CALIFORNIA — The judge in the Reginald Denny beating trial in Los Angeles agreed in mid- October to unseal transcripts of hearings involving the dismissal of jurors. The Los Angeles Times and Newsday filed a letter with Superior Court Judge John Ouderkirk on October 13 requesting that he open and unseal proceedings concerning the dismissal of two jurors during the second week of deliberations.
Carlene Goller, counsel for the Times Mirror Co., said there have been five instances of closed proceedings in the trial. “The transcripts are sealed if they even exist. Jurors have been excused and we don’t get to hear the conversations surrounding it”, she said.
After the first juror was removed on October 11, Goller made an oral motion for access and a “pre-emptive strike,” requesting that future proceedings be held in the open and that the judge follow proper procedure when closing a hearing. The judge denied the motion.
The New York Times reported that Judge Ouderkirk removed the first juror on Oct. 11 after complaints from other jurors that she “cannot comprehend anything that we have been trying to accomplish.” He interviewed the woman in a closed hearing, sealed the transcripts until the trial is over and gagged the juror from talking with the press.
The next day, after another closed hearing, a second juror was dismissed for personal reasons.
On Oct. 13, the attorney for defendant Damian Monroe Williams argued to have a third juror removed from the case. Edi M.O. Faal was quoted in the New York Times as saying the juror, a white woman, was “helping the prosecution.” Both the defense and prosecution asked the judge to seal the motion. It is believed that the defense’s motion to remove the juror is based on conversations that occurred during the closed sessions.
Judge Ouderkirk agreed to release the transcripts of the hearing regarding the dismissal of the first juror as soon as they can be typed up by the court reporter. He will decide in a few days if and when he will release transcripts of other closed hearings.
(People v. Williams and Watson; Media Counsel: Rex Heinke and Carlene Goller, Los Angeles)