I wasn’t in court today and I under-estimated my frustration. I’ve been sick and then I managed to share it with mom (and her birthday was yesterday!) and there was no way I was infecting more people. You’re welcome. Instead, I sat here dying to know what was happening. I also missed my buds and the afterward at Carol Daly’s place.
I had understood the goal today was two-fold: get a plea and schedule the preliminary hearing. Good job prosecution team, mission accomplished. But along the way, we start to see the strategy that might be the only one the defense can use. Just drag it out. I am convinced that’s what DeAngelo wants: he “wins” if he dies without a conviction. At 74 and a solid plan of self-depravation, it appeals to his strengths: planning, manipulation and control.
How DeAngelo Can “Win”
They asked for the end of the year. They wanted a continuance that would take another 12 months. Are you kidding? That supports really one thing: time. I don’t believe discovery is an adequate argument. Interestingly, neither did the judge. You know I’m not a lawyer, and I could be missing something, but there’s nothing in that discovery that’s going to shift this case.
I feel comfortable positing there isn’t anything exculpatory for any of the crimes with DNA. The DNA is a lock. So if they aren’t fighting to get him acquitted (because that won’t succeed), what are they fighting for? My hypothesis is a quiet exit with no conviction. I’d love to hear other points of view on this. It’s one part of this case that baffles me.
How DeAngelo Won Today
Since I was trapped in my recliner, I posted a few tweets about what I look for when I go to court. One of the things was how DeAngelo manages his performance. I figured he’d be thinner (but was he frail?) and would do all he could to look the part. Clearly it worked. At one point the bailiff reaches out to steady him.
If you watch the KCRA report, they “packaged” what DeAngelo wants: he seemed unsteady, he didn’t seem to understand. It’s not KCRA’s fault because they’re going fast and this wasn’t a big story today. And, well, DeAngelo is good. But now watch it again closely; that huge gulp after the May 12th date. I believe that’s the gulp of time running out. His brain doing the math that he has to go faster. He must find a way out – sooner than planned. Watch the gulp. His eyes don’t flinch. Control baby. That’s control.
Behind the scenes the word is he still works out in his cell and his mind is solid. I don’t know if that’s true anymore, but it could be. I wanted to watch him to see if that mind lost any control. Instead, apparently, he didn’t plea (why!?) and the court did it on his behalf: not guilty. The man can’t even manage to plea – poor DeAngelo.
Don’t Be Surprised by the Unexpected
Here’s my hypothesis: they will come to court in May and the first day or first week, we will get an early motion by the defense for a competency hearing. I mean look at him. He’s wasted-away. He can’t participate in his defense. He doesn’t even know why he’s here. He’s incontinent (see the diapers?), he’s not ambulatory (see the wheelchair?). And boom. There we are. A damned draw. Nothing to see here folks, this story has one dud of an ending.
What keeps me up at night is how we got to this point. And because It’s late and I need to work on it some more, that will be part 2 tomorrow: The Intersection of Justice and Politics. I believe that’s where this went sideways, and I want you to argue with me so get ready! [Update: more to say on this court appearance so here’s a different part two.]
I spent the day with the HBO folks yesterday. They are really great people and I was impressed with their thoughtfulness in the questions they asked and the insight they seem to have about the crimes and the people involved. I finally had to sign an agreement to keep my yap shut, so I can’t say more about it until they are ready to release. Let’s just say, I have a good feeling about this.
We knew today was going to be nothing. We were warned it would be nothing. I’ll be damned if the whole thing wasn’t done “in the blink of an eye” according to my mom, who was my guest this time. I think Melanie clocked it at one minute. But I think I can slow it down a bit to at least provide the color commentary.
Starting out on the right foot: the lawyers for the prosecution actually took a moment and spoke to us today.
For me, this was huge. It was the Sacramento and Tulare County folks, and they had us come in a little early and did something we truly appreciated. They explained a little about what’s going on behind the scenes and set our expectations for what’s coming next. Some of it was confidential (you’d be proud of me, I checked), but what I can share is that they are about two-thirds of the way through discovery; they need to provide the last batch to the defense and they are working to do that in an orderly manner so it keeps things moving.
We won’t meet again until January 22, but it sounds like things will begin to move forward in the new year. I’m not talking about a trial, in California we have something called a preliminary hearing that allows the judge to determine if there’s enough evidence to have a trial. I think I’m the only survivor to have already been through one of these in Ventura in 1982. For those of you that know, that was the Joe Alsip hearing. While I don’t have information on a preliminary hearing, we all know that’s coming at some point – we’re hoping it’s soon. At a minimum, it seems the attorneys realized what happened last time was not cool and a little expectation setting can go a long way.
A great question, an even better answer.
One of the survivors asked if, like in the Jeffrey Epstein case, was it possible that IF there was some sort of deal, would they need to ask us about it first. It was a great question and it got the attention of the lawyers in the room. They said, first, California law prohibits that kind of behavior – negotiating a plea agreement without involving the victims – and in no way was that even on the table. I don’t know if they realized it, but they all had the most satisfying look of confidence on their faces.
Who’s running the show here? Where’s “our” bailiff?!
The courtroom was significantly different (again) this time. The practice of letting us come in early was restored; we got to sit where we wanted. That was great. The lawyers from both sides came in and immediately starting talking with one another. The media snaked their way to the front right side of the room (we always see that angle of DeAngelo on TV as a result), and then the public was allowed to come in to take the few, remaining seats. The hub-bub of conversation and energy was high. All of us were catching up with one another. Finally a bailiff asked us to settle down and we were like an 8th grade class that heard the teacher, but really just kept talking at a lower volume. I need to be clear that “us” was every darn person in the room, not just those in the gallery. It was kinda cool but not particularly court-like.
We waited to hear the smack of a gavel or the commanding voice of our usual bailiff (who was missed) telling us to come to order, that court was in session. But none of that happened! Instead, suddenly DeAngelo emerged from the hallway door and entered the cage. He looked emaciated. Let slow down here on this point, because the TV coverage isn’t really showing what we could see. He is thin. Extremely thin. Maybe 100 pounds all in at this point. There is skin sagging on the back of his neck that looks like excess skin from his halcyon days of knocking back beer and eating roast. He was in chains: the kind that go around his waist and include cuffs for his hands. The chains dripped down his backside about 20 inches; that’s how much slack there was. His waist was tiny. His pants were barely staying up.
He stood in the cage, attentive but looking almost a little confused. I’m not saying he was, but he didn’t have that little edge in his face that we are used to seeing. The judge immediately continued the case to January 22, 2020, and DeAngelo stayed for a few moments to talk with his lawyer. We stayed seated until we were adjourned, maybe another three minutes, and then DeAngelo was escorted out and we were released.
After the hearing, we made our way to Carol Daly’s house.
Of course I managed to find the cameras after the hearing. Brandi from KCRA has always been very easy to talk with and she asked me to stop by on my way out (she was my court seat mate). She did a nice piece for the evening news. I talked with a couple other reporters and then I excitedly grabbed mom and we made our way to Carol’s house.
I don’t know why I was so excited to have my mom meet Carol, but she’s like a hero to me. Not only is she one of the kindest and generous women I’ve ever met, but she did so much good in her career that changed the way rape was investigated. I continue to be amazed at her generosity of opening her home to us and feeding us to boot! Only this time, the food was a gift from her cousin! Apparently her family knows about what’s been happening here, and follows the case, and he wanted to do something nice for us. I’m not surprised at all that she comes from good people.
If you didn’t notice the photo for this blog, it’s a picture of Carol with my mom. It makes me smile.
Today I got my hands dirty planting some tomatoes and strawberries with the hope they will flourish. I used to be a great gardener, but the teen years and work pushed my avocation to the side. Well baby, I’m back. I read a beautiful quote from Virginia Woolf this morning (and good lord no, I don’t wake up on Saturdays and read classic literature! I was at Starbucks and it was on a cup). It said, “I enjoy the spring more than the autumn now. One does, I think, as one gets older.” We all need spring.
Survivors, an incredible garden and HBO.
With court ending so oddly, we were a little bit all over the place (that’s probably just my perspective, we tend to squad and I’m a notorious loner until I get to a place). After the Orange County energy left, I wrapped up talking to a few reporters before I hit the road. You guys know I love journalism and I really enjoy talking with them about the case and what they are hearing.
We met at the same home with the incredibly manicured and curated garden we visited last fall. The garden has all these little mini-garden vignettes and I could play there all day. In fact, let me take this moment to announce I’m seeking a husband that loves gardening, photography and animals. Take that universe – I’ve officially put it out there. The overall effect of this lush place is calm.
Outside the front door, there was a sign posted by HBO. I had been told they would be there but at no point did they talk about filming. Based on that, I made a poor assumption: I didn’t realize they were coming to film. Duh. Some of the survivors had already been interviewed by HBO. I have not. I’ve met with the writer and a few other folks have called, but that’s about it. I’ve been constantly advocating for a female point of view on the story, but let’s face it: it’s entertainment and they need to produce something that will sell. I stupidly thought they were there for background and research.
HBO hosted a late lunch for us, and it was lovely.
There were tables set up with flower arrangements that made the event seem much more formal. I immediately noticed the camera and HBO folks everywhere and I quickly figured out we weren’t going to be able to talk freely. When I walked in, the camera crew was with a couple I didn’t recognize. I later learned they were Bob and Gay, a still married couple, and this was their first time joining us. They did not go to court. They were basically putting their toe in the water but, HBO interviewed them, so you’ll learn more about them when the film comes out.
I mentioned Bob before. I really felt connected to him since he is a lawyer who survived an attack. He was mellow and warm, and you could see the rapport that exists between him and his wife. For me, having them there was very meaningful.
Unintended consequences might be featured on HBO.
As I mentioned in another blog, we didn’t know what was going to happen in court that day and we really didn’t know why we were treated differently. As a result, that was much of the conversation. We talked about how most of the chairs in the courtroom were taken and why weren’t allowed in first (like normal) and that there was so much media there. It’s so funny how habit works because that’s how our expectations were set – by what’s happened before. Not being able to sit together threw us for a bit of a loop. It was much of our discussion at the lunch. I’m thinking HBO must have recorded a lot of that conversation.
We didn’t stay all that long. The incredible Carol Daly once again made her delicious ice cream and we got to play with a chocolate lab puppy that’s a new resident at the house. Overall, the vibe was so off on Wednesday, that’s why I needed time to sort out my thoughts. I’ve always been so protective of our privacy and now, as we all should have known, we’ve hit a pivot.
From politics to monetization, we are all making the best decisions we can.
The other thing that’s starting to be more apparent, is how each of us is moving through our “personal journey”. I know that’s a hackneyed term, but you get what I mean. I write and (sometimes) podcast. I’m trying to figure out if I can monetize my website, but honestly, it’s not very important to me. I’m much more interested in my readers and how we can possibly help one another heal.
Some of us have agents and are interested in doing speaking. I think that’s awesome. I suspect we’ll all hear more about this going forward and I hope the community will support folks as they venture out. Screw DeAngelo. If survivors can get something positive from this – so be it. I trust this group can handle our individuality along with our common cause.
Couldn’t resist adding this pic – I got out of the car, started walking inside the hotel and I heard something. Never let the turkeys get you down! This is at the Marriott compound near Cal Expo. I suspect the high rivers have pushed them out.
It’s nearly 8pm and I am swimming in a hot mess of feelings. I might not even be able to write everything tonight because I need sleep and a chance to form my thoughts. Today had a lot of surprises and some of them are really bothering me. Don’t worry. I’ll explain. But I first need to clarify my thoughts. Meanwhile, I can knock out some of the basic, non-controversial stuff. Let’s do this!
First, a paragraph about the Planned Parenthood Capitol Advocacy Day.
It was a great way to start the day. I’ve always supported Planned Parenthood because I know they serve people who truly need help. I have to say, I don’t even think I had a clue about how focused they are on protecting our right to healthcare. Talk about woke! Setting aside abortions (because I don’t want to trigger anyone), the outreach, education and accessibility this organization is providing blew my mind. I need to do some research to make sure what I heard is true, so I’m going to write more about this later. All I can say is you should not be afraid of this organization. It’s truly worth our support. Couple photos below.
Court was different today. Survivors took a back seat to politics.
Didn’t expect to type that sentence. I guess I will walk right into one of the weird things that happened today. Typically, we survivors meet on the corner with Victim Services and we walk in together ahead of everyone. It’s happened that way every other time. Today our squad was the last to enter (but still ahead of general public whom I’m not sure ever get in). We entered the courtroom to be greeted by a wall of media – typically it’s been a pool camera and sound guy. The first nearly three rows of the gallery were filled with people in dark clothing (that’s the uniform lawyers wear). We ended up having to find seats where we could and that kept us from sitting together. This sounds worse than it was. Let’s say this is how it felt: crowded, staged and for the first time, we had a different role. But then, it seems only one survivor knew what was going to happen today. [This is an intentional cliff hanger because I need to do just a bit of research before I open my big yap. If what I’m thinking is true, I’m pretty angry.]
DeAngelo is doing great on Keto. Absolutely no visible body fat.
Imagine a packed courtroom, media piled on top of each other to your right. A dozen lawyers for the prosecution and two for the defense. The room is silenced promptly at 1:30 and a different judge walks in! No adorable Judge Sweet. But it’s all good. We quietly wait to get started and then I realize, DeAngelo hasn’t arrived yet. The bailiff is peeking through a cracked door waiting – for what I think is – an elevator to deliver DeAngelo to the hallway that’s just outside the cage. We wait for a little bit (not that long but it’s noticeable since we’re all quiet) and then he walks in.
He looks exactly the same and yet smaller and more frail. Frail in that he seems to have finally lost all body fat. He has no butt. His arms were much smaller (circumference). He still stands at parade-rest with his mouth looking like it’s hanging open (I’m not able to see him from the front so until I watch a television report, I can’t tell if it was actually open). He remains unremarkable.
New judge (I’m too lazy to get up and get my notes right now to find his name); new judge is great and immediately denies the defense motion to once again prevent the media from participating. This is going to be DeAngelo’s lawyer’s pro forma motion every time. Then, in an unexpected move, the judge said, we are here today for an announcement. (We are? I thought we were just here to check on how discovery was going?) At that point, the different district attorneys got up and announced they were going to pursue the death penalty. It was a dramatic moment and I didn’t realize that this is how things work – that it’s done in an announcement. I guess it usually happens much later in the process. Since our case is a horse of a different color, this is how they did it. I’ll admit, even though I oppose the death penalty, it was incredibly satisfying to have them say it county by county so that DeAngelo could hear it.
After the announcement, we were done. Hearing dismissed.
I have so much more to say…but I need to sleep first.We did get together afterward, and I want to talk about that too! Thank you for all the support. I do read your comments and messages and I love the squad on Twitter.
I just got off the phone with a reporter friend and I think I might break some news tomorrow.
Now that Katie lives up here, it makes it just a bit more awesome coming north for another courtroom performance. Today, I spent the afternoon helping two Gen Z’s create resumes and think about what work environments would suit them and what won’t (like, let’s not hand Katie a try of cocktails, it won’t end well). She and her roommate need to get working. I believe they are clear on the concept after this visit.
Here’s the rundown on what’s planned in the next 24 hours, based on the Jen Carole calendar.
DeAngelo Hearing – happens at 1:30pm PT and we have been told it will be short. Ventura mentioned to me he might enter a plea, but he doesn’t have to. No plea is assumed to be not-guilty. The other thing they will cover is the progress being made during discovery – across all six jurisdictions.
Post-Court Gathering – we’ll be heading down to a survivor’s home to catch-up with one another after the hearing. HBO is going to join (I think) as they continue to develop the story for the docudrama. I’ll learn more about this tomorrow. I know you guys want scoop and I do too!
Take my survey – please! I’ve been thinking about this case and you wonderful folks who actually care. I’d like to understand more about you in the aggregate – as I find the fascination with true crime to be amazing. Here’s the link to the survey – will take about three minutes. I’ll share the results in an upcoming blog.
Planned Parenthood Advocacy Day – since I’m in town and never get a chance to support women’s health, I’m going to spend the morning with the advocates from around the state heading to the Capitol tomorrow morning. Since I will spend the afternoon with women who have been to hell and back, it feels like a nice bookend to do something pro-woman, pro-health. The event goes on all day and I believe it’s not too late to come down tomorrow. The details are in the image below (I made it clickable, so click away!).
You know that feeling when you are leaving for a short stay away from home and you know you forgot something, but you’ll be damned if you can figure out what it is you’re missing? That was me leaving for Sacramento on Weds. I knew something was missing. I knew it. But what. Turns out the butt part was the key to the question. I can now proudly say, I’ve worn the same underwear for three days. Yep. I’m bad ass. No seriously. So, so bad.
I had a sense this hearing might set off a lot of the feels,but I was not ready for the intensity of those feels. We didn’t cover a lot, it was over in about 20 minutes and yet, in that small window of time, things were said that forced me to keep my mouth closed. But let’s take this from the top,shall we?
The project cost of trying this case is estimated (so far) at $20+ million.
That story broke earlier this week as all the attorneys from
all the jurisdictions were meeting this week prior to the hearing. According to
While the current estimate is more than $20 million, it is impossible at this point to accurately estimate all costs. We anticipate the complexities of the case, including 40 years of evidence, to greatly affect the final cost,” said Natasha Drane of the county’s office of Governmental Relations and Legislation…The $20 million estimate includes the prosecution anddefense of DeAngelo, Drane said. He’s been represented by a public defender since his arrest in April. Read more…
Guys, this has me so upset it’s crazy. Not only did this man
ruins lives and take our loved ones from us – and let’s not even think about
our individual costs for therapy, moving, replacing things, protecting
ourselves and then the sunk costs of hunting him, investigating him, investigating
each crime – and now, going forward, this piece of human trash is going to cost
California another 20 million at least!?! That sound you hear is me screaming,
maybe if you close the window, I won’t sound so loud. I will be writing about
this more. Stand by.
We all meet Victor Hayes.
I had known he was out there because of his interviews, and I had heard him say he was going to be in the courthouse but maybe not going into the courtroom. I wanted to meet him. This time, I finally got smart and booked a hotel downtown, so I could walk to court. Good plan, poorly executed. I ended up getting to the jail late (still there, not areal courthouse yet, but don’t tell Judge Sweet I said it wasn’t real). I missed my Victim’s Services squad, so I bumbled-in on my own. And there was Victor!I introduced myself and we had a brief talk. All I can say is that he’s still very angry. I am so glad he was there, and he ended up coming inside the courtroom.I didn’t get to talk with him afterward, but that was a huge step and hopefully,it’s the beginning of his healing journey. (OMG that sounds like some crunchy California thing to say, but I mean it, you must start somewhere.)
Judge Sweet breaks it
down and I lose it.
Court started at 1:38pm. As you might imagine, it was packed.First two rows were lawyers from everywhere; prosecution (a ton!) and defense(three or four, not sure about one of them). Right side, all of us, and we were three rows deep. And then, of course, the media and some other regulars who are watching this case. I promised I would wear my ugly Christmas sweater, scored at the Walmart in Vermont last year, and I did. Because of my giant sequined Santa,my newest DA person from Ventura, Cheryl M. Temple, Chief Deputy District Attorney, found me very easily! We came in through the back of Dept 61 again this time, and there she was, this bright, happy face waiting to find someone in an ugly sweater. BAM! No confusion. I spent some time with her afterward and Ventura is good to go!
The first piece of business, after some introductions, was the defense motion to remove the press. The judge, who I am crushing on just a bit, was very good about explaining the request and citing the law he used to deny the defense request. His biggest reason for denying the request is he believes it’sin the public interest to show that law enforcement is doing all it should to protect the rights of all of us in these proceedings. It’s a matter of public trust and Judge Sweet wants this process to be trusted. He also said these proceedings are being followed all over the world, and that was another reason why the media needed to see what’s happening. I’m screwing this up – he said it so well– but it was a good explanation of the factors he weighed in making his decision.
They then set the date for the next hearing: April 10, 1:30 pm.
Want fries with that?
I mean if the meal is free, why not? The business we were thereto conduct was to determine if DeAngelo has the means to pay for his own defense. Since the last hearing in August, the defense had to complete a financial statement that explains DeAngelo’s assets. This document is kept confidential. It is sealed and given to the judge (who must then store it in his private hutch?) and it is kept sealed unless there is reason to believe it contains information that contradicts what the judge was being told.
The defense determined DeAngelo cannot afford his own attorney.I am sure I’ve knocked you all over with that analysis. I mean DUH. We all expected this.
But what the judge said and how he said it, is what got me.Judge Sweet calmly said something like, “Yeah, you can’t afford an attorney.You have multiple counts of murder and most with special circumstances, I mean there’s no way you could afford to pay for that.” He delivered that almost with a smile – it could have been incredulity and I missed it. And it wasn’t flip. It was just too pleasant. Because when he said it, I wanted to shout, “Oh hell no!”, because of DNA, I’m already sold. He’s guilty. I wanted to shout but instead, I shoved my mouth onto my arm, so I didn’t misbehave. Our bailiff is tough, and I don’t doubt she could drop me in seconds.
The section of the Penal Code that explains how this works,
is 987 (c):
(c) In order to assist the court in determining whether a defendant is able to employ counsel in any case, the court may require a defendant to file a financial statement or other financial information under penalty of perjury with the court or, in its discretion, order a defendant to appear before a county officer designated by the court to make an inquiry into the ability of the defendant to employ his or her own counsel. If a county officer is designated, the county officer shall provide to the court a written recommendation and the reason or reasons in support of the recommendation. The determination by the court shall be made on the record. Except as provided in Section 1214 , the financial statement or other financial information obtained from the defendant shall be confidential and privileged and shall not be admissible in evidence in any criminal proceeding except the prosecution of an alleged offense of perjury based upon false material contained in the financial statement. The financial statement shall be made available to the prosecution only for purposes of investigation of an alleged offense of perjury based upon false material contained in the financial statement at the conclusion of the proceedings for which the financial statement was required to be submitted. The financial statement and other financial information obtained from the defendant shall not be confidential and privileged in a proceeding under Section 987.8 .
Judge Sweet also explained that after the case, if he has any assets left, he will be asked to cover whatever costs he can. I suppose he can make and sell fishing lures to the other inmates.
Surprise! I have an opinion.
This one is based a lot on feelings and maybe a little too much on principle. I can’t help it, but my brain automatically has this beacon for fairness. As I listen to the resources we are going to spend on this piece of human excrement, ignoring all the sunk costs, I get upset. There are men and woman in lock-up today, who can’t afford an attorney, but they don’t all these special perks. In fact, they get overworked, committed lawyers who believe people have a right to representation. I don’t know what caseloads are like in Sacramento, but based on the size of the jail? I bet there aren’t near enough.
This is taxpayer money. My money. Your money.
We want this to work if someone is innocent. It’s what makes our democracy strong. Bankrupting someone who has been charged wrongly isn’t a good thing. But we got us a horse of a different color here. All rules are not created equal and sometimes, there needs to be a different paradigm for outliers. Just knowing he’d forfeit all his assets with one conviction would be enough for me.
I also think this creates a rather weird dynamic: if you commit a crime, just be sure to go big because then you’ll get a free ride as you fight for your freedom.
And then there’s DeAngelo’s exclusive power to not screw us all again: he could confess. But this man, even for the benefit of his family, doesn’t seem inclined to clean up the mess he made. Nope, our mouth-breathing defect isn’t talking. The word is, still no visitors.
Some things are precious. Our survivor (and friends) community.
Most of us met one another just under six months ago. It doesn’t feel like that. I don’t know folks well, but there’s this underlying trust and affection that binds us together and it’s a wonderful feeling. Seeing one another, hugs, quick updates on little life things events and now, a wonderful tradition of getting together afterwards to talk about what just happened and then how things are proceeding on a meta level. We even talk about– with affection – those who aren’t with us in person (like Debbie and Shelly and Sunny).
Carol Daly provided the location and some grub (including her delicious homemade ice cream I went on about last summer). She shared some stories about her early days on the case and every time I spend more time with her, I just love her a bit more. She is one incredible woman. And while Hot for Holes is delicious to watch, Carol deserves some of the adoration as well. Just an amazing woman.
I also want to give a shout out to all the online support as well. I am still grateful and appreciative of all the folks who provide support via social media. This arrest happened when my life was already in free fall. Folks online have been amazing on a daily basis. I feel like I have friends all over who just make sure I’m okay. I also know you guys are amazing support for the other survivors as well. Just – LOVE!
Sacramento did not disappoint.
Meanwhile, the weather this week was amazeballs. Glorious coolness with plenty of sunshine and fall leaves. I love Sac in the fall. In early fell on my booty kicking a huge pile of leaves. Seeing the horses in the rose garden was a highlight along with our portable menorah.
In just a few days, the names of the 9/11 victims will be read again in New York. I can’t listen to them. It tears me up and it’s been 17 years! I get lost thinking about all the little things like did they have kids (who are now grown) or were they engaged or pregnant. They were just people doing what we all do every day – going to work. Firefighters and law enforcement ran in to do what they do every day. And just like that, hate changed us. To the bottom of our collective souls. And so when the names are read every year, it doesn’t feel like enough. I know it’s important – but it resonates with the loss we all shared that day.
You’d think we’d know more about what was going to happen when we all assemble for another hearing day in the world of Joseph DeAngelo. But we don’t. We get email from victim services, but it’s often really cryptic and light. This hearing was a surprise. We’d all been building our lives around today, September 5th, where we were supposed to attend an “update” hearing. We’d even planned a little barbecue at Carol Daly’s house afterward. But the District Attorneys had other plans. Everything got moved up to August 23 and the plan was to file 26 more charges against Wee Willy Winky.
Our group continues to grow with every court date.
As I’ve said, we all meet on this one outside corner before court so our handlers – the Victim Services folks – can wrangle us and get us into the courtroom with minimal drama. Since the courtroom is still in the jail, we have to go through the metal detector and walk the gauntlet of reporters. This time, they actually moved us into an area behind the courtrooms (so we didn’t have to go through the media) and took us into an empty courtroom first where we could play a little and put our anxiety to work. (I don’t think that was their intention, they were just protecting us, but man, it turned out to be a good way for us to touch things and goof around. And yes, I did take silly pictures of people too, but I can’t share them because I want to protect everyone’s privacy.)
It’s kind of funny because as we grow as a group, we are becoming a force: I think there were maybe 20 of us this time! I didn’t realize this would happen – don’t know why, I guess I just hadn’t thought about it before. Of course, I never thought there would be an arrest. I hope it keeps happening. I hope all the Sacramento (and beyond) survivors get to come and feel the power of what it means to have the upper hand. I also really enjoy seeing the friendly media who I’ve come to know and appreciate on a personal level. I guess I better be friendly with them because now that Sacramento is the home for the trial, we are all going to be spending a great deal of time together.
When the time came, they moved us through the back room (where the judge and others typically enter the courtroom) and got us into our regular room, Dept 61. We were greeted by ALL the District Attorneys who were lined up on the prosecution side. I instantly recognized DA Totten, the Ventura DA (my DA as I affectionately call him) and I rushed over to introduce myself and shake his hand. He flashed a giant smile at me – we hadn’t met before – and I had a chance to thank him for being so well-spoken on the press conference held that Tuesday, and for expressing his commitment so eloquently. I am freaking proud of him – he’s been working on this case since he joined the Ventura DA’s office. The Sacramento Bee spoke with him:
Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten said later in an interview Carole’s presence was one of several reasons he needed to be present for the arraignment.
“This was the first case I ever worked on as a young law clerk in the Ventura County District Attorney’s office,” Totten said. “And the daughter of Lyman Smith, who was brutally murdered in Ventura County, was here today, and for me it was personally very important to be here.”
What a guy. He asked to talk with me after the hearing so I hung back afterward and spent a few minutes with him. I think the collaboration the District Attorney’s have managed is amazing. I have worked on some tough cross-functional teams, but I never had to worry about voters at the same time. Seeing them all there, in a row, resolute and committed; it was powerful.
Court’s in session.
With the Honorable Judge Michael Sweet presiding, court started. DeAngelo slid into the cage as silently as I imagine he broke into homes. Not a freaking sound from this man. I sat behind him hoping to see his hands cuffed behind him, but no such luck. Assistant Public Defender Diane Howard was back in court and being as obsequious as ever. She stood close, nearly touching him at the shoulder, and I know she could smell him. Just yuck.
At this point, he’s been in jail for four months and the weight loss is significant. I have no idea if he’s eating, but I know he’s not getting beer. He has lost maybe 40 pounds and this makes him look gaunt and frail. But I think he’s just back at his fighting weight. He stood looking straight ahead as usual in a military-like parade rest – attentive but not at attention. He doesn’t even really look at Howard during the course of the hearing. He looks at the judge and that’s about it. Well, there’s also the mouth breathing. I remember on the phone calls he made, he liked to pant. Maybe he just can’t close his damn lips! The Bee’s reporter noticed how he looked as well:
Looking, pale, thin and frail, the 72-year-old former police officer stood silently inside the courtroom cage on the first floor of the Sacramento County Main Jail building without speaking.
The District Attorneys were introduced and there was a discussion of DeAngelo’s ability to pay for a legal defense. So far, he’s been leaning on the Public Defender’s office. But defending him against these crimes is going to cost a small fortune. It could mean he will lose all his assets as he liquidates them to pay legal fees. I have no idea what that does to his family but I think (hope) they are all adults and somehow finding a way to cope and manage financially. I can’t even imagine how upside-down their world must be. At the hearing in December, we’ll find out if he qualifies for an Indigent Defense.
As he considers that, I’d like to offer a recommendation – and maybe his family can push for this because it would absolutely be a blessing for them – he needs to simply take a plea. Own it man. You thought you were “Da Man”; the bad-ass mother f–ker who could get anyone and not get caught. You had the courage to destroy lives without fear of retribution. If you are all that, then step up. Do it for your family. Own your shit and put this thing to bed. Just admit it was you and we can all get back to living. And you can join the general population instead of death row.
The list of additional charges.
In late April, at his first arraignment, he was charged with the deaths of the Maggiores. That was enough to bind him over and keep him in custody. But the charges read in court were expanded and clarified. There were also 13 counts of kidnap that allowed prosecutors to reach into some of the rape cases and hold him accountable. I need Kat Winters and Keith Komos to map these charges to what they have in their awesome book* to help me confirm these are all DNA cases – but I’m sure they are. We sat for 30 minutes, the gallery in silence, as each charge was read. You wanna freak yourself out? Read these out loud.
Count 1: Murder of Claude Snelling, Sept. 11, 1975, in Visalia; using a .38 revolver.
Count 2: Murder of Kate Maggiore of Rancho Cordova, Feb. 2, 1978; using a gun of unknown caliber.
Count 3: Murder of Brian Maggiore of Rancho Cordova, Feb. 2, 1978; using a gun of unknown caliber.
Count 4: Murder of Debra Alexandra Manning of Santa Barbara County, Dec. 30, 1979; using a gun of unknown caliber and special circumstances because it includes rape and burglary.
Count 5: Murder of Robert Offerman of Santa Barbara County, Dec. 30, 1979; using a gun of unknown caliber and special circumstances because it includes burglary.
Count 6: Murder of Cheri Domingo of Santa Barbara County, July 27, 1981; using a gun of unknown caliber and special circumstances because it includes rape and burglary.
Count 7: Murder of Greg Sanchez of Santa Barbara County, July 27, 1981; using a gun of unknown caliber and special circumstances because it includes burglary.
Count 8: Murder of Charlene Smith of Ventura County, found March 16, 1980; and special circumstances because it includes rape and burglary.
Count 9: Murder of Lyman Smith of Ventura County, found March 16, 1980; and special circumstances because it includes burglary.
Count 10: Murder of Patrice Harrington of Orange County, Aug. 21, 1975; and special circumstances because it includes rape and burglary.
Count 11: Murder of Keith Harrington of Orange County, Aug. 21, 1975; and special circumstances because it includes burglary.
Count 12: Murder of Manuella Witthuhn of Irvine, found Feb. 5, 1981; and special circumstances because it includes rape, robbery and burglary.
Count 13: Murder of Janelle Cruz of Irvine killed May 4, 1986; and special circumstances because it includes rape and burglary.
[Now take a small breath here; we got one, but it lasted just a few seconds while Judge Sweet prepared to read more.]
Count 14: Jane Doe 1 of Sacramento on Sep. 6, 1976; robbery.
Count 15: Jane Doe 2 of Sacramento on Apr. 2, 1977; kidnap and use of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 16: Jane Doe 3 of Sacramento on Apr. 15, 1977; kidnap, robbery and use of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 17: Jane Doe 4 of Sacramento on May 3, 1977; kidnap, robbery and use of a knife and firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 18: Jane Doe 5 of Sacramento on May 14, 1977; kidnap, robbery and use of a knife and firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 19: Jane Doe 6 of Sacramento on May 17, 1977; kidnap, robbery and use of a knife and firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 20: Jane Doe 7 of Sacramento on May 28, 1977; kidnap, robbery and use of a knife and firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 21: Jane Doe 8 of Sacramento on Oct. 1, 1977; kidnap, robbery and use of a knife and firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 22: Jane Doe 9 of Sacramento on Oct. 2, 1977; kidnap and use of a knife and firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 23: Jane Doe 10 of Contra Costa County on Oct. 7, 1978; kidnap, robbery and use of a knife and firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 24: Jane Doe 11 of Contra Costa County on Oct. 13, 1978; kidnap, robbery and use of a knife during the commission of a crime.
Count 25: Jane Doe 12 of Contra Costa County on Oct. 28, 1978; kidnap, robbery and use of a knife and firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 26: Jane Doe 13 of Contra Costa County on Jun. 11, 1979; kidnap, robbery and use of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
The other rapes and burglaries won’t be charged because the statute of limitations has run out in those cases.
Guys, I gotta tell you, listening to this list be read out loud was pure hell. A journalist friend had brought a young person with her to court because they had to rush off to Reno after the hearing. Normally this is just a pop-in and get it done hearing with very little drama. But surprise! This was heavy as hell. I spoke to him before it got started and said, “Wow, you’re here to see a murderer,” and my friend waved me off in that parent-way that communicates (dummy-up, he doesn’t know all that). Welp, after this list being read, he knew. I talked to him afterward to see how he took it in, but I have a feeling that car ride afterward might have included a good discussion.
As each count was read, I took notes, which always provides me with cover so my feelings don’t take over. Even with this distraction, as these words were spoken I had this heavy feeling of dread. Every life on that list (and the 100+ more who had been raped, ransacked or intruded upon) had been changed by the actions of this one person. This doesn’t even include his family. Over the decades I’ve had to deal with my dad’s name being in places that don’t necessarily make me that happy. Books, documentaries, news stories and now a list of crimes. It’s surreal: my dad wanted to be famous. But he wanted it for making a difference and being an extraordinary lawyer and judge (and inevitably a elected official). He never wanted it like this. And yet…
I’ll take my dad’s fame from this case.
And here’s why: nothing has had a bigger impact on criminal justice than DNA. I don’t know if anyone is counting (where are my nerds), but many many crimes have been solved since DeAngelo’s arrest thanks to DNA. In addition, missing persons are being identified left and right. And there are new ideas about using DNA with suspects because DNA testing is getting better and much faster. I was tweeting about this the other day – I feel kinda proud to be part of this case with all the good that’s coming out of his arrest.
Finally, as things wrapped up, the media was there and many of the survivors understandably don’t feel comfortable talking with them. I had gotten a call in the morning from Fox 40 and agreed to talk with them after the hearing. That was fine but I had no idea when the bailiffs shooshed us out the door, that there would be a gaggle of reporters and I was basically alone! At the end of the questions, I spent a bit more time with the guy from the Associated Press (he’s the blond guy with glasses on my right). It was his first time on this beat, he’s new to Sacto (if I got his story right) and he was impressed with the gaggle. We had a really nice talk and I welcomed him to our madness: life after arrest.
A group of the survivors got together than afternoon. Sadly I missed it because I had to stay to talk with Totten and then I got back on the road to Santa Cruz because I had knee surgery the next day.
One of the best things about writing this blog, is getting feedback from you either via comments (below) or on Twitter. For long thoughts, commenting here or an email is best. But if you want to just shoot the you-know-what or be silly, Twitter is awesome. You might see my politics leak through but don’t let that bug you; I believe folks with different opinions make good friends. The support I’ve received this summer has been nothing I would have ever expected. Thank you for that – even if all you did was visit this blog. I feel the support and it helped me get through my little surgery, get back to work and find my inner momentum again.
*Their amazing, comprehensive book is currently on back order – let me know if you’re trying to buy it and I’ll hook you up!
Sometimes we get so good at our jobs we can do them almost on autopilot. We don’t realize everyone else has no idea what we are doing or why we are going so fast. This was how Thursday went down. Fast, sloppy and almost chaotic. The slap-dash of serial rapist-murder hearings.
I’m pretty sure the Sacramento heat is going to kill me. I know, I’m a damn broken record. It’s gotta be my age. I used to live there! Yet I remain a delicate flower. At least the hearing was set for 1:30 instead of 8:30am. I get it, it meant more heat but sleep was also a good thing. This time I had Katie in tow – my daughter – and I bored her to death preparing her for what was going to happen and who she was going to meet.
We drove up Wednesday from Santa Cruz. It’s about a three hour drive unless you leave later than you planned because your teenager doesn’t really understand the time-space continuum. Then, it’s a five hour drive. With pit stops and food and drink. We were going to see some people I hadn’t met before. Three folks in particular who’d spent much more time being active on the case than I. Jane Carson-Sandler was in town to do a book signing at Barnes and Noble in Citrus Heights. That happened on Monday and Debbie Domingo-McMullan was in town to support her. Carol Daly showed up as well. I didn’t make it up there that early, but they said they enjoyed it immensely and I think it got them fired up for the week ahead.
First timers were everywhere.
We knew we’d have a big squad this time. And we did. We typically gather about 15 minutes before court and greet one another and catch up. That’s where I got to meet Jane, Debbie and, surprise for me, Margaret Wardlow! She was just 13 when that beast attacked her. They all looked amazing; vibrant, healthy, engaged. But while they managed their outward appearance in that moment, later we learned they were also wrestling with their demons. As I describe how this arrest has sent me back to my 18-year-old self bringing back memories that aren’t very pleasant, they too found themselves back at their early ages in that moment.
I don’t want to share their stories without permission, so let me share it in the aggregate. Making this arrest has taken us back. It’s made forty year old memories more vivid and brings up some of the vulnerability that goes with being younger. There’s something to be said for being a 50 year old woman. There is an ease at 50 that women talk about and it’s true. Being pulled back to a time when our innocence was ended by violence is pretty jarring. For me it means nightmares and fucked-up memories (yeah, just wait, I’ll be sharing them).
The media skillfully beats the heat and waits inside for us. Other folks were freaking out about all the cameras, “Why are they here!?” one woman cried out in a slight panic. It’s gotta feel weird to see all this when you’re there for a case that has nothing to do with our freak show.This hallway gave many pause. Especially the survivors who came who want to remain anonymous. Victim Services is good about getting us into the courtroom once everyone is through security. We hustled down the hallway and entered the courtroom. This time things moved very fast. We were seated quickly and then the press was allowed in. 60 Minutes Australia was there to film (I really need to see their version of Andy Rooney – “You know when you get those shrimp off the barbie and one doesn’t really look like a shrimp? What is that?” Please write your own joke here – or better yet, add to comments below!).
Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.
Normally, court has a process that helps us all understand what will happen next. With new folks with us, we had explained what would happen and I’ll be damned if the court didn’t make us liars this time. Debbie said she timed it: the whole thing lasted two and a half minutes. It was a cluster. They didn’t ask us to be quiet. They didn’t tell us to turn off our phones. Both are signals we are getting ready to start. No one announced the judge was in the room – he was in and started talking before I even got settled! DeAngelo appeared without warning. And that is rough when you are seeing him for the first time. A little warning is appreciated.
I was extremely disappointed to see he was handcuffed in front this time. I’ve been taking great satisfaction with his hands being cuffed behind his back. It’s like everyone was in a rush on Thursday. He seemed more at ease and a lot slimmer. I’m guessing the alcohol bloat is gone but there’s also less body. If he was a natural slim, it appears he’s getting back to his old self. I’m not even sure he knew what was happening it went so fast. His attorneys were there including Diane Howard.
Essentially the procedure (what is this part called?) was continued because the prosecution is still in the process of providing the defense evidence from discovery. We’ve had several folks confirm there was nothing recovered from the house, so what they heck is all this “deep” discovery about? One potential explanation is new jurisdictions with new cases and current jurisdictions with new cases. I just need to say one thing about all this: let’s not boil the ocean. Let’s do one and get it done and then we can prosecute more. Time is ticking people! This man has literally nothing to live for (except his family and that is really their journey, not his).
The defense also continues to object to press coverage. The judge continues to assert the public has a right to know. I continue to laugh thinking if you hurt over 100 people, you get what you deserve.
Walking out of the courtroom, we were greeted by a sea of cameras. This time it was for Debbie, Jane and Margaret. Katie was shocked by the momentum and frenzy. “Yup,” I told her, “every time.” We were asked to go over to the District Attorney’s office afterward so Katie and I broke away from the pack.
District Attorney offices got dogs!
We walked over to the office and suffered poor white trash meltdown. My photo below with Reggie shows it. Katie’s pic is blurred. Clearly it was the heat-stroke (not the operator). We talked about the case and while I pumped them for information about where the trial might happen, they were successful in not giving away any scoops. While we were talking, Reggie, the wonder-poodle, came out to visit. He was super friendly and showed us his tricks. His subpeona delivery is on fleek (please accept my use of on fleek as my feeble attempt to pander to my younger readers).
Off to the after-party.
The big win for this week was the after-party. We met at the home of one of the squad and had a potluck barbecue that allowed us to share stories and meet even more people who’ve been impacted by DeAngelo. I’ve said it before but I never expected this chapter of our crimes and I must say, it’s the best. No judgments and no expectations, everyone is allowed to just be who they are and experience their healing in the way that works for them. Debbie had brought swag for us (see this blog’s cover photo for my new computer bag! thanks Debbie!).
Carol Daly (retired undersherriff) brought homemade ice cream that took me immediately back to my grandmother’s front yard on Palm Drive in Carmichael. Richard Shelby (retired investigator) and Todd Lindsay (producer from Unmasking a Killer) were there. It was a mellow, yummy good time. One of the interesting arguments we had was this stupid thing we (women?) where we compare who had it worse. Not in an effort to be the most harmed but instead, the way it works is to minimize our hurt because someone else’s is worse.
Every woman who has ever done this raise their hand. Men, now your turn. See, just a few men’s hands are raised. But women, I bet we’ve all done it.
The weird, twisted debate? Is it worse to be a rape survivor or a murder survivor? You know you’ve entered the land of weird when this is the debate. The rape survivors feel like we have it worse because our folks are gone – forever. We argue the rape folks have it worse because they had to live in fear their whole lives. I’ve decided we both win. Because if we are able to have this much compassion and empathy for one another, we are the winners.
Next court date is September 5th. Lots of stories to share with you before then.
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.
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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I’ll work hard to make sure you aren’t disappointed!
Yesterday, Memorial Day, it was quiet downtown near the jail. I was looking for a place for a “survivor coffee” after court. I passed a woman who looked homeless. She was bloody and I could see a lot of her battered body. Her clothes were tattered, maybe torn, her left shoe was missing and she looked as if she’d been ravaged. I drove back around the block to try and see how badly she was hurt. I struggled. Should I call for help? Then I always think about unintended consequences. Would the police come and arrest her for something and not respond to her condition? I decided not to call and tortured myself all night for my decision. This morning, on my way to court, I saw her again. She had bathed in the river (an assumption but very likely). She was wearing what looked like muslin around her like a towel. No other clothes. No other belongings. She was on the 16th Street bridge putting a single calla lily into a bottle, like a vase, and placing it on the bridge for all to see. It seemed like her way of saying goodbye.
Ah Sacramento – land of oven heat and refrigerator cold. It was hot today. I’m a wuss. I can’t handle the heat. We had a high of 98 – that’s actually not bad for Sacramento in the summer. I parked in the H Street garage and went down to the corner to wait for my Victim Services person, Ann. I was surprised when I was joined by a number of other survivors and their support people. As we gathered, there was actual enthusiasm among the squad. We realized we are growing in size and that felt good (see The Power of Women for more).
I slip/slide between the words victim and survivor and I want to take a minute to explain: for me, a survivor is anyone who was attacked by DeAngelo and managed to walk away. In my book, getting out alive is everyone’s first priority and I’m so proud of those of you who could do it. The victims are really those of us who lost the people we love to murder. Similarly, we buried our people, brushed ourselves off and moved forward and that is also survival as far as I’m concerned. When I bundle us together, I tend to say survivors because I want to acknowledge living with violent crime is hard and changes us. And I also realize many people who are interested in this crime, have had violent crime touch their lives too.
Rolling into court.
The courtroom – department 61 – is in the jail. There are three (maybe four) courtrooms that exist off this hallway that’s in the front of the building. We go through metal detectors, grab our purses off the conveyor belt and then “hang out” in this hallway waiting for the doors to open. Typically there are media there and we way hello to the reporters and cameramen (didn’t see any women) we know, and then Victim Services whisks us into the courtroom. Once inside, the lawyers come greet us, we push the limits of where we are allowed to sit and then we settle in. We are often in at 8:30 and court doesn’t really start until 9am.
These are old courtrooms. The seats are close together and they don’t want us to sit in the first row of the gallery behind DeAngelo because…I don’t know why. They tried to make some excuse about our safety, but honestly, they’d be better off saying it’s for his safety. I can’t tell you how much I want to be in that front row, breathing heavily with the occasional growl. I just want those hairs on the back of his neck to twitch knowing we are right behind him. There’s a sign, printed on 8.5 by 11 inch paper that says, “Do not talk to or make any type of contact with inmates.” Got it. I will restrain myself.
DeAngelo came in with a bit more vim and vigor this time. He entered through the cage door and I was satisfied to see his hands handcuffed behind his back. He has wide shoulders relative to his arm length and so the cuffs appeared to be a little uncomfortable. They weren’t as tight as the bindings he used to tie people up, so I knew he’d be just fine with the discomfort. He stood at attention the whole hour facing the judge or briefly looking at his lawyers. He didn’t look at us (he’s supposedly not allowed to). He didn’t flinch, rock, or do anything but stand at attention. Looks like Control will be playing a role in this proceeding. The only time his hands shook were in the final minutes when we were dismissed and he was waiting to get back out the door. His hands trembled but the rest of him remained composed.
Getting down to business.
As I shared in my other blog about the day’s arguments, we were there to hear the three different law teams point of view on what should and shouldn’t be kept private. I liked hearing the different positions: it’s a little insight into how they different teams think and their court demeanor. I was not impressed with the man representing DeAngelo today. He’s a little squirrely and I found his arguments to be superficial.
We spent the first few minutes in a heated debate between a bailiff and a photographer. Actually, one does not debate a bailiff. One says, “yes ma’am” and listens, unless you’re a reporter who’s been told something different than the bailiff. Apparently the judge allowed only one video camera and one fixed camera in the courtroom – to function as part of the media pool – meaning they had to share what they were getting with everyone else. Alas the AP understood they could be in the courtroom but the judge changed it up and said only the Sacramento Bee feed could be there. I may have this wrong in terms of who got the final okay, because it was an influx situation with lots of feelings. Needless to say, the bailiff won.
Once court began, I took notes like a beast but it was so hard to keep up. What did surprise me was the case law they referred to as justification for their arguments. You know these crimes are in another whole league when these are the cases they are citing as precedence.
The defense brought up Dr. Loftus and her work about eyewitness accounts being a bad source of evidence (um, who cares, DNA).
Duffy spoke to Waller vs. Georgia, in which a suppression hearing held in secret was considered inappropriate.
The judge asked if the Jackson case should be considered? Duffy argued the decision to keep the warrant sealed was unique because Michael Jackson was known around the world and absolutely had more press coverage than maybe anyone else?
I believe the judge referred to the Menendez brothers and the decision about including the psychiatrist’s notes as part of testimony (would it taint the jury pool)?
[At some point during my rapid note taking, I look up and the bailiff that’s in the cage with DeAngelo appears to have fallen asleep on his feet. I smiled; seems no one is afraid of DeAngelo these days.]
It was interesting to hear Duffy Carolan, the media’s lawyer, talk about ways to ameliorate the potential downside of sharing the information. I love the word ameliorate. It’s a chewy word that is tasty when you say it and speaks to a way to right something wrong. She had a list of ideas that would mitigate the potential harm sharing information from the search warrant and search returns could do to prospective juror members (regardless of jurisdiction – so not just Sacramento, but Ventura, Orange and Santa Barbara counties as well.
There was a lot of discussion about the public’s right to know and case law was cited that shows “investigatory value doesn’t outweigh the public need to know” which, as I understood it, means there is value is us seeing progress being made and good police work being done. It restores the public trust in our institutions (if I understood this correctly). It was interesting to hear they talking about a jury that may not be seated for as many as five years (WTF?!). When it all comes down to it, when we learn the venue for the first case, it will all be based on the “innoculation the jurors receive during voir dire,” as the judge explained.
And then the lawyers and the judge went “in camera“.
That means privacy! As I understand it, they began a point by point review of every piece of information in the search warrant to decide what we can see and what we can’t. [We know now that’s 123 pages of information. Those arguments (discussions) continued Thursday and their decision was finally made public on Friday.] While they went into session, we thought we were coming back for a decision, but it ended up taking the rest of the week.
When we returned to the courtroom at 2:15pm to find out if there was a decision, DeAngelo was brought back into the courtroom as well. I sat in roughly the same spot behind him but noticed the handcuffs had changed. This time, his hands were relaxed because they added an extra set of cuffs so it daisy-chained, allowing him to relax his shoulders and have very little tension on his wrists. Damn.
During this very short session, we were told the hearing would continue to Thursday. It was time to return to the heat (it was one hot day) and get back to our lives. Of course, for me, the best part of this day was being with the other survivors. I’ll never forget this day.