and looked like I would get a seat. I headed back up to the fourth floor to see if the courtroom doors were unlocked. They were supposed to be open at 8:30am. You enter double wooden doors to get in the courtroom and they lead to a small hallway about four feet by eight feet with a door on each side. It’s like a mini entry and probably helps with the outside sound as well. I chose the door on the left and it just so happens that is the prosecution’s side of the courtroom. I had no idea but I took that as a sign of good luck.

Just inside the door were three younger women speaking quietly and I took a seat one seat over towards the door. They had British accents and I immediately wondered if one of them was Sarah. I had never seen her but knew she was very attractive and all of these women were attractive young ladies, about the age of my youngest daughter. Shortly after I sat down, one of them approached me and asked what trial I was there to see. I told her the Cameron Brown trial. We were following it on the internet and this was my last chance to see it and that’s why I came. She asked me what my name was on the internet and I told her Country Girl. Her face lit up and she said, “You’re Country Girl?” She told me the women in their group would speculate when they saw visitors at the trial if one of them could be CG or Loretta, and she immediately asked me if Loretta was coming. I told her Loretta couldn’t come but that I had just been with Loretta last weekend. They adore Loretta!

She introduced me to the others, but I won’t use any names here to in order to protect their privacy. I invited them to post after the trial is over if and when they feel comfortable doing so and they don’t have to use their real names. They are a big support to Sarah. They have put their lives on hold to support her through this difficult trial; true friends in every sense of the word. I am proud to have met them. Few people have such good friends. They were there early to save seats for Sarah and her family and friends.

Craig Hum’s girlfriend, “Y” came over and introduced herself. She is a gorgeous blonde. I was surrounded by gorgeous women! I told her I wanted to meet Jeff Leslie, my hero. I wanted to personally thank him. “Y” told Sarah’s friends that she would check with the judge and give up her seat and stand if they needed more seats, and of course I offered to do the same. I would sit in the corner if need be before I would take the seat of Sarah’s family. It turned out neither of us had to, there were enough seats.

About then, one of Sarah’s friends said Sarah was coming in and I looked up to see a striking blonde wearing a green jacket and I was face to face with Lauren’s mother. They told her who I was and I reached to shake her hand and instead she gave me a warm hug. I fought back tears. It was a very emotional moment for me. Sarah would later tell her family and friends about our blog and that we wrote ‘their side’ on the internet. I could feel her inner strength, whatever kept her going for Lauren; her faith was immense. She was about to sit through the final battle for Lauren’s justice after a long and difficult wait.

Sarah’s mother came in and sat beside me. We felt an immediate bond. We hugged and both wiped away our tears. She lost her adorable granddaughter, Lauren.

I couldn’t see the defense side of the courtroom from my seat so I stood up and glanced around the corner to see Cameron Brown at the defense table. I could only see his back as he sat there in a suit. Patty Brown was nowhere in sight. I didn’t see Ted at that time either. Later, during a break, I saw Brown’s parents. Apparently, Judge Arnold relented and allowed Bob Brown in for closing arguments. There were no disruptions yesterday other than a few groans when Geragos gave his rambling monologue when he talked about why Cameron didn’t call Sarah after Lauren’s death - according to him, Brown was, after all, married to Patty.

The jury came in at 10:45am and Hum took the podium for over two hours. As Nick Green of the Daily Breeze said, it was riveting. I fought back tears. A bailiff brought a box of tissues to Sarah. Greg, Sarah’s husband, comforted her with his arm around her shoulder, soothing her, holding her.

When Hum finished his closing arguments, Judge Arnold broke the courtroom for a short lunch break. The jury filed out past me and then the rest of us left. It was then I saw Brown’s parents standing by the elevator. They didn’t look happy. I took off alone, since I wanted to give Sarah and her family and friends privacy. It was enough that I was allowed to sit with them.

As I was leaving, I got to meet and shake hands with Jeff Leslie. As we shook hands, he flashed me a knowing smile. This case had gotten to both our hearts and he knew it. I took the next elevator down to the cafeteria and saw Sarah and her mum again. The lines were long and a bailiff asked Sarah if she could get her food expedited for her but Sarah said they weren’t ordering from the grill. I grabbed a muffin and headed out to the patio and called Loretta.

When the break was over and we returned to the fourth floor the doors to the courtroom were locked. As the jurors returned the bailiff opened the door for them and locked it again. Ted was stationed to the right of the door and he would do the pounding. He looked right at me several times and I looked right back. He had no idea who I was.

The bailiff came out and asked for the family to come in. I stayed outside. I stood near Shannon Ferran from KFI and Lisa from the Los Angeles Times. Lisa and I talked earlier. She introduced herself and we discussed the fact that the LA Times hadn’t covered the trial before, but she will be writing an overview of the case.

Shannon sat beside Sarah all morning. She’s cute as can be: very young and blonde and you would know that voice anywhere. I told her I was the one that sent John & Ken the grand jury transcripts. She had to leave early that afternoon to file her report with KFI.

After a few minutes, one of Sarah’s friends came out the double doors and straight toward me as I was standing with Shannon and Lisa. She said, “You’re coming with me!” The bailiff stopped us as we were going through the double doors and said, “Is this family?” and Sarah’s friend said, “Yes, this is family.” I went inside and they had saved my seat for me. They wanted me sitting with them. It moved me to tears. I truly felt like I was there to represent their internet family: people they might never meet but who were supporting them; people from different states and countries sending their love, prayers and strength. We were all there right with them in that courtroom. That’s why I was there.

Then Mark Geragos gave his closing argument. He waved pictures of Lauren and Brown in front of the jury as if those staged birthday party photos demonstrated his fatherly devotion for what entailed 14 days of Lauren’s life. It made me ill. I can’t imagine what Sarah was feeling listening to this garbage!

When Geragos finished, Craig Hum gave his rebuttal and it was over. Again, the jury filed out and then we left the courtroom. When I left, Lisa from the Los Angeles Times was talking to Sarah. I took the elevator down and saw Heather waving to me from a parking space right in front of the building. She had taken the grandchildren to the Aquarium for the day and they were both sleeping in the car. She took a picture of me standing in front of the building with the sign up behind me. Then Ted exited the building. She knew who he was from his picture, and she had been concerned about him because of his comments to me online. I told her I wasn’t afraid of him, but she is protective of her mother. She snapped a picture of him and a couple of Geragos when he came out. His team happened to be parked right next to her and they were loading their equipment in their SUV and looking at us. We had both agreed that no pictures were to be taken of Sarah or her family.

I got into the car and we were getting ready to leave when someone from Sarah’s group came over and said, “We are going to take a picture on the courthouse steps and we want Country Girl in the picture.” Heather asked if she could take a group shot as well and they said yes. So we all got up there in a group and took pictures and then said our goodbyes. We hugged. The last thing Sarah said to me was, “Please tell Loretta hello for me.” I did.

Closing Arguments - Part I

Craig Hum paced the floor before giving his closing argument. He’d prepared for this moment for nearly six years, and it was finally here. The jury came in at 10:45 am. One of the jurors has to drop out and an alternate will be selected to deliberate in her place; yet, she still came for the closing. These are just two of many examples of people dedicated to seeing justice for Lauren Key.

Hum told the jury about the different degrees of murder; in this case, first degree murder with special circumstances of lying in wait and financial gain. He explained what each of these terms meant. He also talked about second degree murder and its distinctions. (In California, it’s a very small line.)

Hum conceded that it was a “circumstantial evidence” case but reminded the jury that circumstantial evidence is just as valid as direct evidence. The crime scene, Inspiration Point, was their best evidence.

He went on to say the defendant’s entire story was a lie. No way in the world did it happen like the defendant said it did. He said the defendant is lying and innocent people don’t need to lie. It was a lie that Lauren took off ahead of the defendant and the defendant couldn’t keep up. No way in the world.

He reminded the jury that it was just 7 weeks ago that Sarah Key-Marer testified in the trial.

The defense made it sound as though Brown didn’t know Sarah was pregnant. Yet the defendant told his friends and even his ex-girlfriend that he had gotten her pregnant. He tried to get her fired from her job and deported. He took her to see a counselor at Kaiser and they discussed abortion. So how could he say he didn’t know she was pregnant?

He cried to his ex-girlfriend that he wasn’t ready to be a father. He never wanted Lauren. He was vindictive, spiteful, malicious. He hid from Sarah. He moved his boat and changed his phone number frequently and told his work not to take her calls. He knew she was pregnant.

When he finally had to pay nearly $1,000 a month child support, he immediately tried to get it reduced. He heard from some counselor that he could get it lowered if he had more visitation, so he applied again to get it lowered and asked for joint legal custody and 32% visitation---and he had never even met Lauren.

At first, Brown agreed to the adoption and wanted it done within 30 days. Why? In February 2000 it was discussed with Sarah and in March 2000 he married Patty Kaldis. Patty wanted Lauren for herself. He needed to get the adoption done before he married Patty.

When he started having unsupervised visits with Lauren, she came home and said “Papa Cam is going to put you in jail for stealing his money.” He tormented and terrorized Sarah by taking Lauren on his boat and motorcycle, and by putting her suitcase in the middle of the street and demanding that Lauren get it.

The defendant never to this day told Sarah how Lauren died. He refused to tell her.

When the Sheriff’s department wired Sarah in January 2001, he called the airport police on her and wanted Sarah prosecuted. He lied and said she threatened to kill him. He made it up and wanted her prosecuted for his lie. It was on tape—she never threatened him. He made it all up.

In August 2000, just 3 months before Lauren’s death, she refused to go on a hike. She was the only one who refused to go. No way would Lauren have initiated the hike that day at Inspiration Point. The defendant is lying.

And, if he planned on taking Lauren back to his condo that day, why would he have a disposable camera so handy? He hadn’t planned on going to the beach that day, according to his story. Yet, he took 3 pictures of Lauren and offered the camera to the detectives to show them that Lauren was ‘happy’ that day.

He had 3 versions of what happened and what he saw that day. 1) She was just ‘gone’. 2) He heard oh, oh and saw her feet going over the side of the cliff—and 3) he saw her left side falling forward over the cliff.

However, none of his versions fit the scenario of his expert, Dr Yamaguchi, of tumbling. The defendant never saw her tumble.

During the 5 minute 911 call, the defendant never once said “Hurry up!”. Never said “Come on!” Instead, he goes back up over IP and down the other side and what does he do? Takes off all his clothes except his boots and underwear because he saw it on “Baywatch”.

During his entire time with law enforcement he never once blamed himself for Lauren’s death. He blamed Lauren.

He never once said her name when he spent 3 hours with Jeff Leslie. When the cliff was checked there was no evidence of sliding on the edge of Inspiration Point. And a week later, he was ready to move on. Can’t dwell on it.

Both Cameron and Patty Brown immediately went out and got lawyers. The jury also has a note in the evidence they will look at in deliberations from Patty Brown to Cameron.

Patty writes Cameron a note: Seek full legal and physical custody.

And on that very day, when he couldn’t reach her on the phone—it was because she was online researching how to get more custody of Lauren.

When they searched his home they found a cigar box hidden under their bed with 2 cut out photos of Sarah.

The defendant lied to the court about a WC case saying his salary was lowered and it wasn’t.

The defense says the money wasn’t a hardship. That ‘they’ had over $60K in the bank. It was Patty’s money and the majority of it was in retirement accounts (70+%). The defendant had $96.21 in the bank.

The defense brought in the mediator and she said the defendant was angry and frustrated at his mother. She was concerned about his emotional and psychological instability.

Of course he did it.

(To be continued)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

August 3 Update from KFI

Thanks to Charlie for this update.

CG was at the trial today and met the main players. We'll be getting a detailed report from her later.

Meanwhile, here is Charlie's transcription of the KFI update:

SF: Mr. Hum stood from behind the podium, very clear voice, strong, very organized. He pointed out from the get go that clearly this was a circumstantial evidence case. This CE case is just as good as direct evidence. The most important evidence we have seen, first hand. You saw the cliff, you saw the contours, the distances of the trails. We know from going out there that the defendants story, that this little girl lead him on the 1 ½ mile hike is a lie, and absolute lie. Innocent people don’t need to lie. (That was the reoccurring theme of his closing.)
He talked about from the beginning, CB never wanted a child, he was a bachelor, living the life of a bachelor on a boat, he wanted Sarah to get an abortion, from day 1 he didn’t want to be a father. Mr. Hum addressed the way CB treated Sarah, how he reported her to INS, how he had such anger for her, how CB would take Lauren out on his boat, he would pick Lauren up from school on his motorcycle. All these things CB did just to irritate Sarah. He used Lauren to get at Sarah. The only reason he requested more visitation was to get his CS reduced.
Next was the reaction of Sarah to the fact that Lauren had died. She was hysterical, vomiting, and hyperventilating. This is how a parent reacts.

He then talked about Lauren. She was a “girly girl”, scared of heights, that when the babysitter (she took care of her since she was 2 months old) went out to IP, she said Lauren would NEVER have wanted to come out here. She would have been scared out of her mind. 2 months before Lauren was launched to her death, she went on a Christian camping trip and all the kids went on the trip but Lauren stayed back. Lauren never wanted to hike, she was scared of worms. (SF said she saw more than 2 or 3 spiders out there yesterday that even she was scared of.) Lauren didn’t like to walk, even when the babysitter took her to the park 2 blocks away, Lauren wanted to be taken in the stroller.It was pointed out that this would have been a 3 mile round trip hike, 5K.

(Good point.)

CB had said that he was going to take Lauren home that day, but that she was upset when he picked her up and that’s why he decided to take her to the beach. Mr. Hum said, “Why did he have a camera? He never had a camera on any of her other visits?” There were pictures of CB and Lauren together, but other people were taking the pictures. “Now all of the sudden he has a camera and he’s snapping pictures of her in the parking lot and the playground. Where are the pictures of her at the top of IP? There was plenty of film.” CB offered the camera up that night to investigators saying that he had pictures of her and that she was happy.
He talked about the different versions CB gave that night during interrogation. There were different versions because CB was lying. Once again, innocent people do not need to lie. You can hear on the 911 tape that he is apologizing to the naked guy that emergency crews are going to be coming out.

During the interrogation the detectives said to CB, this is your fault, and CB said, “No it’s her fault, she’s the one who wanted to go up there.” He never referred to Lauren by her name during the entire time.

They also showed CB a Polaroid picture of Laurens’ smashed face and CB didn’t react.
SF is sitting next to Sarah. At this point the whole courtroom is sobbing. Nick from the Breeze told SF at the break that he saw one of the jurors sobbing, she didn’t see it. It was really gut-wrenching at that point. CB didn’t react at the cliff, the picture, etc. The character witnesses the MG dug up? He puts his mother, brother, and someone CB hasn’t seen or talked to in 10 yrs.? Real impressive. He puts his mother up there to say he was nice. Where’s the Don’t Die Guy? We never heard from the one’s that were promised in OS because they don’t exist.
Geragos: Geragos gets right in front of the jury, right up there. They are trying to demonize CB. That’s the only way you can reconcile the idea that he would throw his “beloved” 4 yr, old off the cliff. He’s not a demon, he’s a human being.

Reasonable doubt was next. It only takes a small amount of doubt and your conviction is out the window. It doesn’t matter if you like or don’t like my client, (shades of Peterson?) that doesn’t give you grounds to convict.

He talked about there were not 3 different versions that night, in the detectives notes there was only one version that CHANGED A FEW TIMES. OK.
Put yourself in CB’s shoes, he meets this woman at a bar, within a week they have sex, then you get a call that she’s pregnant, wouldn’t you question the paternity? Right out of the box she’s pregnant?

SF said that what he was getting at was that he didn’t want an abortion; he wanted to check the paternity.
He went on to talk about how much CB drove to see his daughter. Look at all the traffic his client endured.

Terry Hope was brought up next. When she went out there yesterday, she said that he saw her closer to IP than she could tell in the courtroom pictures. TH testified that when he saw them she was happy, smiling and she was leading. Geragos said that's enough reasonable doubt alone. The way you need to look at reasonable doubt is imagine jurors, one of your friends or loved ones is accused of something horrendous and you're skeptical, you need to go into this with the same doubt as if it was one of your loved ones, until there’s evidence/proof that he or she did the crime. We have no evidence that CB threw this little girl off the cliff. There is evidence that he loved her. There are pictures of him at birthday parties, smiling and hugging and he drove all that way to see her. Even if you have a strong suspicion, that’s not enough to convict him.
The jury gets the case tomorrow morning according to SF. Geragos wasn’t done when she was reporting. Hum still has his rebuttal.