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.

31 comments:

Ronni said...

Thanks so much for that, CG!

I'll be back later!

"Lukiss" said...

Good job mom, too bad it isnt PC to tell it like it is... Too bad we don't have journalists like you all around the papers and the tv stations.
I sure am glad that there are truth tellers like u.

AmyJo said...

Thank you, CG - you've humanized what has been clinical for most of us. The progression of this case has of course been focused on testimony, direct & cross. The "human element" hasn't been explored, and I applaud you for writing such a moving synopsis of the day.

And thank you, Loretta - for doggedly refusing to give in to the bashers and attackers who tried to drive you away completely.

All we can hope is that justice is done, here. At the end of the day, no matter what happens to Cameron Brown, a little girl lost her life, and her family was shattered.

loretta said...

According to one of the trial attendees, when they did the search of Brown's house, they found 2 photos of Sarah that were in a cigar box in a suitcase under the bed. The photos were cut out of bigger pictures, just Sarah's head. In the suitcase there were also candles and other things (not very clear) that could be interpreted as voodoo or witchcraft spell-casting paraphernalia.

That is really creepy. Did Patty Kaldis put a HEX on Sarah?

What a freak.

Anne said...

CG, thanks so much.

You were there to represent their internet friends, indeed.

Sending strength and prayers to Sarah, family and friends. All the way from Brazil.

loretta said...

LINK

Article today about jury deliberations. Mostly rehash, but some good quotes.

Breezy said...

Thanks again CG for the first hand account of the closing. It is so heart wrenching to think of Sarah and her pain. No mother should ever bury their child unless their child is a murderer himself.

May the jury see clearly with Mr. Ego's smoke and mirror's games and convict Cameron John Brown of first degree murder with special circumstances in Lauren's death and bring some semblance of closure to those that loved this child and those that fell in love with her after her brutal murder.

CountryGirl said...

Please join us tonight in support of Sarah and Lauren by lighting a candle.

Barbara said...

I have my candle lit. (I had to put it up high because young Will is fascinated!) My heart and my prayers are with Sarah, her friends, her family and the jurors who are charged with bringing justice in this case.

Robin said...

What an eloquent and first rate report, CGal. It made me cry.

Lighting a candle for Lauren. May all our candles illuminate the path to justice,

Charlie said...

My candle is lit also.

Your insight into this made me cry, I had to take a break.

I really appreciate you being there, CG. Words cannot describe how I feel.

Thank you.

My thoughts and prayers are with Lauren's family, friends, and with the jurors tonight.

Barbara said...

There was one glaring inaccuracy in the abc article. The witness did not see Lauren throwing rocks or grass from the cliff. There were no witnesses on the cliff. He saw her well before they got to the top.

Anonymous said...

CG -
From all Sarah's friends here in Hawaii, we appreciate your continued support for our dear friend. It kills us that we can't be in California for the trial, but reading your blog has helped us follow the trial and understand on a daily basis what she is dealing with.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. Sarah is a true example of strength and we all admire her tremendously.

Aloha,
The Moms

loretta said...

There are always a lot of mistakes in the reporting, not necessarily this case, but usually.

We saw that a lot during Peterson. Too bad we couldn't afford to have all the transcripts. They really told a different story.

Welcome to all friends of Sarah's. I am glad that something worthwhile and meaningful was accomplished from our following this trial.

CountryGirl said...

Aloha,

Thank you. We are all together in spirit. Join us in lighting a candle tonight. We will have candles from many states and countries supporting Sarah and Lauren.

CG

Deege said...

CG, thank you for your loving and very human entry about your day at court. Your words paint a picture for us, and that picture brings the depth of emotion felt by you, as well as Sarah, her family and friends.

Thanks to both CG and Loretta for keeping us all informed on this trial and being champions for justice for Lauren.

My candle is lit.

Ronni said...

I'm a bit late to the party, due to real life commitments, but my candle is lit now!

CG, you bring the story to life and put us right there with you. Thank you.

And also, thanks to Loretta, as was stated above, for toughing it out.

Barbara said...

Here is the LA Times article with a few pictures: LINK

ken said...

Quite powerful, CG. Thanks for that, and all you've done in this case. Props to all, as without you, we'd be stuck enduring Ted's F6-class spin on the trial. Even the mutts have shut up.

It is comforting to see that your efforts were appreciated (by all but Team Cam). Our sympathies have to go out to Sarah, as she's had a pretty tough go of things.

In a sense, we all have Ted to thank. Without Ted and his years of manic bluster, we wouldn't have even noticed this case. And in a delicious irony, Ted has had a decidedly negative effect on Cam's defense, by alerting Jeff Leslie to important lines of argument they would have to prepare for. One wonders whatever happened to the magic disappearing avalanche, the stolen Mike Ditka autograph, and everything else Ted has been whining about uncontrollably.

We now know what the H-bomb was, in the person of Terry Hope. Problem is, Hum had everything he needed to disarm it, like James Bond at the circus in Octopussy. He knew it was coming, and had a wealth of impeachment material. And to boot, he had enough class not to ask Hope whether he was going there to have sex with other men or check out the nude beach.... :)

Ted was totally blindsided on this one.

And what happened to the rock? That question is going to reverberate through the jury room, and may end up being the one fact precipitating a conviction. If Geragos had put on evidence showing that the cliff was slip-sliding away, it might have provided an answer ... but no one paid any attention to Ted.

To be honest, the Geragos defense was lame, to the point of incompetence; Ann Coulter seems to have a point. I would have gotten out in front of the tsunami and started surfing, conceding that Cam wasn't exactly the most mature man on the planet, and that he hadn't come to grips with the notion of being a parent. If you aren't there from the outset, that bond isn't nearly as strong as if you've built the relationship, wanted the child, went through the cravings for pickles and ice cream, sat through Lamaze, watched her being born, seen this helpless soul stare up at you with love and trust, changed her diapers at 3AM, and fixed her boo-boos. Cam wasn't so much a parent as he was a sperm donor, and it is unfair to expect him to act like a *parent* from the first moment. Get out in front of that wave, and you have some chance of surviving it.

The Times pointed out what I have been saying from the outset:

Even if everything the defense said is true, Hum said, Brown is guilty at least of second-degree
murder for bringing his daughter to a clearly dangerous place and then neglecting to safeguard her.

Based on what I've heard here, I wouldn't be surprised if there is a compromise verdict somewhere along these lines, and there is certainly factual support for either verdict. While there is always a possibility that there will be an acquittal -- I wouldn't think one likely at this point, especially after the "rock" question! -- we can conclude that Cam received a fair trial, and that there was more than enough evidence to reasonably support a conviction. So much for Ted's bluster, which probably presages his permanent disappearance from USENET.

As for Cam, putting aside John and Ken's spin, the trial has erased the bulk of my doubt. Every fact we learned that Ted didn't tell us about worked in the prosecution's favor, as reasonably expected. Ted is a sociopath, and that has come out in spades throughout the buildup to this trial.

loretta said...

The thing that defuses the H-bomb is the fact that GerEgo didn't put him on the stand, either.

It's so _Petersonesque_!

He promised a witness who saw Laci in the warehouse - never testified. He promised a witness who saw Laci shoved into a van - never testified. He promised a witness who was kidnapped by a satanic cult - she vanished into thin air.

He's a stooge. A clown in an Armani suit and RayBans.

Barbara said...

I think he did put him on the stand. I think Terry Hope is the witness that he was referring to in closing. He was critisizing the prosecution for not calling him themselves.

The "Don't Die" guy was the phantom witness in this case.

loretta said...

And the fact that Brown was shackled and tethered during the field trip to IP is very telling.

They must have agreed he was a FLIGHT risk or a danger to someone. He might hold a hostage, or go nuts. They weren't going to take any chances that he would do something stupid on that cliff.

I don't blame them. He's obviously insane since he hired Mark Geragos in the first place. I think Patty's little spell-casting over Sarah's chopped-off head pictures was extremely interesting.

That has already backfired on her. Never mess with black magic if you don't know what you're doing. Very bad idea. I wouldn't touch that stuff with a 10-foot pole, and I was born on a Friday the 13th.

loretta said...

Yes, Hope was such an H-Bomb, nobody noticed. Pathetic. I was waiting with "baited" breath for the H-bomb.

fizzzzzzzzle

CountryGirl said...

Yes, Terry Hope was the witness that the DA did not put on--but on cross he admitted when detectives interviewed him he said he saw Cameron and Lauren and Cameron gave him a strange look and he felt "something was wrong".

Geragos in his closing made it sound like they were hiding him. "It would have been the neutron bomb of their case." The way he said it I didn't think the witness had been called at all, since there was no neutron bomb.

I had notes on 7/31 of a witness who saw Lauren ahead of Cameron but didn't have his name in my notes.

Ronni said...

Geragos would try to make giving someone the time of day sound subversive.

He is still a one-note wonder. If he ever puts up a defense that doesn't use "rush to judgement" and "dehumanizing the defendant," I will happily consume my 10 gallon stetson. With or without picante sauce!

loretta said...

New Entry - CG's excellent summary of Geragos's's's closing arguments.

hee hee. He's such a goof.

googleid said...

Actually, I wish Cam hadn't been shackled...maybe he would have chosen to jump and saved the taxpayers the cost of feeding/housing him for the next 30+ years.

Lauren is in my heart and thoughts, as is her mother. Peace to you!

Anonymous said...

Hey googleid, wish you would jump from a plane in front of the prop. We could sell it on the internet

Val said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences in court with us.
Very wrenching.
Prayers for justice here, from Kentucky.

Kenzi said...

I loved reading your blog. My friend sent it to me because I have been following this trial. I believe in my heart that there will be justice for Lauren! My prayers go out to Lauren's mother.

googleid said...

"Anonymous said...
Hey googleid, wish you would jump from a plane in front of the prop. We could sell it on the internet"

Well hell, if I murdered my child I'd let you push me in from of a plane prop! Moron.