The broadest exposure most of our readers have to the court system is jury service. Our new feature, Court Room Diary, will allow readers to gain insight into the day-to-day working of our court system from the viewpoint of a bystander, rather than as a prospective juror, plaintiff or defendant.
Our first Court Room Diary follows the case of People vs. Brinda Sue McCoy, case number 10CF3399.
This article is the first on case 10CF3399.
The case is currently assigned to Judge F.P. Briseño in Department C45 of the Central Justice Center of the Superior Court of Orange County.
According to the Office of the Orange County District Attorney, “McCoy is accused of firing [a] gun twice at police officers [from the City of Cypress] who were stationed behind two parked vehicles outside the defendant’s home. SWAT stopped McCoy using a bean bag gun.” The case summary lists fourteen separate counts of assault with a semi-automatic rifle, discharge of a firearm and grossly negligent discharge of a firearm.
She is currently out on conditional release with bail set at $250,000.
The defendant is represented by Lew Rosenbloom. Mr. Rosenbloom worked for the Orange County District Attorney for an extended period before launching his own practice in criminal defense. He earned his law degree from Western State University and was admitted to practice law in California in June 1981.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Olivieri of the Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting this case. Ms. Olivieri received her law degree from Western State University in Fullerton and passed the California State Bar Exam in June 1993.
The trial was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 9.
One step backward
The first clue that all might not run smoothly at the opening of the trial appeared as a new entry for 10CF3399 in Cases on Calendar, the online case calendar maintained by Orange County Superior Court.
The new entry showed a motion hearing at 8:30 a.m., ahead of the scheduled opening of the trial at 9 a.m.
A check of the court house lobby display for the day’s scheduled hearings showed the trial still scheduled to start at 9 a.m. in Department C45, presided over by Judge F.P. Briseño — but up on the eleventh floor, the court bailiff knew nothing about the case.
Back on the ground floor, the clerk’s office confirmed that case 10CF3399 was assigned to Department C45 at 9 a.m.
On return to Department C45, an unrelated case with a separate cast of characters played out.
After Judge Briseño handled the unrelated case — including a Marsden hearing requested by one of the two defendants — the motion hearing for 10CF3399 began.
Defense attorney Lew Rosenbloom had filed a last minute Pitchess motion, seeking information in the confidential personnel file of one of the officers involved in the case.
Prosecutor Rebecca Olivieri had filed an earlier Pitchess motion that had been denied.
The City of Cypress was represented by Lindsay M. Tabaian, Assistant City Attorney for the City of Cypress and an associate with Aleshire & Wynder LLP.
Judge Briseño called a break in order to examine the personnel file in his chambers. He was accompanied by Ms. Tabaian and Lt. Rod Cox of the Cypress Police Department.
When the hearing ended, it appeared that the City would comply with an order from Judge Briseño to release information from the confidential personnel file to both the defense attorney and the prosecutor.
Everyone was instructed to return ready for trial to Department C5 on Wednesday, Jan. 11, at 9 a.m.
Three steps backward
On Wednesday morning, the lobby monitors said that the case would resume in C45. Nobody at C5 knew anything about the case.
An entirely different trial started in Judge Briseno’s court room. The bailiff knew nothing, but suggested asking the clerk.
The clerk’s office on the ground floor confirmed assignment to Department C45.
Finally, the eleventh-floor court bailiff said that the clerk had told him that a short hearing on 10CF3399 would be held at 1:30 that afternoon. It was 9:30 a.m.
The intervening time was spent working in the cafeteria area on the third floor, adjacent to the jury waiting room.
When the hearing began, a new player stood behind Ms. Tabaian — Cypress City Attorney William Wynder. Mr. Wynder had filed an objection to the Pitchess motion. The objection threw all the previous agreement into confusion.
The Judge vacated his earlier order. He then ordered the three counsels (prosecution, defense and city) to draft all needed formal documents and be ready to go to trial on Friday at 9 a.m.
One step forward, two steps sideways
On Friday morning, Judge Briseño made it clear that he needed to dispose of the first stage of the Pitchess motion quickly, in order to proceed with a jury trial that had started while all parties to 10CF3399 were bumping into each other.
Accordingly, and over objections from the prosecution and the defense, he signed the order drafted by the Attorney for the City of Cypress. He also stated that he expected to slavishly follow legal requirements for the Pitchess order, after the initial effort to merge steps had blown up. He therefore expected that due diligence in following the steps would push a new trial date out at least a month.
Judge Briseño admonished both Ms. Olivieri and Mr. Rosenbloom for continued attempts to hurry things along by filing motions prematurely.
In light of the judge’s ruling and comments, both the prosecution and the defense requested to retrieve their “premature” motions. Judge Briseño granted the requests.
And the hearing was over.
The case summary shows a trial date of Jan. 18 cancelled. No trial or hearing date for 10CF3399 appears on Cases on Calendar currently.
- Active criminal casebook: Brinda Sue McCoy (oc-breeze.com)