Father CAMERON BROWN is on trial a second time for the murder of his 4-year-old daughter in 2000. (An earlier trial ended in a mistrial.) Prosecutors claim that Daddy threw the child off a 120 foot cliff partly because he didn't want to pay child support.
Despite Daddy's temper and "anger issues"--especially in relation to "girlfriends"--Daddy still got visitation. That the child grew "agitated" before each visit was apparently ignored by the earlier family court authorities. This, unfortunately, is a very typical outcome, especially in the California court system.
Second murder trial begins in 4-year-old's cliff death
By Denise Nix Staff Writer
Posted: 07/10/2009 05:30:17 PM PDT
In a downtown Los Angeles courtroom - roughly 30 miles away from the Rancho Palos Verdes cliff where 4-year-old Lauren Sarene Key died nine years ago - jury selection got under way Friday for her father's second murder trial.
Except for the location, Cameron Brown's second trial is not expected to differ much from his first one at the Torrance courthouse that ended in a mistrial on Aug. 14, 2006.
After hearing two months of testimony, a jury deliberated for seven days before announcing it was deadlocked with two members favoring first-degree murder convictions, eight voting for second-degree murder and two believing Brown committed manslaughter.
Brown, 48, is charged with murder along with the special circumstance of killing for financial gain. He faces the possibility of life in prison without parole.
Like the former South Bay man's first trial, the initial witnesses will include Lauren's mother, who will describe her little girl as cautious and tell the jury how the blonde girl grew agitated
before visits to Brown.
Sarah Key-Marer and Brown met in the fall of 1995 and began to date. They broke up when she was four months pregnant when fights about money strained their relationship.
Key-Marer filed for child support when Lauren was 8 months old, causing years of strife between Key-Marer and Brown as they quarreled over money and custody issues.
Lauren died on Nov. 8, 2000, after plunging 120 feet from Inspiration Point to the rocky shore below.
Homicide detectives and prosecutors contend Brown threw the girl off the cliff to avoid paying $1,000 in child support payments, while Brown maintains his innocence and says she slipped while throwing rocks over the edge during a hike.
Like in the first trial, jurors will hear from those who saw Brown interact with his daughter, as well as coroner officials and experts who attempted to re-create the trajectory of the girl's fall.
Jurors will again take a field trip to the site.
Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum, who handled Brown's first trial, said Friday that the only difference the court location will have is that jurors won't be as familiar with South Bay locations when witnesses mention them.
However, he does expect that the change of venue will help the trial move along faster since Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor presides over lengthy trials only, and court can be in session all day.
One thing that may be different, depending on how Pastor rules on a pending motion, is that the jury may hear from witnesses who will say Brown had temper and anger issues - especially in regard to girlfriends, Hum said.
"There are some witnesses that have come forward since the last trial," Hum said.
For Brown, the biggest change will be that he is no longer represented by high-profile attorney Mark Geragos.
With funds tapped from Brown's family, Geragos bowed out. However, an associate who tried the first case along with him, Pat Harris, was appointed by Torrance Superior Court Judge Mark Arnold to handle the case on the county's dime.
Harris could not be reached for comment.
Like the first trial, Brown's defense will likely center on allegations of police conduct and attacks on the credibility of prosecution expert testimony.
At the same time, Harris will try to portray Brown as a nice guy who loved his daughter.
Brown has remained behind bars since his arrest in November 2003. While in jail, he was charged for having a prohibited "shank," but the case was dropped.
Meanwhile, on the outside, his supporters - including his wife and her brother - have continued their efforts to keep Brown's case in the spotlight.
In long letters to media outlets and others, as well as on the Internet, Brown's brother-in-law details what he perceives to be unfair treatment of Brown by prosecutors and news reporters. At the same time, he focuses on nuances in the evidence that he believes prove Brown's innocence.