Friday, August 04, 2006

Light A Candle for Lauren

I attended closing arguments yesterday and have posted my personal comments on the Cameron Brown Trial blog but I want to include them here for people who have found my blog searching for updates on the case.


Craig Hum is the epitome of the tall, dark and handsome DA. The only thing missing was a white hat. Pacing the floor, never sitting down, it was obvious he took his job very seriously. He approached the podium near the jury with a quiet but passionate determination to tell the story of how and why Lauren Key Marer was killed by her biological father, Cameron John Brown.

Next to him at the prosecutor’s table was Detective Jeff Leslie, the homicide detective characterized by the defense as the demon of the Brown trial just as Brochinni was in the Scott Peterson trial. It comes with the job, and Leslie has the broad shoulders to handle it. He has an actor’s good looks and rarely smiles; but when he does, his eyes twinkle. He’s an imposing figure. Hum and Leslie proved a formidable team for Lauren.

While Team Geragos had laptops, Team Hum carried its case files on a cart with Leslie providing the muscle. There were dozens of binders stacked on the prosecution’s table: evidence of the nearly six years it took to get this case to its final showdown. Jeff Leslie could have taken the easy way out and accepted Brown’s word that Lauren’s death was an accident. He could have ignored all the red flags and warning bells going off in his head. But to do that would be to ignore Lauren’s final moments. She was a precious angel, gone just weeks after her fourth birthday. Gone were her beautiful eyes and her infectious smile. Leslie knew it was no accident, and so did Craig Hum. And now, he hoped to summarize the proof to the jury that would decide Cameron Brown’s fate beginning today.

My daughter Heather and I arrived late Wednesday night and stayed at a hotel near the Torrance courthouse. By the time Luke and I scouted out the ice and snack machines and Heather got the kids settled in, it was midnight before I got into bed. I called for a 6am wakeup call and a taxi for 7am. I was afraid I wouldn’t get a seat since all of the Los Angeles television stations covered the jury’s trip to Inspiration Point in their evening news. Cameron Brown was shown standing between two armed deputies with his hands and ankles chained. Geragos and Hum were both interviewed. The press that Ted said would be ‘all over this case’ finally showed up.

My cabbie questioned why I wanted to get to the courthouse so early the next morning. The parking lot was completely empty and the building was locked. I told him I was there for closing statements for a trial I had been following and wanted to make sure I got a seat in the courtroom because of the media attention last night.

I waited outside for the building to open at 7:30am and the guard inside waved at me, pointing at his watch. I nodded back to him that I knew I had a 15-minute wait and a within a few minutes, people starting arriving. At 7:25am, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s prisoner’s bus pulled into the drive, going around the back of the courthouse. Cameron John Brown had arrived. I felt a chill go through me. Later in the day, a friend of Sarah’s asked me what drew me to this case. She probably thought I was crazy. I can’t point to one single reason because there are many. I am a mother with two beautiful daughters and a grandmother with four beautiful grandchildren. My first granddaughter was born just two months before Lauren’s death in 2000. When I hold my grandchildren, I find it impossible to believe there is such evil that could hurt a child. But I know it exists. It came that morning in a bus. It was there, going in the building, and soon I would be in the same room with it.

The guard unlocked the glass doors and I was the first visitor in the building. After going through the metal detector, I asked where I could find Department G. It was on the fourth floor. I took the elevator up and found myself alone in a large glassed in corridor with several courtrooms overlooking the parking lot. People trickled in but they all sat in front of other courtrooms. I checked out the docket for Judge Arnold’s courtroom and saw that the Cameron Brown case was #11 for that morning. One case was crossed out, so there were 10 other cases being heard before the closing arguments were to begin. These turned out to be probation violation hearings and they only lasted a few minutes each. Still, I had time, so I asked a woman who worked on that floor where I might find a cup of coffee. She said she was headed to the cafeteria and would show me the way.

I got a cup of coffee and checked in with Loretta to let her know I was in the courthouse and looked like I would get a seat. I headed back up to the fourth floor to see if the courtroom doors were unlocked. They were supposed to be open at 8:30am. You enter double wooden doors to get in the courtroom and they lead to a small hallway about four feet by eight feet with a door on each side. It’s like a mini entry and probably helps with the outside sound as well. I chose the door on the left and it just so happens that is the prosecution’s side of the courtroom. I had no idea but I took that as a sign of good luck.

Just inside the door were three younger women speaking quietly and I took a seat one seat over towards the door. They had British accents and I immediately wondered if one of them was Sarah. I had never seen her but knew she was very attractive and all of these women were attractive young ladies, about the age of my youngest daughter. Shortly after I sat down, one of them approached me and asked what trial I was there to see. I told her the Cameron Brown trial. We were following it on the internet and this was my last chance to see it and that’s why I came. She asked me what my name was on the internet and I told her Country Girl. Her face lit up and she said, “You’re Country Girl?” She told me the women in their group would speculate when they saw visitors at the trial if one of them could be CG or Loretta, and she immediately asked me if Loretta was coming. I told her Loretta couldn’t come but that I had just been with Loretta last weekend. They adore Loretta!

She introduced me to the others, but I won’t use any names here to in order to protect their privacy. I invited them to post after the trial is over if and when they feel comfortable doing so and they don’t have to use their real names. They are a big support to Sarah. They have put their lives on hold to support her through this difficult trial; true friends in every sense of the word. I am proud to have met them. Few people have such good friends. They were there early to save seats for Sarah and her family and friends.

Craig Hum’s girlfriend, “Y” came over and introduced herself. She is a gorgeous blonde. I was surrounded by gorgeous women! I told her I wanted to meet Jeff Leslie, my hero. I wanted to personally thank him. “Y” told Sarah’s friends that she would check with the judge and give up her seat and stand if they needed more seats, and of course I offered to do the same. I would sit in the corner if need be before I would take the seat of Sarah’s family. It turned out neither of us had to, there were enough seats.

About then, one of Sarah’s friends said Sarah was coming in and I looked up to see a striking blonde wearing a green jacket and I was face to face with Lauren’s mother. They told her who I was and I reached to shake her hand and instead she gave me a warm hug. I fought back tears. It was a very emotional moment for me. Sarah would later tell her family and friends about our blog and that we wrote ‘their side’ on the internet. I could feel her inner strength, whatever kept her going for Lauren; her faith was immense. She was about to sit through the final battle for Lauren’s justice after a long and difficult wait.

Sarah’s mother came in and sat beside me. We felt an immediate bond. We hugged and both wiped away our tears. She lost her adorable granddaughter, Lauren.

I couldn’t see the defense side of the courtroom from my seat so I stood up and glanced around the corner to see Cameron Brown at the defense table. I could only see his back as he sat there in a suit. Patty Brown was nowhere in sight. I didn’t see Ted at that time either. Later, during a break, I saw Brown’s parents. Apparently, Judge Arnold relented and allowed Bob Brown in for closing arguments. There were no disruptions yesterday other than a few groans when Geragos gave his rambling monologue when he talked about why Cameron didn’t call Sarah after Lauren’s death - according to him, Brown was, after all, married to Patty.

The jury came in at 10:45am and Hum took the podium for over two hours. As Nick Green of the Daily Breeze said, it was riveting. I fought back tears. A bailiff brought a box of tissues to Sarah. Greg, Sarah’s husband, comforted her with his arm around her shoulder, soothing her, holding her.

When Hum finished his closing arguments, Judge Arnold broke the courtroom for a short lunch break. The jury filed out past me and then the rest of us left. It was then I saw Brown’s parents standing by the elevator. They didn’t look happy. I took off alone, since I wanted to give Sarah and her family and friends privacy. It was enough that I was allowed to sit with them.

As I was leaving, I got to meet and shake hands with Jeff Leslie. As we shook hands, he flashed me a knowing smile. This case had gotten to both our hearts and he knew it. I took the next elevator down to the cafeteria and saw Sarah and her mum again. The lines were long and a bailiff asked Sarah if she could get her food expedited for her but Sarah said they weren’t ordering from the grill. I grabbed a muffin and headed out to the patio and called Loretta.

When the break was over and we returned to the fourth floor the doors to the courtroom were locked. As the jurors returned the bailiff opened the door for them and locked it again. Ted was stationed to the right of the door and he would do the pounding. He looked right at me several times and I looked right back. He had no idea who I was.

The bailiff came out and asked for the family to come in. I stayed outside. I stood near Shannon Ferran from KFI and Lisa from the Los Angeles Times. Lisa and I talked earlier. She introduced herself and we discussed the fact that the LA Times hadn’t covered the trial before, but she will be writing an overview of the case.

Shannon sat beside Sarah all morning. She’s cute as can be: very young and blonde and you would know that voice anywhere. I told her I was the one that sent John & Ken the grand jury transcripts. She had to leave early that afternoon to file her report with KFI.

After a few minutes, one of Sarah’s friends came out the double doors and straight toward me as I was standing with Shannon and Lisa. She said, “You’re coming with me!” The bailiff stopped us as we were going through the double doors and said, “Is this family?” and Sarah’s friend said, “Yes, this is family.” I went inside and they had saved my seat for me. They wanted me sitting with them. It moved me to tears. I truly felt like I was there to represent their internet family: people they might never meet but who were supporting them; people from different states and countries sending their love, prayers and strength. We were all there right with them in that courtroom. That’s why I was there.

Then Mark Geragos gave his closing argument. He waved pictures of Lauren and Brown in front of the jury as if those staged birthday party photos demonstrated his fatherly devotion for what entailed 14 days of Lauren’s life. It made me ill. I can’t imagine what Sarah was feeling listening to this garbage!

When Geragos finished, Craig Hum gave his rebuttal and it was over. Again, the jury filed out and then we left the courtroom. When I left, Lisa from the Los Angeles Times was talking to Sarah. I took the elevator down and saw Heather waving to me from a parking space right in front of the building. She had taken the grandchildren to the Aquarium for the day and they were both sleeping in the car. She took a picture of me standing in front of the building with the sign up behind me. Then Ted exited the building. She knew who he was from his picture, and she had been concerned about him because of his comments to me online. I told her I wasn’t afraid of him, but she is protective of her mother. She snapped a picture of him and a couple of Geragos when he came out. His team happened to be parked right next to her and they were loading their equipment in their SUV and looking at us. We had both agreed that no pictures were to be taken of Sarah or her family.

I got into the car and we were getting ready to leave when someone from Sarah’s group came over and said, “We are going to take a picture on the courthouse steps and we want Country Girl in the picture.” Heather asked if she could take a group shot as well and they said yes. So we all got up there in a group and took pictures and then said our goodbyes. We hugged. The last thing Sarah said to me was, “Please tell Loretta hello for me.” I did.

Please join us in lighting a candle tonight for Sarah and Lauren.



Anonymous Sandi said...

Your account of the closing arguments of the trial in the death of such a sweet child, moved me. You have so much feeling and you express it vividly. I can only pray that justice will be done for Lauren and her mother and family. I look at her photo and cannot see how anyone could take this precious life.

8/4/06, 9:27 PM  
Anonymous Mgt said...

Looking at that picture, my heart breaks! She is a beautiful child, whose spirit will sore, once this Jury sets her free.

You have done this family proud, CG!

8/7/06, 4:22 AM  
Anonymous Kenzi said...

My friend sent me your blog. It was very moving. I think about Lauren everyday. I have three kids myself.

Justice for Lauren from Houston, Texas!!!

8/8/06, 8:18 AM  
Blogger CountryGirl said...

Light your candles! We still don't have a verdict, but the jury requested a tape recorder today so they could play the 911 tape. That tape is damning evidence! I have exerpts here and on the CB Trial blog.

8/8/06, 4:31 PM  
Anonymous Mgt said...

Not long now, Sarah! These men and women will do the right thing.

They have been thorough and will be absolutely convinced when they make their dicision.

Lauren, rest in peace, sweet Angel!

8/9/06, 2:28 AM  

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