Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Behind closed doors: mysterious private conferring at Michael Scott's pretrial hearing today

A few mainstream reporters and I were sitting in the gallery at 1:30 waiting for what was supposed to be Michael Scott's final pretrial hearing. All the lawyers for Scott and Robert Springsteen, plus Scott's wife, Jeannine, entered the courtroom at the same time, as well as two faces who were new to me. One of these two women was Scott's team's legal assistant, whose name I didn't quite catch, and the other woman was Dr. Laura Gahn, who is the Vice President of Forensic Production, DNA Lab Director, and Forensic Technical Leader of the DNA testing company Identigene. Dr. Gahn's also a court-qualified expert witness in DNA testing, according to her CV. Still no sign of Judge Lynch.

Then Springsteen's lawyers, Alexandra Gauthier and Joe James Sawyer; and Scott's lawyers, Carlos Garcia and Dexter Gilford, all went into chambers. A minute later, Gauthier stuck her head out and motioned for Gahn and the legal assistant. None of the rest of us knew what was going on.

Then Sawyer came back out and told Scott's attorney, Tony Diaz, that he was not participating. Sawyer appeared agitated and continued, "It's not going to be in the courtroom. They may proceed as they wish but not with me." He left the courtroom and the reporters followed. I stayed put because the sheriff's deputies, the court reporter, and two court clerks were still in place.

I later heard that Sawyer told the reporters that he left because his client (Springsteen) had instructed him not to participate in proceedings not held in open court. One reporter asked him why Gauthier was still conferring in chambers if it was against their client's wishes. Apparently Sawyer said something along the lines of different people doing things different ways. I'll have to watch the 5 p.m. news to see the whole interview because I was afraid I'd miss something in the courtroom if I followed Sawyer outside.

Finally, at around 2:15, Judge Lynch took the bench and explained that the lawyers had been conferring on pretrial motions that were "relevant, important discovery issues." He said nothing more specific and commended the parties for working together to come up with an order that he and all parties, including the district attorneys, would sign off on.

Lynch said the next pretrial hearing would be April 15th to discuss a narrow list of witness and discovery issues before proceeding to trial. He did not say if he was still counting on a May 19th trial start date.

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