Fair and Impartial What?
Cam Brown's second trial ended in a mistrial. When the jury returned from deliberations the jury foreman reported that the verdict was 6 votes for second-degree murder and 6 votes for manslaughter. Since 6 plus 6 equals 12, and only 12 jurors voted, even someone with only a second grade education can see that there were no votes for first-degree murder. However, the Judge neglected to inquire how the jury voted with regard to first-degree murder. As a result, the prosecution hopes to overcome Double Jeopardy and retry Cam on first-degree murder.
Double Jeopardy is defined as (from Britannica Concise Encyclopedia):
"In law, the prosecution of a person for an offense for which he or she already has been prosecuted. In U.S. law, double jeopardy is prohibited by the 5th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which states that no person shall 'be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life and limb.' The clause bars second prosecutions after acquittal or conviction and prohibits multiple convictions for the same offense. Thus a person cannot be guilty of both murder and manslaughter for the same homicide, nor can a person be retried for the same crime after the case has been resolved. A person can, however, be convicted of both murder and robbery if the murder arose from the robbery."This issue is further illuminated in the following:
''The constitutional prohibition against 'double jeopardy' was designed to protect an individual from being subjected to the hazards of trial and possible conviction more than once for an alleged offense . . . The underlying idea, one that is deeply ingrained in at least the Anglo-American system of jurisprudence, is that the State with all its resources and power should not be allowed to make repeated attempts to convict an individual for an alleged offense, thereby subjecting him to embarrassment, expense and ordeal and compelling him to live in a continuing state of anxiety and insecurity, as well as enhancing the possibility that even though innocent he may be found guilty.'' [Green v. United States, 355 U.S. 184, 187 - 88 (1957). This passage is often approvingly quoted by the Court. E.g., Crist v. Bretz, 437 U.S. 28, 35 (1978); United States v. DiFrancesco, 449 U.S. 117, 127 - 28 (1980).]The above quote from Green v. United States describes exactly what is happening to Cam Brown. Prosecutor Craig Hum is using the State's formidable resources and power to zealously make attempt after attempt to wrongfully convict Cam of a crime that never occurred. By doing so he is subjecting Cam to the very sort of injury that the double jeopardy clause is intended to prevent.
Prosecutor Craig Hum's argument, responding to Cam's attorney's position that retrying Cam for first-degree murder is a violation of double jeopardy, is scheduled to be heard on January 28, 2010. Until then we don't know how he will respond. However, there has been talk that Craig Hum and Dectective Jeff Leslie contacted each and every juror, after the Judge released them, and as a result Hum is now claiming that the count reported by the jury foreman was incorrect, and there was a vote for first-degree murder. We will find out when Hum argues his case on January 28 if this is just talk, or not. Until then these are only rumors.
However, let's consider these rumors for a moment – as a hypothetical. If Hum were to proceed along this course he would be essentially asking for a new vote, after Leslie and he tampered with the jury. This notion may sound unthinkable. Yet there are instances within the Los Angeles court system that are equally unthinkable, nevertheless they are fact. One such instance is the case of Richard I. Fine.
Richard Fine was sentenced indefinitely, without bail, without a hearing date and without a release date by L.A. Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffe, after Fine challenged Judge Yaffe. Fine argued that the Judge was required to recuse himself from presiding over a case in which LA County was a defendant since he had been receiving illegal payments from the County Board of Supervisors since 1988. In fact all LA Superior Court judges have been receiving these illegal payments from the County Supervisors.
Los Angeles County Supervisors have been paying LA Superior Court judges redundant benefits, called "local judicial benefits" since November 1988. These benefits are paid in addition to the judges' State compensation of about $179,000 a year in salary, plus about $30,000 a year in State paid benefits. The current amount of County paid benefits is about $57,000 a year (the judges are allowed to take all of the County paid benefits in cash). This makes the total LA judges receive in excess of $260,000 annually (giving them more than any other group of judges in America, including the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court). This "double dipping" by the LA judges costs LA County taxpayers an estimated $20 million per year. (And LA County is continually cash strapped. I wonder why.)
The judges are employees of the State, not the County. And payment by the County is prohibited by the California Constitution, thus making the County paid benefits illegal. Actually, there is currently some controversy as to weather these payments are still illegal. In 2006, Judicial Watch challenged the payments in a case called Sturgeon v. LA County. After the trial court upheld the payments, Judicial Watch appealed and in 2008, the California Court of Appeals ruled that LA County's payments to the LA Superior Court judges were unconstitutional under Article VI, Section 19, of the California Constitution. The California Supreme Court subsequently denied review of the appeals court decision (meaning it did not disagree with the appeals court and would not overturn it). As a result the appeals court decision became law. But instead of abiding by the law, lobbyists were hired who convinced the State Legislature to sneak through a midnight bill, literally, called SBX2-11, which made the payments legal, authorized them to continue, and gave everyone involved retroactive immunity from criminal prosecution. (So a state senate bill can now override the CA Constitution? When did they change that? I missed it.) An additional problem with Senate Bill SBX2-11 is that the CA Constitution prohibits ex post facto (after the fact) laws from being enacted (Article I, Section 9). This means that Senate Bill SBX2-11 is also unconstitutional. Nevertheless, proponents of the judge's County paid benefits claim that these payments are now legal.
Regardless of the current legal status of the payments, questions that arises is why would the County pay for benefits that they aren't obligated to pay, and why make payments that were blatantly illegal for at least some of the time the County made the payments? The Supervisors claim they pay the extra benefits to "attract and retain quality judge". This is a confounding explanation given that there are thousands of qualified attorneys who would happily fill judicial openings at the legal base pay rate; and "retaining" judges with money makes even less sense because judges are elected. Perhaps the answer lies in the judge's decision record: not one LA County case has been lost when it was decided by a judge who collects the additional County benefits – no not one.
An argument against allowing judges to decide cases concerning the County at the same time that they are receiving sizable payments from the County is that the judges who receive the payments may hesitate to rule against the County if they felt the County could cut the payments in retaliation. This very argument was made by the founders of our nation. On July 4, 1776 the Second Continental Congress approved a little document called the Declaration of Independence. Within it the founders enumerated a list of charges against King George III to show that he had violated the colonists’ rights and was therefore unfit to the their ruler. They wrote:
"The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world . . . He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries."This is the very thing that Mr. Fine is fighting against. For his trouble he has been locked in solitary confinement since March 4, 2009, he is not allowed to post bail nor have any kind of hearing. Additionally, Judge Yaffe ordered that Mr. Fine can't have paper and pencil with which to petition a higher court, nor does he have access to a law library or any legal materials. In short, Mr. Fine has been ordered to remain in jail until he relents. Welcome to LA County.
So what does all this have to do with the Cam Brown case? For one thing it shows that when the County's interests are at stake, the rule of law is duplicitous at best, amounting to nothing more than lip service. With regard to Cam Brown's case, a compelling, though circumstantial, argument can be made that the prosecution of Cam Brown isn't really about Lauren's death, but about hidden County interests that Lauren's death threatens (more precisely, about hidden County interests that an accidental death would threaten). We are not going to go into those specifics here (this is not the appropriate place for that) but we will say that we are not talking about potential liability, insurance claims, umbrella policies, nor anything remotely connected to such matters.
It may be a difficult to accept the notion that the prosecution of Cam Brown is driven by hidden County interests. Yet, it explains the multiple incongruent aspects of the case that are otherwise perplexing. The sheer volume of this kind of thing is considerable. As a result it is beyond the scope of a single blog entry to explore.
If we were to examine the prosecution's case, in spite of that, we'd find these claims have merit. If we started our examination at the very beginning and looked at how a homicide investigation was first initiated, and then looked at the investigator's behavior once they arrived at the scene – if we considered only these first few hours after Lauren's death, we'd find a pattern is already emerging. The pattern would show that the investigators were manipulating circumstances and events to make Lauren's death appear like a case of murder. If we continued our examination we'd find that this pattern persisted to the interrogation of Cam that night, the investigator's actions in the days, weeks and months that followed, and throughout each phase of this case until we reach this day, with the issue of double jeopardy in question. In the process we'd find multiple "irregularities" with each aspect of the prosecution's case. Such "irregularities" would include but not limited to, the machinations the coroner's department went through to reach the final version of the autopsy report, nearly two years of expert-shopping until a biomechanical expert willing to say what the prosecution wanted to hear was found, the biomechanical expert's methods and practices, and his final product and conclusions, the forensic accountant's process (not to mention her testimony at the second trial, which is much more than "irregular" and completely jaw-dropping) and much, much more.
We would also find that the investigators pursued Cam with a near maniacal zeal. This zeal is now being mimicked by the prosecutor, who is willing to take on double jeopardy, as he maliciously makes attempt after attempt to convict Cam of a crime that never happened. Despite all this, however, the worst thing we would find is that Lauren's mother, Sarah Key-Marer is being used and manipulated by County agents to protect the County's interests. Yes, that right, the grief of a mother's loss is being exploited to make this case. But, alas, the overwhelming amount of this kind of material makes covering it here more than daunting.
Written by Case Insider's Assistant
P.S. Even though we are engrossed in our own misfortune impinged by injustice, we are not blind to other's catastrophes. With that we want to say that our hearts and prayers go out to the people of Haiti. In this most dark and dire time, we wish for you God's light, His strength and a conclusion wrought in His most profound blessing.