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.