Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Second Trial: Hung Jury #2

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

See HERE for last Daily Breeze report.

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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PARENTS ON TRIAL ~ Editorial

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 19, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 14, 2009

Jury visits Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point

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

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


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

She plans to attend tomorrow's closing arguments.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lauren's Birthday



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

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Newton's Law & The Baggage Handler

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

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

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

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


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

Denise Nix reports in The Breeze:

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

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


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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lifetime Movie Idea - Toad's Screenplay Outline

LIFETIME MOVIE - Working Title, "Death of Innocence By Envy"

Frumpy, barren, homely, middle-aged first generation American-Greek woman (with equally unattractive fraternal twin) living in Southern California meets and falls in love with an unlikely suitor – an All-American, blonde, freckled, muscular, surfer, outdoorsy mountain boy from Colorado ten years her junior.

To everyone’s shock, Surfer Dude proposes! Greek Frump and Surfer Dude jet off to Hawaii for romantic honeymoon and upon returning, Greek Frump discovers Surfer Dude has a child from a former lover. Greek Frump has mixed emotions about the child: jealousy, covetousness, fear, and when she meets Former Lover Babe, feels even more insecure. Former Lover Babe is a beauty: slim, fit, well bred, with a lovely English accent and refined features.

Surfer Dude protests that he hates Former Lover Babe and wishes he could have deported her when he had the chance, but Greek Frump is still uneasy and feels threatened by Former Lover Babe and the existence of Love Child. Greek Frump won’t let Surfer Dude out of her sight and insists on being present whenever Surfer Dude picks up Love Child for visitation, even though she has to miss work or change her plans or revolve her schedule around these visits. She is obsessed with fear that Surfer Dude still lusts after Former Lover Babe or may roam while taking the child on activities without here. She knows the little girl is a babe magnet and can’t risk leaving them alone.

Surfer Dude complains that he never wanted the child and that he resents having to pay almost a thousand a month in support. Greek Frump plots to take Love Child from Former Lover Babe by undermining the mommy, brainwashing the Love Child, and watching for injuries on the child during visits in order to report abuse to the authorities to build a case for Former Lover Babe’s unfitness. Greek Frump also talks Surfer Dude into filing for full custody even though he has little chance of success.

Greek Frump is barren and can never have a child, and is convinced that if she could take this child and raise her as her own, she would not only solve the financial problems of her adored husband and earn his love and gratitude forever, but punish Former Lover Babe for having the audacity to be more beautiful, more desirable, more popular, more pure, more fun, more admired and for having that child with her husband thus interconnecting their lives forever!

To hedge her bet, Greek Frump studies witchcraft and voodoo and assembles the paraphernalia for casting spells on someone to whom you wish harm or bad luck. Shortly after Greek Frump casts her spells, Surfer Dude picks up Love Child without Greek Frump present and instead of bringing her to Greek Frump’s home, as is customary, he takes Love Child on a hike to the top of a 120-foot cliff overlooking the ocean where the child falls to her death below. Surfer Dude calls Greek Frump with the bad news, insisting it was a terrible accident and Greek Frump pledges her undying support.

Surfer Dude goes on trial for murder, twice, and Greek Frump and her ugly twin go broke. At the second trial, Surfer Dude is convicted, Greek Frump shrieks after the verdict and her ugly twin has to help her walk out of the courtroom and away to face the rest of her lonely, desperate existence without Surfer Dude and without Love Child.

THE END

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Backstory on Jon Hans

Based on the rough transcript posted by "Sprocket" of testimony in the Brown retrial, a new witness that did not appear in the first trial was introduced, an old friend of Brown's, Jon Hans. I'm still not clear of the real probative value of using Hans in this trial, especially when the cross-examination opened a can of worms regarding the case information available on the internet. For whatever reason, Hum chose not to go down that path, although it could have been pretty damaging to Patty Brown.

Allow me to present the backstory on Jon Hans.

Back in the summer of 2006, before the first trial began, Country Girl and I had been following some of the conversation about the case on Usenet that was taking place between Ted Kaldis and members of various newsgroups, as I chronicled in this blog in a series entitled "Once Upon A Newsgroup". At the time, I was writing about the case on another blog, the same blog on which I documented the Peterson case back in 2002-2004. Country Girl had obtained the transcripts of the Grand Jury that I noted on my site were available to anyone who was interested in reading them. Needless to say, I received dozens of requests for this transcript and I don't recall turning down any requests. This was a public document, but we did not post the transcript anywhere on the Internet, and I don't think anyone else posted anything but excerpts.

Jon Hans was one of the many people who requested a copy of the Grand Jury transcript. He also informed me via email that he was one of the people who wrote a letter of support for Cam Brown and it was published on Ted Kaldis's site "Free Cam Brown". (www.freecambrown.org)

Hans and I exchanged emails regarding Ted's refusal to remove his support letter from the Free Cam Brown site, and he asked me about some things he was reading online. I responded with answers to his questions and he described some things he felt about his history with Cam that he now has testified to at the new trial.

According to Hans, after reading the Grand Jury transcript and contemplating some of the conversations he had with the defendant over the years, he had a change of heart and decided that Brown could be guilty of murder. The fact that this case was discussed for several years online, in newsgroups and on several blogs, was common knowledge. That the defense would expect, after 8 years now, that nobody would discuss this case online or have any opinions about it is ridiculous. However, this case didn't draw anywhere near the attention that the Peterson case drew, and it's very likely that most of the potential jury pool had never heard of Brown or this case and could be objective. It's not as if Hans was a potential juror.

I suppose Hum brought Hans on to show that even a very close friend, someone who originally supported Brown unconditionally, could change his mind about Brown's potential guilt after reading a PUBLIC DOCUMENT (the Grand Jury transcript) that we had no part in creating. I seriously doubt I or anyone here had any influence on Hans's opinion about Brown. Yes, I have written disparaging things about the defendant and that is my humble opinion, nothing more. I expect people to draw their own conclusions about this case based on the evidence presented and common sense.

What I find more interesting about Hans's testimony is his impression of Patty Brown. Hans believes that Patty was the instigator of this tragedy and that if Brown had never met and married Patty, that Lauren would be alive today.

Hans reiterated a conversation he had with Patty and Cam where she claimed that the couple were going to gain full custody of Lauren because of alleged abuse Lauren suffered at the hands of Sarah. This was, of course, complete nonsense, and I have written extensively about how impossible this scenario was in the real world. In brief, there was no way the court would remove a child at the tender age of four from her custodial parent and turn her over to her biological father and his new wife over specious allegations (later disproved) of abuse. It was also unrealistic for Cam and Patty to seek even joint custody at this stage, considering the relatively short time Cam had spent with Lauren, and the fact that they'd have to move closer to Sarah to ensure that Lauren's transition would be as seamless as possible. Hans also mentions that the couple were planning to move to Utah, a fact that also belies the "full custody" plans. There is no way a court would let Cam move Lauren out of state.

Perhaps Hans read that opinion at Usenet or on my blog or in this blog, but this was information readily available with a simple Google search. It's not as if we were publishing state secrets, folks.

Once again, Pat Harris demonstrates his wildly incoherent cross-examination techniques as he attempts to impeach anyone who changes his or her mind, anyone who forgets what they wrote or said 8 years ago (and if I hadn't saved the documents and emails from then, I'd be hard pressed to remember much of what happened!), and anyone who might have been influenced by what they read on the Internet. If Harris wants to go down that road, he should bear in mind that his client's wife and brother-in-law have been waging a campaign online to defame Hum, Leslie, virtually everyone involved in the prosecution of Brown, and of course - me.

Caveat Surfer: I warn Harris and the Brown supporters - if you live by the Google, you die by the Google, and I should know!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Summary Analysis of First Week - Retrial

Based on first-hand reports from blogs and news stories covering the Brown retrial so far, the first week included opening statements by The People and the defense and testimony from Lauren's mother, Sarah Key-Marer.

Denise Nix reports:

Through a series of anecdotes, Sarah Key-Marer, 40, told a new jury of 10 men and two women her version of events - beginning with meeting Brown at a bar in the fall of 1995.

Between meeting Brown and losing her daughter, Key-Marer described how an otherwise fun and normal dating relationship deteriorated after she accidentally became pregnant and Brown seemed to want nothing to do with the baby.


LINK: Daily Breeze Update

Some new information that wasn't revealed in the first trial emerged during direct and cross-examination. For example, Patty Brown, Lauren's step-mother, occasionally picked her up for visition (even though she had no legal standing to do so) and at one time held out her arms to the child and said, "Come to Mommy." Lauren reportedly responded to this by cringing. Another interesting anecdote revealed that Brown told Key-Marer that he and his new wife were moving "up north" and were going to start their own family. How that was to occur with a woman well beyond childbearing age was never explained.

In cross, the defense attempted to show Key-Marer was dishonest in filling out various legal forms including her tax returns, child-support calculation documents, and the journal in which she documented the visitation. As in the first trial, the defense brought up the insurance settlement Key-Marer accepted when she believed that Lauren's death was an accident. I'm not sure how the jury will react to the defense's attempt to impeach the victim's mother, but it appears to be the usual defense strategy: discredit as many witnesses as possible and portray Brown as a loving, caring father. We'll see how well this works when it comes to defending Brown's decision to take Lauren up to the top of Inspiration Point.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Opening Statements Started Today

According to an AP story today, Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum said during his opening statement that Brown killed Lauren because he didn't want to pay about $1,000 a month in child support.

Defense attorney Pat Harris countered that it was an accident when the girl fell from Inspiration Point in Rancho Palos Verdes.

(snipped)

Hum portrayed Brown as an uncaring father who tried to shirk his parental responsibility at nearly ever turn. After Brown learned the girl's mother, Sarah Key-Marer, was pregnant with Lauren, he sought a paternity test that eventually proved he was the father, Hum said.

(snipped)

Harris gave a different account of his client's relationship with his daughter, insisting the case was nothing more than "character assassination." He dismissed the prosecution's contention that it was a "good-versus-evil" struggle between Brown and Key-Marer.

~~~
Pretty much staying with the first trial. We'll see if any other articles give more details.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Retrial: Jury Selection Begins - Geragos Bows Out

Yesterday's Daily Breeze reported that the biggest change from Brown's first trial, other than the change of venue to Los Angeles County Superior Court, is that Brown will no longer be represented by Mark Geragos.

Torrance Judge Mark Arnold appointed an associate of Geragos, Pat Harris to represent Brown. Pat Harris, you may recall, was co-counsel and the only Geragos & Geragos attorney present during the jury verdict reading at the Scott Peterson trial.

Eugene Patrick (Pat) Harris is a mellow country boy from Arkansas who has never chased the spotlight like his boss, Mark Geragos. During the Peterson trial, he seemed genuinely concerned about the defendant. He refrained from grandstanding and positing bizarre scenarios as an affirmative defense. However, his cross-examination tactics were somewhat incoherent. Perhaps because Harris is a nice guy, he may elicit more sympathy for Brown from the jurors than Geragos was able to muster. He may be less likely to alienate the jury (or the press).

Jury selection began Friday, July 10. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor presides.

Our thoughts are with Sarah and Lauren's family.