Privacy at Issue in DeAngelo Pretrial Hearing: Discuss

I sat in court on Tuesday, listening to arguments for the first time, as they apply to privacy, the search warrant, the search “return” (what they found) and three points of view – that of “the people,” which is the prosecution that doesn’t technically represent the victims but instead represents the state, that of the defendant, JJD and and in this case, that of the free press who have an attorney as well. As I listened to the arguments, I realize, I am incredibly biased in this case. So I’ll sit with that and do my best to call out when my bias is in play.

Request: As you read this blog, think about these arguments and then leave me a comment. I’d love to know how you see these issues. We’ll find out what the judge rules shortly

It’s interesting to me this case is starting with something so powerful: what should be kept private and what do we, the people, have the right to know when it comes to suspect DeAngelo and his arrest and the subsequent search warrants? This is really at the core of what we stand for as a society. The right to a fair trial, the right to due process and the right to be innocent until proven guilty. I’ve grown up bathed in these tenants, believing them to be vital to a democracy and to be perfectly honest, essential if anyone I loved was ever charged with a crime.

Privacy means sessions are in camera!
The lawyers are privately making their arguments about EACH PIECE OF DATA which is why this is taking so long.

But what if I am a victim?

That’s a term I still have a hard time using. Smith family members aren’t victims. We just aren’t. And yet, we are. This changed our lives. A bad guy took something from us we can’t get back and he ravaged our loved ones with savage disregard – like an alcoholic who doesn’t realize how much he’s had to drink. My dad and Charlene were just another “fix” for his insane compulsion. I wonder if he even remembers the crime?

The arguments on Tuesday were interesting. The prosecution had little to day. We couldn’t see their written motions but they seemed to be fairly aligned with the media requests – with some exceptions. They were for sure wanting to make sure victim names were protected except in the case of the murders – because deceased individuals don’t have the same rights.

The media lawyer, Duffy Carolton, is working on behalf of the AP, New York Times, ABC and other media outlets (there was a list and I didn’t get it all down) and she argued the public has a right to know and also release this information can serve the public and the victims as well. I actually pulled her aside to clarify this point. More about this below. In a nutshell, the media wants as much as it can get.

The defense wants nothing out there. Not. A. Thing. Their assertion is anything that’s published with taint a future jury. [Yes, they said the word taint dozens of times and those of us who are not that mature managed to stifle our giggles that something this serious would hinge on a word that appears in the Urban Dictionary. I’m such an idiot that I explained that to Duffy who is clearly more of a grown-up than I am because she didn’t know the colloquial meaning. I’m so proud of myself.] They argued that there is a national bestseller out there that will absolutely bias potential jury members and sharing anything from the search warrant process will add further damage.

Let’s dive into this a bit more.

The challenge with this whole discussion is that is based on principle not pragmatism. That’s probably one of the biggest challenges in face in America. Let me explain. Many years ago I had a chance to visit Israel. I didn’t have a lot of time and my host took me on a tour of Tel Aviv and Old Jaffa after dark. The juxtaposition of the old (Jaffa) and the new (Tel Aviv) really struck me. I asked my guide how Israel was able to build such a modern city in such a short time.

He explained, “In America, you have the luxury of time. You talk about ideas and principle and that often prevents you from getting things done. In Israel, we are pragmatic. We need to get things done. We care about principle and it’s something we discuss, but it does not prevent progress.” I never forgot that story. It’s helped me repeatedly over the years when I’ve been stuck on a principle when I’ve needed to be pragmatic instead. I’m literally applying that rule to my life right now by signing these damned separation papers from being laid off – even though I know what they are doing is wrong (principle), the reality is I need to move on and put this behind me (pragmatic). Yes, I am signing them today.

If we consider this case and embrace the principle while becoming pragmatic, some of these arguments fall apart.

  • The jury could be tainted.
    When you hurt dozens of people, it’s going to be tough to prevent folks from knowing what you’ve done. The defense is worried about the best seller but let’s be honest here, there are lots of books out there. They are all inaccurate in places. In fact, because this has gone on for decades, it’s pretty likely there’s as much bad information as there is good information out there. So this jury is going to have to act like any other jury and drop their assumptions at the door and listen to the evidence. That’s it. He chose to allegedly ransack, rape, kidnap and murder. Those action have consequences including media attention which he clearly sought. Pragmatically, let’s move on, this is what it is.
  • Time matters in this case. 
    The defendant is old. His victims are aging (even me!). Time isn’t going to favor anyone in this process and if things are dragged out, the victims are the ones who are most likely to suffer. We need to move with some speed here. One of the things I’ve heard repeatedly from my fellow survivors is their need to be reconnected with “their stuff” – even if it’s only to know they found it on his property. The rapes can’t be prosecuted, but they can be validated. It would mean everything to a potential victim I spoke with to know her Driver’s License is in his possession. Her file has been lost, her rape kit gone and finding anything that connects him with her rape would give her the answers she’s sought for 38 years. I asked others and they share this point of view. If we have to wait for a trial – that won’t even include the rapes – they won’t get the answers they need.
  • Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
    The reality is, whatever they found in that house doesn’t matter. I mean it does – it DOES – but it doesn’t when it comes to proof of guilt. That’s because we have a DNA match for Ventura. As far as I’m concerned, the rest of the evidence is confirmation and validation. Spending all this time on privacy in this case, feels like we are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It isn’t particularly relevant. Other than protecting the identities of the victims, I can’t see why we shouldn’t see it all. The mere fact that there has been so much information almost requires some facts at this point.

Today we should see what is being released.

It’s taken over a month (you can see my little incarceration clock on the upper right of this blog). The lawyers for all three positions are going through each piece of information and agreeing, disagreeing and then the judge is deciding. We expect to get some kind of list with redactions but I hope there aren’t too many. It could be a hot mess. I’m not in court today – I’m finally back home – but I’ve made friends with some of the reporters and I’ll get a text when news breaks.

Meanwhile, I’m interested in your point of view on this process. What do you think? Please leave me a comment. I really enjoy the discussion.

2:3opm UPDATE: The judge has ruled to unseal anything pertaining to the murders and to keep sealed anything relating to the sex crimes (for now). We need to see what’s released, that’s coming very soon. Stand by!

 

 

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25 thoughts on “Privacy at Issue in DeAngelo Pretrial Hearing: Discuss

  1. On point as usual Jennifer. It was a very thought provoking post, because no one wants anything released that could hurt the trial, but validation for the rape victims. I can imagine the weight that would lift off a survivor. My take: I’m in favor of relevant redaction, but the hope of the defense- ridiculous

    1. He ended up splitting the difference and my friend from ABC news thinks its good. We’ll see what they share shortly. More to read! Kisses!

  2. First of all, I want to say I love your writing — you have such humanity throughout and are so honest with your readers.

    The “lawyer for the media” aspect fascinates me because I feel like I’m just hearing about it now, although I am sure it’s been a thing for a while. I think it was in the Michael Cohen case where a lawyer for the AP successfully argued that he had to reveal his third client as Sean Hannity. But while their legal argument would be the same one here, it’s waayyy different circumstances.

    In my state of Minnesota, a case about this issue has been in the courts forever. The family of Jacob Wetterling, a boy who disappearered in 1989 and whose murderer was convicted just a few years ago (it’s an AWFUL story), doesn’t want all the files to be released, but lawyers for the local media are arguing it should be. But this is also a different scenario because the perpetrator has already been convicted and that isn’t an aspect here.

    That stuff about “taint” had me rolling!

    1. I listened to a podcast about Jacob! It was so aggravating. I didn’t realize there was still stuff in court happening on that case. And you’re right about the media lawyer in the Cohen case. The Fourth Estate really does help us get to the truth – it’s just this damn “right to a fair trial thing” that makes it hard. Of course we all want that, but man, when it breaks their way (for now) it’s so aggravating. Thus my bias. Now, let me get back to the Urban Dictionary, I’m sure there are more legal terms that will make us giggle.

    2. PS: My mom’s family is from Glenwood, MN and we got to go there and tromp around in 2016. Simply gorgeous country and we discovered some of why we are how we are (which is good).

      1. That’s so great! I grew up in the big city but we used to visit relatives from around there. I have an early memory of my father getting a speeding ticket in Glenwood!

  3. His defense did what any good defense attorney would do and argue against the release of information. Of course, I want to see it all and find out as much as I can about JJD and what they found on him. Most of California has heard something about this arrest by now and by the time a trial rolls around they will have heard a lot more. Like you said a jury is going to have to set that aside and strictly make a decision based on evidence. I’ve followed lots of trials and do think that the 24 hour news cycles, Twitter, FB, etc. do sometimes cause what can become major issues for both the prosecution and defense teams. So I guess I see both sides of the argument.

    1. Ah… a debater. I like it. I think you’re right about social media and 24/7 news cycles. We tend to chew on bits without context and that creates independent story lines that aren’t all that helpful. Thank you for joining this discussion. It keeps me thinking!

  4. First, kudos to you for being there in person to face down this evil.

    Second, thank you for sharing through your blog. I’ve read each and every one. I learn more and think more about this case because of reading what you’ve chosen to share.

    Third , I agree with your pragmatic way of thinking. I’d like to hope every living victim will be here to see justice, finally. I’m not against a plea deal to lock him up sooner rather than later. Have him admit everything.. Allow ALL victims, including EAR, be given the opportunity for victim impact statements. Time is not on anyone’s side with this case. You’ve waited long enough.

    The privacy issue for JJD leaves me cold. I simply don’t care about privacy concerns of a rapist or murderer. I have always felt the victims get lost in the court process and laws are stacked against them. Every person accused of a crime deserves a fair trial. I get it. But what about the rights of victims. We need to lobby for new legislation to provide more rights for the victims.

    Finally, I have tremendous admiration for what you’re doing. You’re talented and tenacious. That’s an unbeatable quality. 💕

    1. Thank you for your kind words and your passion on the topic. His ruling was split – which is interesting – and it’s maybe for the best so we can possibly speed things up a bit when it comes to murder. It also means if they found guns that match the Maggiore and Snelling shootings, that would be the bomb. Fingers crossed. So appreciate your interest. It’s really uplifting.

    2. I agree with you that victims and their families do tend to get lost in the process and it is absolutely tragic.

  5. I don’t think the public necessarily has a right to know or see the evidence at this point, mainly to protect the victims. I wish there was some way the victims could view all evidence gathered to gain possible closure that you spoke of. Leaks might occur, but the survivors right to know should be most important. As you say, everyone is aging. Time is of the essence.
    The tainted jury argument to me seems a moot point as there have been media circus trials for decades that have been successfully completed. The court will sort the jury pool out as they always do. He will get a fair trial. Most potential jurors will have heard of this case, but not everyone will read the details of this case.
    Thank you for sharing everything. You bring thoughtful commentary to this case. I know this is incredibly difficult for everyone involved. That’s why the survivors should be taken care of at this time. Bless your family.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I agree about a tainted jury pool. In today’s media-intense society, we can consume tons of information and never know what is and isn’t legit. So yes, the jury simply has to do their job and follow the rules. Thank you for reading! I appreciate it!

  6. Really appreciate your sharing your experiences. I also respect and admire how well you’ve integrated an extremely traumatic experience into your life as a whole.

    Just like censorship, you can’t make exceptions to fair trial considerations, regardless how despicable a character is imvolved. Personally I wanted Wetterling’s killer to suffer a painful and prolonged death, but I am against the death penalty, and I try (not always successfully) to separate facts from feelings. Same in this case. I am sickened by the terror and violence this savage inflicted on all his victims. I so want to read the search return, but if it were my father or brother on trial, I confess I’d be very concerned it might in fact taint the jury pool or even witness testimony. I dont want appeals, either. I would like him to cut a plea deal whereby he confesses to all crimes, and is prosecuted only on one or two, given immunity on the rest, in exchange for LWOP. I want this because I want all victims to be validated and given the information they want before JJD dies. I honestly believe that he will find a way to commit suicide in the estimated 4-5 years until he is tried in one big trial. And I don’t want him to get to cop out like that.

    1. I agree! I wish he’d just talk. Spare his family the pain and agony and get it over with. But it doesn’t look like he’s talking to them. I agree with your point of view as well. I’m not a fan of the death penalty either – in my opinion, these people owe the “universe” some karmic repayment and finishing your life and maybe, possibly working through some kind of redemption is the least a bad person can do. I want to get him convicted in Ventura – so we can get more docs unsealed and at least nail down a conviction while he’s alive. Thank you for your kind words. It does help me to write.

  7. Let’s just make sure that when the jury delivers their verdict there aren’t any loopholes. Because if it was my place to say EAR would have swallowed his teeth the way Janelle did. And he’d be staked out on an anthill right now. Wondering how long it would be before that gallon of gasoline got splashed on him and lit.

    1. Agree Glenn – no loopholes. We want this done right. But let’s take him to Ventura and just bang one out. It’s a pretty open and shut case thanks to the DNA.

  8. You inspire me and keep me questioning. I like that, Sister! Keep it coming!
    -Deb

    btw. I love the “Locked up” clock!

    1. Oh yeah baby, let’s count the day since the monster has been behind bars. It “could” hit 40 years in my lifetime (but not his).

  9. The GSK case has been going on for many many years. I am sure that some or perhaps all of the jurors once chosen would have read by now books, saw shows on ID and 20/20 about this case. And the defense is worried about privacy issues for the defendant. I understand that the jurors must examine and weigh the evidence and base their decision on the evidence and not on what they have read. Everything should be revealed in order to find justice for both the rape and also the murder victims and their families. Yes, murder is a heinous crime, but rape is a crime also, and should not be ignored. The victim families have been waiting too long for justice to be served.

    Thank you for sharing so much news and creating this blog. Just know also that you have much support and love from people whom you never met.

    1. Thank you Carol. Yes, it’s so hard that privacy for the defendant is so important but at least the judge decided to share some of the search warrant and return so we can see how solid the case is against him. I am going to trust the jurors – eventually – will be able to discern fact from fiction.

  10. Hi Jennifer, thank you for your blog posts, I really appreciate the special insight you bring. I heard about this case a year ago and was so mad he hadn’t been caught, I am so pleased and relieved that he finally has been. It made big news in New Zealand where I live!

    As a lawyer I understand the importance of upholding the Rule of Law and the integrity of the justice system. And our legal systems have functioned in this way for hundreds of years. However I think DNA evidence is such a game changer and our mechanisms of justice haven’t yet caught up to how best to deal with it. I should think when DNA evidence is so damning against a defendant (I mean, it seems like a slam dunk!), their individual rights, in terms of privacy at least, ought to be weighed fairly lightly.

    I wish you and others affected could see a swifter resolution to this court process, although possibly JJD will find the court process more difficult than the actual serving of the sentence at the end. He doesn’t seem to be gloating in his exposure.

    1. Wow – a reader from New Zealand – my fantasy escape land. I had a boyfriend from Auckland once. Good kisser. I think we are on the verge of needing a different kind of law protocol for DNA because it really does allow us to cut to the chase. The thought that DeAngelo might not even see a trial for five years is beyond annoying. So many of institutions weren’t built for a rapid results world. Go Kiwis!

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