Many of us have waited so long for this show to get started. Thanks to DNA, I never worried we’d get the wrong guy – he left his mark everywhere. But even the biggest cynic in the room – yeah, me – never thought things would take this long just to generate momentum.
The first surprise: getting a date for the preliminary trial to start.
I have to say, the survivors have much love for the judge who basically said, put a fork in it, I’m done. Let’s get things moving. That was in January. I know the public defender’s office wanted a lot more time, but it’s coming up on two years and honestly, there are very few “hooks” for a defense. Maybe none really except how the GED Match site was used to find a suspect, but after that, there’s very little to defend.
We’ve had the same, consistent suspect since the DNA was connected across the crimes in the early 2000s. Seriously: same guy. If you accept the DNA matches connecting all the crimes, the only thing you can fight is the matching process.
And that brings us to February development number one:
I did not see this coming; especially now. Again, we’ve all been aboard this prosecution boat for 22 months, how did they not know they would need more DNA before this moment in time. I don’t want to piss off the prosecution, but c’mon, how could this not have been on someone’s to do list before February of 2020? I’ve heard they ran out and need more for testing. I don’t know what’s true, but I do know we could have expected a fight (see not much to defend above). The defense is almost obliged to defend this request lest they be accused of malpractice. Apparently, these motions will be heard at the hearing on March 12th. Stay tuned.
This seems fair. They share an inordinate amount of the burden and it wasn’t their decision to jam a giant pile of crimes into a single trial. Sacramento taxpayers shouldn’t have to shoulder this whole burden. They should be getting support from other public defenders in the other jurisdictions.
Where I’m stuck is why is this just coming up now. I think we heard it first at the hearing in January (I wasn’t there so I don’t have first-hand knowledge, but I think it was brought up). This should have been an issue the minute the prosecution strategy was to lump everything together in 2018. My gut says this is a window into what’s happening at the public defender’s office and it doesn’t show well. Prioritizing what-matters-most is a life skill most of us have mastered (or at least understand). How could this issue languish until now?
And a snarky aside: if you crime so hard you trigger charges that can still stand 40 years later in six jurisdictions, you should not be entitled to a red carpet defense. I mean, I can point to legions of folks in prison right now who are jailed because they didn’t get a good defense. Why should this guy get anything better? This guy we have on DNA.
Finally, development number three:
Anxiety is starting to build among the survivors.
This was going to happen. It was inevitable. I’m feeling it every day and I don’t have to testify. I’m anxious for my brother and my (survivor) friends who really aren’t interested in going back to that ugly place. Nobody wants to be re-victimized. I don’t know anyone that wants to sit across from him in a courtroom and look at him. But it’s a necessary evil. To manage my anxiety, I focus on the process. I want this prelim to happen and I want it to be uncomfortable – for him.
He needs to be uncomfortable as he sits there on his non-existent ass, hour after hour, as the world talks about him and his repugnant behavior.
He needs to be uncomfortable as he listens to the witnesses, one by one, that will include the women and men whose lives he interrupted and changed because he didn’t want to get help.
He needs to be uncomfortable when he must shut-up and listen as people describe the fear, violence and terror he delivered on every victim and community.
I know he’s a psychopath, but let’s all pray this won’t make him happy. Let’s pray it makes him damn miserable as his daughters hear every ugly detail. I regret they must go through this, but if it brings him misery, I’m all in.
I expect more hijinks before we get started in May. I’m going to pick-up the podcast in March and start recording again. I plan to attend court and do a daily update. Stay tuned for details.
It’s not too late to get tickets!
Folks in Santa Cruz, Sacramento and Ventura, please come meet me live in March. It’s free and I look forward to seeing you! Get free tickets here.
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.
Two days have passed since seeing DeAngelo in court. There’s a dream I’ve been having since he was arrested that’s clearly from my own imagination and subconscious. In the dream, I am Charlene and watching Charlene at the same time – in that mystical way dreams commingle themes. I’m feeling his breath on me and the weight of his body and I’m screaming and pushing him away (because in my dream, my wrists aren’t tied); at the same time I’m trying to help her, to warn her that he’s dangerous. It ends as I force myself awake. I make myself consciously tell Charlene it’s okay now. Then I turn on Netflix and stream Frasier hoping that will help me fall back to sleep.
Monday seems like a week ago. Yesterday took a twist I did not expect. I was laid off. I can’t say much more about it at this point, but I was caught off guard and for those of you who follow me on Twitter, this is what demanded two margaritas and street tacos. Taco Tuesday. I’ve been so busy working night and day for my company for the last two years, I’d never been before. Turns out, I’ve been missing out. I guess it’s time for many changes. Don’t anyone start feeling all sorry for me. I could use a little break and I’ll speak up when I’m ready to job hunt!
After the hearing
In a future blog, I’ll share more about what it was like to work with 20/20 (simply awesome). During the taping, the producer, Jenna, and I just got on fabulously. Just before court started on Monday and after the press was allowed it, I happened to look back to see how full the room was, and I was surprised to see Jenna’s huge smile and goofy wave. I tell you, knowing she was there was really helpful for me. As court concluded, she mouthed, “Come with me?” and I shook my head yes. She went out ahead of me and my Victim Services person, Ann, helped me get through the mob of press people waiting in the hallway. I think you can see how packed it was in the still of the video from Fox 40.
I didn’t know what was going on behind me until later, but remember Melanie? The woman who is fierce and brought a photo of the murder victims? Well she walked her talk and moved through the press like a boss (whole story here).
As I got outside, I was finally able to speak with Jenna. First thing she did was ask where my mom was (more on that later, my mom is a hoot) and asked if I would be willing to talk with them on camera. “Sure thing,” I said as I noticed the lawyer for the media walking by.
“Excuse me,” I called out. “May I talk to you for a minute?”
She was gracious and said sure. I identified myself – I typically say “Ventura Murders” – and then told her I wanted to thank her for being there and representing just an important viewpoint. I happen to believe information does better in the light than the dark and the truth – even if it’s ugly – has value. The defense is arguing sharing information with the public will taint the jury pool. I think there’s merit in that argument, but not in this case. Not only is the magnitude exceptional, but this criminal made a point of making his crimes public. He called victims. He taunted the police. If the public has preconcieved notions, it’s pretty much his fault.
“But Jenny,” my dad would say, “Everyone has the right to a fair trial and an unbiased jury. And I would likely pop-off and say, “No Dad, he’s entitled to a jury of his peers. Where are you going to find 12 other serial killers?” You can see how this would go. Live in my head for an hour – see how these endless debates about principles, morality and justice go. It’s noisy in here.
She seemed surprised and happy that I supported her cause. I feel like she is representing a position that is completely aligned with the victims and I hope the judge agrees.
Is that a public defender ditching the media?
Jenna, from ABC, spotted Diane Howard leaving the back of the court building and ran after her to get a quote. Another outlet was already trailing her with a camera and a reporter. I think this is what they got from her. From my vantage point, she never stopped moving. If you watch the video, she was not interested in being interviewed.
Based on her courtroom behavior and the video above, I can tell I’m not going to like her. Not because she’s defending him, but because of how she’s holding herself when she’s near him and how she’s acting like he needs protection. The beast was racing a motorcycle a week before his arrest. Based on what his neighbors told me, he went fishing on the Monday before his arrest. This old man will be just fine.
Let’s hit Starbucks.
I did a short interview for ABC – which was a bit nuts because you can see the train runs right up that street. But it was short and I appreciate they care about my point of view. After the interview, I met a new person on the ABC team who offered to buy me a coffee. Of course I hadn’t eaten anything because I had been so nervous in the morning and I was parched so we made our way to the train station.
Dea didn’t want to do an interview. She just wanted to talk and get to know me a bit. It turned out to be an answer conversation because she’s a local woman who remembered the East Area Rapist as she was growing up. Turns out we were both at Sac State at the same time, in the same major – she was undergrad and I was in grad school. But we shared some teachers and couldn’t believe the coincidence. It was just such a nice rapport. It’s amazing how comforting that can be.
Then Dea asked me maybe the best question anyone from the media has ever asked me: “What are we not covering in this story, that we should be covering?”
That stopped me dead in my tracks. What a brilliant, delicious, provocative question. And honestly, at that moment, I did not have an answer. But you might. So I extend the question to you – my gifted readers – please leave your comments and I will share them with Dea. I have it on good authority she reads this blog!
While I was at Starbucks, I got a text from Bill Harticon telling me Ali Wolfe from Fox 40 was looking for me via Twitter. This man has known me for just over a week and yet knew texting me was the only way get my attention when I’m “in the field”. I’m not a huge phone junky when I’m with people. So Bill wisely got my attention. I confirmed with Ali and headed down to the studio.
Excuse me, but was that a mermaid?
One thing I’ve learned to do, I mean it’s definitely a learned skill, is I notice things. So I’m sitting in the lobby, waiting on Ali, and I watch a mermaid come from the door across from me and leave the building. Yes. I missed the shot. And I’m just going to let you think about how that happened. In the next minute a group of dancers bounded out – they were very bouncy – and I said, “Excuse me, but was that a mermaid?” The girls turned to me and said, “Yep!” and then went back to their bouncing. I mean yes. What else could it have been?
I enjoyed meeting Ali. I had been watching her local coverage in Sacramento and I thought she had been doing a good job with the story. We did the interview and then, of course, I turned the tables on her and asked for a photo.
Before I left, Ali confirmed Fox 40 has a morning show and the mermaid – and dancers – had been part of the show. All in a day’s work for Ali, no doubt. I got back to my car where I got a call from the New York Daily News. Nancy Dillion and I have talked a few times – the first time she had to pull away because the Cosby verdict came in while we were talking. And on Monday, she’d been doing double duty because Margot Kidder had passed away. Looking at her bio page, she’s now in trouble with me because her photo isn’t there. And I got a chuckle because the Kidder story is there, along with Cosby and Golden State Killer. This woman is busy!
The reason I mention this interview is Nancy had done a really good job reporting my intentions along with my words. I think we all appreciate being understood and Nancy definitely has understood me and represented me well. After dealing with a horrendous reporter in Ventura 20 years ago, I remain cautious when I do interviews. There’s nothing worse than seeing something in print that isn’t true.
One down, many to go.
My drive home seemed to take forever. I got home and I was beat. But I wanted to record my memories as fast as possible. That was blog one. I intended to post this yesterday, but honestly, the extra day was probably good. This is going to be a long ride. There will be good days and bad days. I suspect we’ll find a way to settle into this new reality. I so appreciate the support of those of you who read this blog and share your thoughts.