JUDICIAL PROCESS STATUS REPORT ARCHIVE
Saturday, July 13, 2002
We wanted to let you know that we will leave on Friday, July 19th, for the sentencing of the male defendant. The sentencing is currently scheduled on Monday, July 22nd, at 8:30 AM in the same courtroom, Department 134, at the Criminal Courts Building, located at the 15th floor of 210 W. Temple. As before, we will give our impact statements and then the judge will deliver the sentence. We know that he will receive the life sentence without the possibility of parole for Wendy's murder. To be determined is the number of years for the armed robberies and attempted armed robberies and whether or not it is a concurrent or consecutive sentence. The female received consecutive sentences that appeared to be an attempt by the judge to send a message regarding how heinous he found the crimes.
As before, we welcome anyone who wishes and is able to be in the courtroom with us at the sentencing.
Each courtroom appearance takes a toll on all of us. There is no question that your support has been paramount to us. For those who were able to make it to the courtroom, please know that both jury members have told us how important and meaningful your presence was. We were told by various jurors that family and friends present in the courtroom made them think of how important Wendy is to family and friends and gave her "life" to them - not just a name. Remember, the defense is always trying to focus on the defendant who is alive and have the jury relate to her/him. We have been trying to regroup and prepare for this final (hopefully) courtroom appearance.
Again, we will post a message on the website under trial status after the sentencing. We will return to Dallas on July 23rd.
Friday, June 21, 2002:
We had been preparing for a long afternoon of waiting and mentally preparing ourselves for the weekend without a verdict when the phone call came from the DA. We received the call at noon LA time that a verdict had been reached and we were to be in court by 1:30 PM for the reading of the verdict. What ensues is a series of quick phone calls to those who wanted to be notified when this occurred so that, if possible, they could be present in court -- all the time dressing appropriately and driving to the courthouse. As the DA said when we got there, this means the case is settled one way or the other -- no hung jury that was certainly our biggest fear. Even the thought of going through this again was overwhelming.
As we come toward the court, the jury is out in the hallway and, as usual we try and not make eye contact at all as we do not want anything to appear to be inappropriate. Finally, the courtroom is unlocked and we enter. Our nerves are raw, our stomachs churning and our hearts in our mouths. The substitute PD and judge appear kindly; we are admonished not to show any emotion (how inane and impossible that direction is); the judge directs the court back on the record; and the jury is called in. This time, the defendant, his PD and the DA are asked to rise during the reading of the verdict. From there, the procedures go as they do in a Perry Mason rerun! Finally, the clerk reads the verdicts. The first is the first degree felony murder charge with special circumstances and we hear "guilty" -- and so it goes for the remainder of the 3 armed robbery charges and 4 attempted armed robbery charges. The tension has been a crescendo from the phone call to this moment, the tears flow, no sounds are heard from us that I am aware of -- but it is not a feeling of celebration. It is in that moment a feeling of relief that this defendant can hurt us nor anyone else anymore, that we have no more trials to attend for this horrific act (sentencing will be in approximately a month), and an overwhelming feeling of what I would describe as "numbness".
The convicted murderer showed no emotion and certainly no remorse. The substitute judge thanked the jury for their service in a very touching statement. He passed along a statement of sincere thanks to the jury that the presiding judge had left should the verdict be brought in during his absence today which was very meaningful. Then the jury was advised that they could remain outside the courtroom and wait for the lawyers if the desired to do so. They were excused, the male was remanded to jail without bail as before until sentencing (automatic life without parole for the murder charge and whatever else the judge decides to tack on for the robbery charges), and the trial was adjourned.
We visited a few moments with the DA and then went out into the hall. We were stunned when the entire jury was there. Also present were the translators who had been present during the trial along with various law clerks, etc. The jury simply surrounded us and began hugging the 3 of us. Some just didn't even want to let go of us. Tears were flowing from almost all of the jurors. We cannot express to you how touching, heartwarming and helpful their emotions are to us! As bystanders and led by lawyers, they are taken down the path and through the details of the events of that evening. They tell us with compassion how sorry they are and ask us questions about Wendy. She has become not a statistic to them -- but a young collegiate woman who is very real to them. Some tell us they will be touched forever by this ordeal, some tell us we are strong, some ask if they can stay in touch with us, all want to know how we are getting through this, they ask Karen about Wendy -- the questions swirl in our minds. They ask many questions of the DA about the case and the previous case. He, again, is outstanding and compassionate. Our victim's assistant is there with us (she even came to be with us during her birthday). Gene and I were talking tonight and we both say that it is almost a surreal time as we were both so concerned about a hung jury.
An old grammar school friend of mine from my LA days (the then young DA who put Charles Manson away and made his career) came to greet me. I had not seen him since 5th grade and I had sought him out when we started down this legal maze many months ago to assure myself that the people assigned to the case knew what they were doing.
That's about it for tonight. We hope and pray none of you are ever in a jury situation as these fine people were. However, if you are, remember what it means to the victims if you have an opportunity to pass along anything positive to those individuals. The system has worked twice for us now, we certainly never took anything for granted and were united and proactive in Wendy's memory, but in my opinion, a jury trial and a positive verdict in a murder trial is only a process, not justice.
Wednesday, June 19, 2002:
This is very brief tonight. The testimony was very difficult this morning as the detective detailed Wendy's crime scene, etc. The DA closed the state's case by about 11 am and then the PD put her case on. She had one other officer take the stand and then the PI that works for the PD's office. The main thrust of her case is trying to put a question in the jurors mind that it might have been another man in the car that night with the female. That appears to be it. She rested her side at noon -- a far cry from what we went through last time! They adjourned for lunch and were to come back at 2 for jury instructions. Closing arguments were scheduled for tomorrow morning and then the jury gets the case. We decided not to sit through the lawyers deciding with the judge on the jury instructions as we would have had to wait around until 2 and we had all had about as much as we could handle for the day. The jury is not present during that process and they had been excused for the day. However, tonight we got a message from the DA that he wanted us in court at 10 tomorrow morning as they did not do the instructions today.
The PD and the judge are not in court on Friday and we do not know whether they will let the jury deliberate on Friday and deliver a verdict -- should they reach one. So, we will be at court all tomorrow just in case the jury reaches a quick decision in the afternoon.
Tuesday, June 18, 2002
This morning's testimony started with the young man who was robbed by the woman just after the incident with Wendy. He was on the stand for almost an hour recounting his experience of his car being hemmed in the driveway of his apartment building and being robbed at gunpoint by the woman. Next came the young man, who, with his girlfriend, was accosted in a strip mall parking lot. Then the arresting officers gave their testimonies. Using the publicly available testimony today, we have constructed a graphic below to give some idea how these people were apprehended.
At Time Point 1, the two officers (whose patrol car is indicated in red) were on Santa Monica, just about to turn right onto Lafayette Park Place. At Time Point 1 the woman had just entered the yellow-tan-gold looking older Cadillac Seville (shown in yellow on the map) after robbing the young man of his wallet and money clip along side his car in the driveway to his parking garage (shown in blue on the map). The young man testified that after he was robbed at gunpoint by the woman he was told to face away from her as she returned to her car. He turned back as she was at the car and saw her restraining Cabrera from approaching him from about twenty feet away. Pena got Cabrera to get back in the car and start South on Lafayette Park Place. They had been on the wrong side of the street to block the car of the young man in the driveway. As the patrol car turned onto Lafayette Park Place, the female officer saw the tail lights of a car on the wrong side of the street and followed it to Point 2, where Cabrera and Pena pulled up along side another car in which there was a young couple (indicated in green).
The young couple made an illegal left turn from the right hand lane onto Beverly and then immediately went into the strip shopping center parking lot and pulled parallel to the laundry mat there, just inside of the perpendicular parking spaces. The assailants turned left on Beverly, continued to Occidental, made a right turn and then an immediate right into the other entrance of the parking lot, ending up immediately facing the young couple's car at Time Point 3. At the same time the patrol car moved into position 3 on the red line just outside the parking lot for about 5 seconds, and as (or immediately after) the Cadillac pulled up to face the couple's car, the patrol car made a u-turn on Beverly and observed the activities from across the street in position 4.
The woman got out of the Cadillac and approached the couple. The victim driver backed his car into one of the parking spaces and then exited the parking lot through the Beverly entrance, turning on Beverly and parking somewhere in the vicinity of the patrol car to tell the police something strange was going on. As the couple were leaving the parking lot, Pena appeared to chase their car on foot to the parking lot entrance and the female officer saw her with a gun. About the same time the male office saw Cabrera get out of the Cadillac with a gun in his hand and run part of the way towards Pena. Cabrera then ran back to his car and drove towards the Beverly exit to pick up Pena. As he was driving towards Pena, the officers ran their siren and lights, made a u-turn on Beverly, did a quick right on Occidental and entered the parking lot from the Occidental entrance just as Cabrera was exiting the Beverly entrance with Pena and turning right on Beverly. Somewhere in the next block (at Time Point 5) the Cadillac pulled over and the officers detained the assailants. By that time back-up patrol cars had arrived and other officers took them into custody.
It's now 9:15 Dallas time and this needs to get posted. There may be more later. Right now the schedule is to hear testimony from the Detective and defense witnesses tomorrow. On Thursday there should be closing arguments, instructions to the jury and the case submitted for deliberation on Friday.
Monday, June 17, 2002:
The testimony began today. The opening statements were made and the first robbery victim testified along with Wendy's friend who was in the car with Wendy. This was an extremely difficult and emotional day! However, this trial appears to be moving forward more smoothly than the last trial. For that, we are grateful.
We have had a couple of calls this evening as an article came out this morning in the Dallas Morning News about the trial. If you wish, you can go to the newspapers website and access the front page of the Metropolitan Section. We did agree to the interview and the article but we did not know when it would be published. We do not know if the pictures show up when you access it online.
Anyone wanting more detailed information should email us to get on the email list for the Wendy Insider Report.
Sunday, June 16, 2002.
Tonight's message is brought to you by Beth.
Jury selection was concluded on Friday. Tomorrow morning, June 17th, 20002, in Judge Mooney's courtroom, Department 134 (where we were for the first trial) testimony will begin at 10:30 am. The lawyers hope to send the case to deliberation on Thursday afternoon. Apparently the PD cannot be in the courtroom on Friday. Thus, if it does not go to the jury on Thursday, there is absolutely no chance for a verdict by Friday. We are, of course, hoping they are able to follow this timetable but expecting the unexpected. We are trying to prepare ourselves that it will be finished when it is finished and not to hold out false hopes. We (Karen, Beth and Gene) were all quite tense last week as we approach trial again. We have tried to relax this weekend, catch up on some much needed sleep and just be together. We are celebrating Father's Day tonight with Gene by having dinner at the apartment and going to a movie and a couple of Karen and Wendy's friends who do not have father's living in the LA area are joining us. So many of their friends are very special to both of us. Lots of thoughts going through our minds -- but united in one purpose --to get this legal phase over with!
Tuesday,June 11, 2002
The trial for the male defendant is set to begin on Thursday, June 13th. We are flying to LA on the evening of the 13th. We will not know the exact location of the courtroom until Thursday afternoon. We do not plan to attend jury selection. However, if testimony is set to begin on the Friday, June 14th, we will be in the courtroom. We will post the information here on Thursday evening. The charges against the male defendant are the same as the female’s and the penalty sought by the DA is also the same.
As before, the one thing we can do when the trial does commence is to have as many of Wendy's family and friends present in the gallery of the courtroom during the trial to show how loved Wendy is and how her presence is missed. If any who read this find themselves available in the LA area on any of the days that the trial will be on, please do not hesitate to contact us if you can come to the courtroom. We certainly understand that this is a difficult place to be and understand anyone not being able to attend. If anyone wants more details than can be posted here, please do not hesitate to contact any of us.
Tuesday, April 30, 2002
THE FOLLOWING ARE SOME OF THE ELEMENTS OF THE DAY. DETAILS WILL BE FLUSHED OUT LATER IN THIS PAGE AND ON THE WENDY INSIDER REPORTS.
Demetrio Cabrera was in court for the entire hearing. His trial is scheduled to begin June 7, 2002.
Following the victim impact statements set out below, Araceli Pena was sentenced to consecutive sentences on all the counts amounting to 62 years to life plus life without the possibility of parole.
Gene gave the first statement, consisting the reading of emails from Wendy to him during the week before she died and Wnedy's goodby letter to her friends. He finished with a few words to Pena and then by thanking the detectives, assistant district attorneys and arresting officers. He had nothing to say about the defense attorney.
A COPY OF KAREN'S STATEMENT FOLLOWS:
The last time I saw my sister was at about seven in the evening the night before she was murdered. She was curled up with my dog on the couch in my apartment watching TV. The last time I spoke to my sister was at about nine-thirty or ten at night before I went to bed. I went to sleep that night with a sister who was also my best friend. When I woke up in the morning, she was gone.
For two weeks, I sat here every day and had the distinct pleasure of listening to Ms. Brown defend you, Araceli. And during that time, I had the chance to learn more than I ever cared to know about you. About your family history, your psychological makeup, and why this was somehow, unbelievably, not your fault, but a horribly tragic moment, in a life of a girl so traumatized that she couldn't help but rob and kill. Anyone would be driven to that course of action under such dire circumstances. And therefore, it could hardly be your fault, right? For two weeks, I listened to this artfully woven piece of fiction. And today I am here to tell you a little bit of the truth. The truth about my sister and who she was. So that when you walk away from here, or you are taken away, you will know more than you ever cared to know about my sister Wendy. And I hope it makes it a little harder for you to sleep at night.
Wendy was an artist - a painter, a writer, a sculptor, a singer, an actress, a musician, a photographer. Her work has been in shows, galleries, papers, on walls in people's homes. She was a comic - always striving to win a smile from those around her. She was a friend and a giver - never hesitating to help a friend or stranger or lost dog for that matter, who was in need. She cared about people in a selfless way that few possess. At Occidental College, where Wendy was a college senior when she was killed, they awarded her diploma posthumously. She was the first student in the history of the school to have this honor and the entire graduating class gave a standing ovation when I accepted her diploma. There were over eight hundred people at Wendy's funeral. A local band that she was a fan of wrote and recorded a song about her. On her birthday, the first year after she died, I got a tattoo with her initial in it. And so did three other friends. And each year on her birthday, family and friends all over the world release balloons in her memory.
Wendy did not go quietly into the night. We did not let her. And more importantly, she did not let herself. Her choices and actions and contributions will leave her alive and present for the people who love and miss her. And I bet she will be famous someday.
I have to say that I find it appalling that my world is home to people like you Araceli. You who think that five, ten, or twenty dollars is something worth killing for. When I walk out of here today, I will probably never forget your name, but the rest of the world will. You will never have true family, you will never have the chance to love. You will cease to exist in this society of choices and opportunities and freedom. And for that I am glad.
And though I cannot speak for anyone else, I can say this for myself - you took away one of the most precious things in my life, but you did not beat me, you did not break me down. For all the hatred, and pain, and needless suffering that this trial entailed, I am the stronger. You did not steal my ability to love and care and believe. You did not rob me of my hope nor my faith in the good parts of this life. You made my family smaller, and my life is forever changed. But you did not destroy me, you only destroyed yourself.
I would like to say thank you to those shining people who have truly shown me the caring and compassion that exists in the legal system. Thank you Dave, thank you Detective Pelletier. I'm glad you were on my team. And finally, I would like to say that as someone with a master's degree in business who has been subjected to numerous courses on ethics, I think that one of the things I found most appalling about this experience was that, Ms. Brown, as a member of the legal profession you would stoop to such true ethical lows to defend your client. I certainly can't imagine how you sleep at night.
HERE FOLLOWS THE IMPACT STATEMENT FROM BETH:
Never to be hugged by Wendy again (everyone will tell you that she gave the best hugs), never to hear her say, "I love you Mommie" or "You are the best mommie in the whole wide world or I love my Daddy", never to rescue a stray dog again or feed a homeless person, never to hear her say, "I love my sissie", never to hear her call up with one more possible career choice for herself (she had the abilities to pursue almost all of them), never to hear her talk about her friends, their crisis and the thoughts she had for them, no more art (although she has left much for us), no more writings, no more cars decorated up with marshmallows simply to put a smile on a friend's face when they were sad, no more duets of our singing while she played the piano. The devastating and overwhelming sadness and loss at not having her around, as we grow older. We had a running joke that she would find the "best old age home she could" -- as long as she could have the house! I use to tell her we would take excellent care of ourselves so that we could live with her!
None of that happens now. Wendy will never go help friends as she did that night when she was murdered. Now, I walk to her grave, clean her headstone, tend the gardens, decorate there for the different holidays, always keep a silly toy there that anyone who visits can push and it plays and dances, enjoy the other "gifts" left there by friends, listen to the wind chimes that sing to her and know that someday I will rest beside her. I talk to her, I cry, I smile about a memory. I read to her from a rain soaked book her sister left about "sisters". We drive by on our way home some evenings just to say "good night" to Wendy, or "good morning" on the way to work. Gene and I stop by when we take a long walk. We unlock the gate, walk in, I try not to cry, he holds my hand, I cry, I touch the grave with a kiss and we walk out hand in hand. We celebrate her birthday with a walk to her grave and a balloon launch as people who knew and loved Wendy release them all over the US and Europe in her memory. The thought of the terror she experienced that night will haunt me forever! As hard as I try, I cannot put the words on paper and know I cannot speak them in court as to what it was like when the doorbell rang and the police officers were standing at our door to bring the news. That is the one place I cannot explain to you, as it is far too painful. Also, the same is true of us calling our other daughter with what happened. The pain is deep, the heart is wounded and jagged, the spirit shaken, joy elusive, laughter difficult, loss immense.
Wendy was not there for her college graduation. There are no pictures of her graduation to put on the shelf. Gene will never walk her down the isle, there is no husband, no grandchildren, no future, no more recipes created by Wendy, no more original art projects, no more of Wendy's wonderful laughter, no more amusing phone messages, no more deep and intelligent discussions, no more Christmas mornings with Wendy, no more birthday breakfasts -- a single bullet took that away from Karen, Gene and myself and all who knew and loved Wendy. Not a day goes by that I don't feel the loss. Don't tell me she is in a better place because she is suppose to be here! Don't speak to me of closure, as there is no such thing.
I have written and rewritten this "victim's Impact Statement" over and over and over again and in every space of my life! It is the hardest thing I should NEVER have to write. The pain I felt over the struggle to have a picture shown in court of Wendy "alive and smiling". The absolute agony of seeing the defendant each and every day for almost 3 weeks, occasionally sleeping during court showing complete disrespect and lack of concern and no remorse for her actions. I do not understand why someone who kicked a girl in the head approximately 12 times when she was 16, belongs to a gang and was in a car with robbery suspects just 3 months prior to her murdering our daughter and robbing all the others was allowed to be on the streets until she murdered someone?
Wendy once toured a prison as part of a criminal law course she took. She called me that evening (very upset) to tell me that it was far worse than she ever imagined! Much did not easily shock Wendy but she was by the prison visit. That is where you will now spend your life! We personally know individuals who had far more difficult upbringings than you had -- and they never murdered anyone! You had choices all along the way and you chose to hold loaded guns to the heads of victims. You terrorized them. Then you chose to pull the trigger and execute Wendy. You have shown no remorse for our loss or what you did that night. Your tears as the second guilty verdict was read were clearly for yourself! The relief that I have here today is that I never have to see you again either in your lifetime or my lifetime. You cannot take anymore from us than you already have nor can you hurt any other innocent people. You cannot ever take Wendy's memory from us! You alone carry the full responsibility for ruining your own life! You are a murderer and a coward. First you used a gun to feel important and then you hid behind lies. You lost the right to ever experience freedom again! You bear the full responsibility for spending the remainder of the breath in your body behind prison walls.
The outpouring of stories, memories and statements about what Wendy meant to her various friends and those she touched are impossible to relate here. However, as her lifelong best friend, Elizabeth, said in her speech at Wendy's memorial service attended by approximately 850 people, "Wendy was the most amazing person I will ever know. There isn't a day that goes by where I'm not in awe of her talent, her personality and our amazing friendship. She was so generous, so special -- so wonderfully Wendy. I couldn't be more proud or more honored to have been her friend for the last 20 years".
We have all lost so much. Wendy had a special light that when you were around her, she encircled you with warmth and love. She was not perfect, she had overcome health problems, she was generous to a fault with everything she had, she was a soulmate and best friend to her sister and we as their parents were blessed with two daughters we dearly loved and were always proud of. Wendy loved to bring people together in life and she continues to do that even now. Her spirit is strong and will give us strength. She will be forever on our minds and in our hearts. We will find a way through this to go on perhaps because of Wendy. My Wendy, my petunia, I love you.
Thursday, April 25, 2002
TIME CHANGE FOR THE HEARING. The judge has set the time for 10 AM instead of 11 or later. The date is the same, Tuesday, April 30, at the Criminal Courts Building, Department 134 on the 15th floor at 210 W. Temple Street, LA. We can be reached in LA tomorrow (Friday, April 26). We welcome anyone who wishes to be with us!
Monday, April 22, 2002:
As of today, we are still on the schedule of the victim's impact statements and the sentencing for the female defendant on Tuesday, April 30th, in the same Criminal Courts location in LA where the trial was held. The time is still either 11:30 am or 1:30 am and we hope to know the exact time after a hearing on the 25th. We will post the time on this site as soon as we know it. The trial for the second defendant is still on schedule for start of jury selection on the 9th of May with an anticipated start of testimony on the 13th. Again, those dates should become as firm as any court date ever becomes after the hearing on the 25th.
Monday, April 8, 2002:
To all who visit here! Well, we have been catching our breath, trying to find some degree of whatever "normal" is and trying to prepare for the next part of this - the sentencing phase for the female. As of today, the victim's impact statements and the mandatory sentencing of life without the possibility of parole will occur on April 30th at the same Criminal Courts Building and in the same courtroom where the trial was held. It is expected to occur at either 11:30 am or 1:30 am but that time will become final later this month. We want everyone to know that they are most welcome to come to the sentencing. Please know that we understand anyone who wants to be present and we understand anyone who does not want to be present. While it is very difficult to walk into the courtroom, it is even more difficult to NOT walk into the courtroom and confront the heinousness of the crime. Several of those who attended parts of the trial shared the same sentiment with us. This should be the last time in her lifetime that any of us ever has to see the defendant. There will be no pictures of her. If anyone wishes to fly to LA to be present, be aware that the lowest standard airfares are 2-3 week advance tickets. Please do not hesitate to contact any of us if we can help you in any way!
Please be sure and revisit the website as the date approaches. We will keep it updated with the exact time of the sentencing. It will be posted on the message board along with the trial status location on the site. We thank all of you and as always deeply appreciate the posted messages, calls, support that you have given our family and in Wendy's memory.
Tuesday, March 26, 2002:
Araceli Pena was found guilty of felony murder, first degree murder, robbery and attempted robbery and will receive (according to California Law) the penalty of life sentence without the possibility of parole.
It's not a celebration....it's just a milestone....but we don't ever have to worry about Karen going to parole hearings in any of the years to come.
We showed up outside the courtroom around 9:15 with lots of family and friends. The DA met with us for a little while at 9:30 and the court convened at 9:45. The DA dropped the charge of "enhanced with a gun" to the attempted robbery charge in count 7 (last attempt at the parking lot). The jury was called in and asked if they had reached a verdict on everything else. They had, but they hadn't yet filled out all the verdict forms. They were sent back to the jury room for twenty minutes to fill out the forms.
They came back, gave the forms to the judge who read them and then gave them to the court clerk to read. No one was asked to stand during the reading of the verdict. (California criminal court practice has changed since the days of Perry Mason.) Pena was found guilty of all the charges except the robbery of the first man (where she remained in the car), the attempted robbery of the third person in Wendy's car, and the attempted robbery of the girl who was asleep in the car in the parking lot. So, in Wendy's case she was guilty of first degree murder, felony murder, robbery, special circumstances and attempted robbery. In the following incident, she was guilty of robbery and "enhanced with a gun" circumstances. In the fourth incident, she was guilty of attempted robbery.
Prior to the reading of the verdicts, the judge admonished the audience in the court not to be demonstrative. We weren't....we just cried quietly that the jury did the right thing.
After the verdicts, about half the jurors waited around to talk with the DA and the family. More about that in the "Wendy Insider Report."
Sentencing will be on April 30, where the family will be able to make our impact statements. The hearing is tomorrow to schedule the trial for Demetrio Cabrera.
Our heartfelt thanks to all who have been supportive these very hard three weeks. We have appreciated your presence, emails, cards, letters, calls and flowers. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU.
Monday, March 25, 2002:
No decision from the jury today as of 2:30 PM California time. They went back into deliberation at 9:00 AM this morning. Waiting is hard. We are cooped up in Karen's apt cause we have to be available to get to the court on 45 minutes notice. At 4:00 PM we heard from the DA that the jury had reached verdicts in all the counts except for the special circumstances allegation with respect to the attempted robbery at the parking lot. The allegation which they had not been able to decide is whether or not she had a gun during the attempted robbery. There would be no reason to debate whether or she had a gun unless she was already found guilty of the attempted robbery. We have no information with respect to the special allegations on all the other counts, except that verdicts have been reached on everything else. The jury has been dismissed for the day and will return at 9:30 tomorrow morning and read their verdicts at 9:45. The DA will be there for other stuff at 9-9:15 and so will we.
Friday, March 22, 2002:
Jury showed up for deliberation at 9:00. They started discussion and received their written instructions and verdict forms at about 11:30. We stayed in the area of Karen's apartment waiting to hear. About 2:30 we heard from the DA that it would be unlikely that the verdict would come in today. Jury returns at 9:00 AM Monday. We will stay in LA for the weekend and be available early next week to wait for the verdict.
Thursday, March 21, 2002:
Today started at about 10:50 AM. The DA did not call any rebuttal witnesses. The PD recalled one of the arresting officers -- questioned him on and on about his written report of the arrest. In the body of his report, he said the gun was found in the west side of the driveway -- without specifying which driveway (remember it was a strip mall with two entrances). He also referred to suspect 2 instead of suspect 1 in original report versus followup written report. He had cleared up this info on the stand prior to today but she revisited it this morning.
Then the defense rested. After that, the judge began reading the instructions to the jury. Suffice it to say, they are lengthy, confusing and thankfully the jury receives a written copy to review as they decide the verdict. Only the portion of instructions that the lawyers and judge had agreed on were read and the jurors were released for lunch.
Then, the DA began his summation. He began by putting up an enlargement he had prepared of Wendy, in life, smiling and looking out over the entire courtroom! His summation took exactly one hour. He described the permanence of what the defendant had done, spent the time reviewing the evidence as it applied to the law in the eight counts she is charged with, clarified the felony murder law for first degree murder, compared the possibility of second degree murder.
Felony murder in California applies to four crimes: arson, rape, kidnapping and robbery. If anyone dies during any of these, it is considered felony murder. Thus, the DA explained that they would have to find these circumstances to not be true to find for second degree murder. He had clear and professional charts prepared to compare first and second degree murder that he placed on the board right beside Wendy's picture. He also explained that it was very difficult to believe the other defendant who acted as a "bull in a china shop" on the two robberies he did suddenly was able to crawl around a car unseen or unheard by anyone in the car! This is one of the ways he discounted the PD's defense that the female defendant is an innocent victim of duress by the male defendant.
Again, he had a chart prepared comparing someone who is under duress with what happened in this crime. There were approximately 12 items. One was that if one killed and robbed under duress, the natural reaction would be to have empathy and remorse. The defendant has shown none. Another item was that someone acting under duress would go to the cops during the last robbery and ask for help instead of her action which was to appear to aim a gun at the cops and then run to the car and try to make a getaway. I think you get the picture. The DA was extremely effective in delivering his closing arguments.
After break, the PD began her "duress defense". The first thing she did was to remove Wendy's picture. Her argument was also one hour. She spent the first half of that time, trying to discredit the DA, the police, the detectives, the witnesses, etc. She went from one thing to the other in no particular order. She agreed it was a tragedy but said it was not about Wendy Soltero. It was about a young woman under duress and control of an older man due to the trauma of her childhood. She too had charts about the felony murder charge and attempted to make it not a part of this case.
She did agree that the defendant acted without duress during one robbery. She told the jury that she didn't think they would return a not guilty verdict in a case like this but that she "thought it was the correct and courageous" thing to do! It is very difficult to write more about her summation. It appeared and sounded to us and all who supported us today to be very difficult to believe, but we do not lose sight of the power 12 jurors have and the necessity of a unanimous vote on all 8 counts.
After the PD's closing, the DA did about a 6 minute rebuttal which countered a couple of things she said and basically asked them to realize the permanence of Wendy's being taken from this earth and from her family and to review the facts of the crimes, apply the law and hold the defendant accountable. He also told the jury that they would probably never see such an open and shut case of felony murder and supportive evidence. He reiterated that the defendants were caught "red handed" with all the evidence.
Then, the judge finished reading the rules to the jury. He reminded them that they do not decide the punishment phase of this trial. Since it was 4:45 PM at this time, the jury was instructed to return at 9 AM tomorrow to begin deliberations. We do not know how long the verdict will take -- it does not matter as long as a just verdict is returned.
To all who supported us today -- thank you! We are more drained every day as anyone would be. However, tonight we have a small sense of relief that it has gone to the jury - finally! We have prepared a phone chain for those who wish to be notified when the verdict is to be brought in. If you wish to be included, please let us know tonight or tomorrow morning either via a phone number or email. We do not expect a verdict early tomorrow morning -- but who knows! Hopefully, the next notice we post is the verdict. Again, they have eight charges to deliberate and must be unanimous on the votes. Otherwise, a hung jury is always an option with respect to any one or combination of the charges.
For those of you who live in either Dallas or LA, we have copies in both cities of the transcript of the interview between the defendant and Detective Pelletier. We hope to soon have one in electronic form to be downloaded from the website. If you would like to look at a copy just let us know and we will make arrangements. In addition, we have made some observations during the trial that cannot be put into a public forum. However, nothing precludes us from sending the "Wendy Insider Report" to any of our friends who request the report. Just email us for your copy, letting us know in the email who you are and how you know about Wendy.
Wednesday, March 20, 2002:
Three hours of court today. Defense rested. Court resumes at 10:30 am on Thursday. Prosecution will have opportunity for rebuttal witnesses, if any. Then summations and instructions to jury. The family needs as many people there as possible tomorrow. Details below.
The defense called an expert witness to testify about accidently or unintentionally firing a gun. The hypothetical case presented to the expert witness involved the case of someone pulling on someone's arm thus causing the individual holding the gun to react and tighten their grip on the trigger, thus causing the gun to fire. Of course, the problem here is why does someone have a loaded gun and is using it to commit a robbery in the first place? That being said, the DA reviewed the same hypothetical case and asked if that scenario was based on the truthful assumption that someone actually did make contact with the defendant. The expert agreed it was based on that "hypothetical situation" but that he did not actually know what the facts of the case are. He also reviewed the amount of pressure necessary to cause a gun of the size used in the crime to be fired which is a significant amount of force.
An expert was called on the effects drugs (like crack cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, etc., ) have on an individual. Again, hypothetical case presented as the experts supposedly do not know the actual facts of this case. The DA agreed with the defense that the use of crack cocaine makes one more prone to paranoia, etc. However, the DA also introduced into testimony the accountability issue for those who use drugs.
The defense called her private investigator. The private investigator (PI) interviewed the first robbery victim last June. It appears that the private investigator did not identify himself properly--in other words, led the victim to believe that he was an investigator for the Los Angeles Police Department when in reality he was an investigator for the Los Angeles Public Defender's office. Misrepresentation is a misdemeanor. The PI eventually produced some notes from his pocket. He appeared to attempt to discredit the lead Detective in the case. However, when the DA questioned the PI, was reminded of the potential misdemeanor charge, the PI seemed to not know the answer to any of the questions of the DA!
One witness was called (DA had not been noticed of this witness) to state that he worked in a liquor store in the area where the defendant was arrested. He was put on for his opinion regarding the amount of light in the parking lot. The DA countered that.
Of course, we had a 2 hour lunch today! At about 2:30, the jury was dismissed and the lawyers and judge discussed further issues before the court. Tomorrow, we begin at 10:30 AM (yeah, right!) and the DA may put a rebuttal witness on the stand. Then, the PD could do the same. If all that proceeds quickly, the DA will begin closing arguments before lunch and finish up after lunch. The PD -- well that is another story as to the time she needs for preparation! Please keep your fingers and toes crossed that this goes to the jury by Friday! We are tired, the delays affect us, the part we perceive as "unethical" on behalf of the defense attorney angers us and adds to our anguish -- but we have an excellent and very compassionate DA and we will not weaken in the pursuit of where this defendant needs to be!
Tuesday, March 19, 2002:
How do we start this message? That is what comes to mind as we sit down tonight to compose this message. Our court date consisted of exactly 2 hours today of active testimony! The PD opened her case with remarks to the effect that she would present how the defendant had used drugs since about the age of 14, had run away from home, had run away from foster homes and had been sexually abused as a child and that her biological mother died of cancer when the defendant was 9! She did state that a definite tragedy had occurred that night and did not deny that the defendant was involved. Then, a psychologist, who predominately testifies for the defense, was called as an expert witness. She tested the defendant and reviewed the background and her conclusions included that the defendant was very vulnerable to male domination, borderline need of being in a psychiatric hospital, low self-esteem, had gang involvement, and had witnessed an individual dying of a gunshot wound.
The DA went to cross-examination and brought out some additional points. He asked the psychologist if she was aware and had taken into account in her evaluation that: (1) the defendant had participated in a beating of another female at the age of 16; (2) the defendant's older sister had recanted the charge of sexual abuse by father and said Areceli had claimed sexual abuse only to be able to run away from a strict home environment, not an abusive one; (3) the defendant identified with a gang by having a gang tattoo; and (4) Demetrio Cabrera had claimed to be a victim of spousal abuse and had a 3-year restraining order out against a female who was abusing him; and other related matters.
Trial is set for 10:30 am Wednesday morning. Defense is expected to continue with three witnesses and wrap up.
Monday March 18, 2002:
Three hours of court today. Prosecution rested. We will post more about it later this evening. Tomorrow morning no court. Court resumes at 1:30 PM on Tuesday.
Court was to begin at 10:30 am. However, as usual, there were a few matters to clear up between the lawyers and the judge. Then, one of the jurors did not show and did not call in to advise the court about why he was delayed. The judge waited until approximately 11:10 and then declared him recused from the trial and the bailiff drew a name of one of the two alternates and the jury was finally seated.
The DA began with the lead detective on the case. He read the handwritten statement that the female defendant gave shortly after she was arrested. Then on November 1 she requested another meeting with the detective and agreed to his taping of the meeting. He then went through the different pieces of evidence that were collected, including receipts from the robbery victims, the gun found at the fourth incident and the bullet found on the floor of the car in front of the passenger seat. By this time, approximately 45 minutes of testimony had been heard and it was time for lunch break! Very frustrating to us.
After lunch, the coroner was called to the stand to confirm the cause of death. She was on the stand approximately 5 minutes with very few questions from the PD. Then, transcripts of the defendant's taped interview were passed out to all in the jury box and to those in the public viewing area of the courtroom and the tape was played in its entirety. In the written and taped evidence, the defendant admitted to participating in the robberies, admitted to firing a gun, blamed the firing of the gun on the the male defendant (his trial to be held in April) crawling around Wendy's car and pulling on her left hand causing the gun to fire. She stated that she was scared of the male defendant and said he said he would kill her if she didn't do the crimes. However, the girl seated next to Wendy had testified on Thursday that she never heard anything or saw anyone else and that the radio was not on at the time of the crime.
Pena claims on the tape that she thought Wendy was a male. She acknowledged that Wendy was looking away from her at the time the shot was fired. She stated that they had done crack cocaine and consumed alcohol. She stated that they had been staying at motels. After acknowledging her involvement in the crimes of the evening (all appear to have taken place in 40 minutes), she candidly tells the detective that she is "innocent" -- and he goes on to ask her "how do you figure that"? Her reasoning appears to be that she blames the male defendant. The taped interview (preceded by the detective reading her the Miranda Rights and confirming that she understood them) lasts approximately one hour. As one listens to the taped interview and reads the transcripts, there appear to be many inconsistencies in her descriptions of events.
The cross by the PD of the detective was about 30 minutes and then the jury was dismissed. Pictures were put up today and we all managed to stay in the courtroom -- although we had been advised we could step out if we needed to. I cannot discuss how that affected us here in this forum. The prosecution rested its case. Tomorrow, we do not start until 1:30 so the defendant can see the dentist! Then, the defense opens its case. The indications are that the case will get to the jury perhaps by the end of Wednesday or early Thursday -- but we take it one day at a time and try not to get our expectations up too high!
Our dear friend, Ann, arrived from Atlanta this morning. We all needed her! Until tomorrow --
Saturday March 16, 2002:
Sorry, we were all too drained last night to post a message. Let us catch you all up on some of the facts. This is all in evidence now; therefore, public knowledge. The four crimes that the defendant is charged with involve an incident of armed robbery on Fountain Avenue, Wendy's incident with armed robbery on North Tamerind Avenue, then one more incident of armed robbery S. LaFayette Park Place and a fourth incident of attempted armed robbery on Beverly Boulevard. During the last incident, the defendants (Areceli Pena, female age 19 at the time, and Demetrio Cabrera, male age 32) were arrested in the commission of the crime by two police officers who noticed their car acting strangely as it was leaving the scene of the third incident, followed it a couple of blocks and observed the next and final crime. When they were arrested, after the defendants allegedly had their guns on both the college students of the last crime and then guns drawn on the police officers, evidence from all the previous crimes was found in their car. The police officer testified that wallets, a credit card from Wendy's friend, receipts from Wendy's friend, drivers licenses, car keys, etc were found in the car. The police officer also testified that there were various elements of potential disguises in the car; ie, wig(s), clothes, a fake beard was mentioned, and the trunk had several car stereos, etc. The arresting police officers believe they saw two guns in their possession but only one gun was recovered. They searched for approximately 2 hours. They were not able to search the private homes surrounding the strip shopping center (where the arrest occurred) due to privacy laws. One gun was found in a patch of weeds at the shopping center. It was noted that it was left right where the arresting officers had seen the female defendant. Most of the items from the crime victims were reported to be found on the front seat of the car where the defendant was seated as the passenger.
At the scene of Wendy's car, the testimony from Wendy's friend revealed that she did not hear any other people outside of the car at the time the shot was fired. She also testified that the radio was off, she had a clear view of the defendant as the street was well lit. I believe she indicated the crime lasted a minute or more. She stated that the defendant cursed them, etc and she robbed the other two girls after she fired the shot. The entire crime spree of the four events and the arrest occurred in about 40 minutes. All victims of the crimes who were allegedly robbed by the female defendant looked the defendant in the eyes and identified her. The others who were allegedly robbed by the male defendant (not being tried in this case) testified that they saw someone else in the car. It did not appear to any of us that the public defender was able to confuse any of the victims as they recounted the events of the night. All the victims are clear on what happened to them. Two of the crimes involved men coming home from work. Wendy's group and the final two victims were college students.
Monday the prosecution expects to complete their portion of the case. Then the defense will present their case. All of the timing depends on the cross-examination. The cross by the public defender seemed agonizing and was most difficult to us. Our hearts went out to the victims who had to endure it. The police officers were articulate, restrained, consistent and professional, even when cross-examination by the defense attorney attempted to infer potential misconduct or incompetence. However, that is her right. More about that at a later date and time. Suffice it to say it has been everything of what we expected on the side of the defense.
Clearly, we expect this to take most of next week. Likely schedule is the remaining prosecution case on Monday at 10:30 AM. The investigating detective is scheduled first. He is expected to play a tape recording of his interview with the defendent which she clearly places hereself at each of the four locations and with the gun in her hand when Wendy is shot. Tuesday morning is currently scheduled for no trial activities. Tuesday afternoon will see the start of the defense with up to four witnesses scheduled, all expert testimony. Summations are likely Wednesday and case to jury deliberation by Thursday. We are all on edge, we deal with the stress in different ways, we all feel it in different ways -- but we are committed to seeing this through. It is crystal clear that having as many people in the courtroom as possible is imposing and the most positive thing we can do in assisting the case, especially Monday, Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday. It not only helps us, it helps all the dynamics in the courtroom. We cannot get into more details than that in this public forum. The trial is in Department 134 on the 15th floor of the Criminal Courts Building at 210 West Temple Street, right off the Broadway exit from the 101 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles
We are very grateful to our friends Bob and Carol from San Francisco who spent most of the week with us. A deep thanks to Bill -- you are always there for us! And Laura for coming out from Dallas and Gus for coming each day and local Laura and all the other friends from this area who have supported us, which we greatly appreciate. Also, Wendy's best friend made the trip from Dallas. We cannot speak for her but we know how we feel about her making this impossible trip and listening to these impossible and unbelievable and unacceptable events! Now, we are going to go have a latte with her this Saturday afternoon! See you Monday night! You can send us messages through the message board if you wish to with your thoughts.
Friday, March 15, 2002:
The jury heard today from four witnesses about the third incident of the night (a robbery) and the fourth incident of the night (attempted robbery and apprehension by police). We will put the details up tomorrow.
Thursday, March 14, 2002:
The wheels of justice may turn slowly, but you wouldn't believe all the delays and side issues that cause this trial to trudge along. Fortunately the defendant was transported to the criminal court building in a timely manner, so we started pretty close to 11AM. First we heard the DA's opening statements outlining the time frame of the events that transpired on October 28th, and a short list of the witnesses who would be testifying. The DA's statements were intelligent, concise and logical. He set the scene clearly for what the jury would learn.
Two witnesses were questioned today. The first was the victim of the first robbery in the series of four. Following him was the testimony of Wendy's friend who was in the front seat of the car. She was amazingly strong, poised and articulate in light of her task today. None of us believe we could have gotten through the defense attorney's questioning as well as she did. We will be forever grateful to her for what she endured today, a solid 90 minutes of testimony. Tears were shed by all of us as the crime was relived. Tomorrow we expect to hear from other witnesses including the other victims of the crime spree. Fortunately, we are starting at 9:30 AM, so we might have a full day in court tomorrow.
Our support group continues to be strong, a distinct presence behind the prosecution bench, with almost twenty supporters in attendance. It was a tough day today, but we remained composed. We are relieved that we are finally seeing some progress with the trial.
Wednesday, March 13, 2002:
Another long day -- but we do have a jury seated as of 5:00 PM today! They went through almost 100 jurors to achieve 12 jurors and 2 alternate jurors. In the middle of the day, there was a delay of almost an hour while a jury brought in a verdict on a trial that had been held in the same courtroom just prior to the start of this trial. Tomorrow, there is a tentative start time of 11:00 AM so the defendant can see a dentist at 7 AM and then be transported to the criminal court building. Hopefully, that will happen, or we will not start until 1:30 PM.
First there will be opening statements and then the testimony will begin. We cross our fingers, hold our breath and hope that there will be no delays tomorrow --but are and always will be prepared for the delays. What matters in the end is the verdict and we are all committed to that fact. In between, we try to remain calm and together.
We had good support today (a total of 12 people) with the addition of several of Wendy's friends and Karen's friends and, of course, our good friends from San Francisco. Tonight another dear friend flies in from Dallas. He is a lawyer and his children went to preschool with our kids. Good support for us in more ways than one for a couple of days. The impact of people there for Wendy and for us is definitely a positive one. That's about it for tonight. Many thoughts swirl around in our minds but this is not the space to share them. Until tomorrow.....
Posted March 12, 2002
There is good news -- and there is the usual not so good news! The lawyers and the judge began this morning by settling a "few issues" and the public defender continued in the same demeanor that we have become accustomed to! Finally, jury selection was begun at 10:30 AM. The judge read the 8 counts in their entirety against the defendant -- which was very emotional for us. Then the lengthy process began. Eighteen potential jurors are seated in the jury box and the judge proceeds with the voir dire. After that extensive questioning both as a group and then on an individual basis, both lawyers are allowed a period of time to examine the jurors and elicit information. Then, there is a sidebar and certain jurors are excused for cause by the judge. Immediately after that, the lawyers alternate excusing potential jurors. They each have 20 that they can excuse throughout the process excluding the jurors excused for cause. Of course, lunch is from noon to 1:30. We have found that there is regular time and then there is court time! Unfortunately court time means we lose another 10-15 minutes here and there throughout the day.
After lunch, the jury selection process continued. Initially approximately 75 jurors were brought into the courtroom. Every time the potential jurors in the jury box are down to 11, 7 more are randomly called from the pool, seated in the jury box, and put through the sequence of questioning. Oh, then of course there is the 10 minute break at 2:50 until 3:00 PM -- which really meant we started at 3:20 PM! This process went on until 4:45 today at which time the judge called a recess until 10:00 AM tomorrow. Thus, the jury was not finalized today. At the end of the day there were 18 people in the jury box, seven of which have yet to be questioned by the attorneys. Nine additional people remain in the courtroom's original jury pool. The defense attorney has 11 peremtory challenges remaining and the DA has 13. The anticipation is that the jury will be seated by the lunch break tomorrow and opening remarks will begin after lunch and witnesses placed on the stand. All we can do is hope!
We held up fairly well until the end of the day. We have an excellent victim's aide assigned to us. She is only about 4'10" (max) but definitely a commanding presence and we are very comfortable with her. She will be with us throughout the trial. We can turn to her and ask questions at any time. She also says she can make a Starbuck's run for us! However, right now, we are having enough trouble getting food in our stomachs at lunch.
Again, we have been prepared for the "ups and downs" of a trial. While we understand that in our heads, our hearts feel the pain. We will rally for another day tomorrow but hold little hope for this to end before the middle to end of next week.
Posted March 11, 2002
We did get assigned to a courtroom today. The case was transferred to the 15th floor, Department 134, Judge Mooney of the Los Angeles Criminal Courts Building. The courtroom is one of the courtrooms where we are separated except for an open entrance from the defendant and the jury, judge, lawyers by safety glass. We will be seated in full view of the jury. The address is 210 West Temple Street in downtown Los Angeles. We were suppose to begin jury selection at 1:30 this afternoon. However, there were a few typical frustrating delays (the defendant's street clothes didn't fit and some issues to be settled between the DA, public defender and the judge), which caused the judge to decide to start jury selection tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM. The judge indicated that the jury should be seated by tomorrow.
The court is not a long cause courtroom so we will not be starting before 10 to 10:30 AM each day. Perhaps this is better as we will not have to be up so early to get to downtown LA. The emotions that we experience are draining. Obviously it will add a couple of days to the trial. He expects that it will take almost all day tomorrow to seat a jury so there is a remote chance of testimony beginning late tomorrow afternoon. The DA fully expects the testimony to begin Wednesday morning. The female defendant apparently has a "tooth problem" and her lawyer wants her to see a dentist Thursday morning! That would mean the case could not start on Thursday until 1:30 PM. The DA is looking into perhaps other times that appointment could occur! The public defender also mentioned that her offer for second degree murder (15 years to life) was still on the table and that she had not heard a response back from the DA on the offer. The judge advised her that if she had not heard back, she should assume that they were not interested in the plea bargain. The DA then stated on the record that the State graciously declined the offer. I am sure you can sense from the above that the "games have begun" as we knew they would and we were advised that they would -- but at least the trial has begun and we are grateful! Getting to this point has been extremely painful for our family.
We look forward to those able to join us. Again, do not hesitate to contact us through the numbers that you have for us. Cell phones and pagers are on mute in the courtroom but we can return the calls during the breaks. People are allowed to enter and exit the courtroom at any time while the trial is going on. Again, we are grateful for your love and support.
Posted March 10, 2002
Okay everyone. It's that time...We are writing to let you know more detailed information about the trial - at least as much info as we know right now - in the hopes that some of you will be able to come and provide us with welcome support. One day, many days - as much you can be there will be greatly appreciated. And if you cannot make it, due to work or other circumstances, please know that we absolutely understand that this is a difficult thing to attend - both emotionally and schedule-wise. So for those of you that would like to come, here is the information for Monday morning:
We are meeting on the 13th Floor, Dept. 100 of the Los Angeles Criminal Courts Building at 8:15AM. The address is 210 West Temple St. in Downtown Los Angeles. (Southeast corner of Broadway and Temple). We won't be at this location for an extended period of time as we will shortly be assigned to a courtroom. If you miss us there, then you need to inquire as to where the trial against Araceli Pena has been assigned. The District Attorney handling the case is Dave Brougham.
If you would like to carpool, we will be leaving from Karen's apartment at approximately 7:20AM and have a minivan so we can accomodate a few extras. Otherwise, you should park in a lot that is located off of Cesar E. Chavez, between Broadway and Hill. It is $4 per day and only a few blocks from the Courthouse.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call or email. After we are assigned a courtroom on Monday, we will post in the evening with more information for anyone who wishes to attend later in the week. We want to thank everyone for all their support so far - it's friends like you who make this all a little easier to get through.
IN OUR LAST CONVERSATION WITH THE PROSECUTING DA, HE SUGGESTED THAT MOST OF THE TRIAL MIGHT BE COMPLETED BY THE END OF THE FIRST WEEK. SURE HOPE HE'S RIGHT.
Posted February 20, 2002
The hearing scheduled for February 14, 2002 was held and the start date of the trial was confirmed for MONDAY, MARCH 11, 2002. However, the lawyer for the female defendant requested a hearing be called for February 21, 2002, to again review the trial start date. On February 19, 2002, the lawyer for the female defendant removed the hearing from the calendar. The next hearing (as was previously scheduled) is March 7, 2002, at which time the case is transferred to the Master Court and the trial begins with the jury selection on Monday, March 11, 2002. After the hearing on March 7, 2002, we will post the exact location and other specifics for those of you who are able to and wish to attend. We fervently hope there will be no further delays!
Posted February 8, 2002
The trial start and the beginning of jury selection is now planned for Monday, March 11, 2002. This trial is for the female defendant. The male will be tried in a separate trial hopefully in April. The change of trial date from February 25th was requested by the DA and supported by Karen, Beth and Gene as the main detective had a conflict with his schedule and would not have been available for the trial unless postponed. There will be a hearing on February 14th to confirm this date. Please contact us if you are able to attend any of the trial. We all appreciate your thoughts and your support during this very difficult time.
January 7, 2002: The new District Attorney met with the Public Defender for the female defendant on January 2nd. The PD was advised that there was no plea bargaining available on the case. The PD agreed to set a trial and so a hearing was held on January 3rd and the court date was set for Monday, February 25th. We expect that date to hold but one never is completely sure in the court system. Since the last postponement was such an usual one, we are hopeful that there will be no further delays. The trial for the male defendant is not likely until early April. The PD for him has the right to wait 30 days for transcripts after the first trial. The trial is expected to take 1 ˝ to 2 weeks. We welcome and appreciate anyone who can be there to support Wendy’s memory for whatever time you may have available. We have also been told that anyone can come and go from the courtroom during the trial. I am sure that will be helpful to all of us.
Since a hearing was held on January 3rd, there is no hearing on January 16th. We will still fly to LA and then drive up to San Francisco to see Karen carry the Olympic Torch in Wendy’s memory. This will be a wonderful tribute to both of our daughters. We welcome anyone who can to join us in San Francisco on January 18th at 7 PM. The exact location, plans, schedule will be available on the updates and on Karen’s page.
We met with the new DA (extremely impressive and experienced) and our
current DA on Monday, December 10th in LA and reviewed the status of the case.
They remain committed and convinced that the outcome will be the punishment the
state is seeking - Life Without Parole for both defendants. Of course,
from a personal standpoint, we as a family will not relax until we hear the
sentence pronounced! There will be a hearing on the 16th of January which we
will attend. That is right before Karen carries the Olympic Torch in Wendy's
memory in the San Francisco Bay area. The earliest trial date (currently) is
the 18th of February. This postponement has placed considerable strain on
us as it is difficult enough to prepare for something like this -- and now we
have to do it again! The justice system does not serve victims well at all.
However, we do not want any guilty verdict to have any chance of appeal so we
understand why the judge granted the public
defender's unsettling reason to postpone. Please keep in mind that the one thing we can do when the trial does commence is to have as many of Wendy's family and friends present in the gallery of the courtroom during the trial to show how loved Wendy is and how her presence is missed. If any who read this find themselves available in the LA area on any of the days that the trial will be on, please do not hesitate to contact us if you can come to the courtroom. We certainly understand that this is a difficult place to be and understand anyone not being able to attend. If anyone wants more details than can be posted here, please do not hesitate to contact our family.
ONE LAST ITEM...IN OUR LAST TELPHONE CONVERSATION WITH THE PROSECUTING DA,
HE SUGGESTED THE POSSIBILITY THAT THE TRIAL COULD BE FINISHED OR CLOSE TO
FINISHED BY THE END OF THE FIRST WEEK.
On Wednesday, December 5th , the trial was postponed because the public defender for the female defendant pleaded "negligence" on her (the public defender's) part for not having called experts to review the case. Our DA argued but the judge ruled for the postponement. This is probably due to concern about having any reasons for an appeal after the verdict. It is most unusual for a lawyer to lay blame on themselves and appears to be part of a strategy to delay the trial. Our DA is expecting a baby the end of January so this places us in a position to have a new DA. The DA's office has been extremely supportive of our plight and has assigned an extremely experienced DA to handle both the female and the male defendant's trial. Our current DA (whom we have great respect for) is very pleased with the new DA selected.
Karen returned to LA on Monday in anticipation of the trial and we had plans to fly out this weekend. We have decided to continue on with the trip to LA and the DA's have set up a meeting with us on Monday afternoon to review everything. After our meeting with them, the three of us will then try to figure out what our revised plans for the month of December will be.
The next court hearing is the January 16th. Since that is with a couple of days when Karen is an Olympic Torchbearer (we found out this evening that her essay on how Wendy inspired her is one of 6000 selected from 210,000 essays submitted), we will go to LA and be present at that hearing. We will probably post a message after our meeting on Monday, December 10.
We have been notified that the trial will begin between December 4th and the
10th with the most likely scenario of jury selection beginning on
December 10th at 21 West Temple Street in the Criminal Courts Building.
This is the
trial for the female defendant. The motion has been made to sever the two trials so the man's trial will follow in 2002. We will be in LA staying with Karen. Her number is unlisted but anyone who wants to reach us probably knows the number or can obtain it by calling someone in Dallas or LA or call Beth's pager 1-888-891-7049. We appreciate any support you can
give our family as we sit through this very painful process. We have been advised that a strong support group present in the courtroom is extremely helpful. When we know the exact courtroom, we will post that information here so anyone will be able to show up even if you do not make contact with us prior to court. We also understand this is a very difficult time of the
year for people and a very difficult experience to share with us.
We apologize for not updating this section prior to today. The special
circumstances committee (committee of senior DA's in LA who determine the
penalty that the State will seek) reviewed the case and decided on Life Without
Parole instead of the Death Penalty. Karen, Gene and Beth requested a
meeting with the committee to understand their reasoning. That meeting was held
on September 24th. The decision of penalty is based on several
categories -- all of which revolve around the defendants and their particular
circumstances. It is most difficult to comprehend why there is not a
category that revolves around the victim! Hopefully, the laws of the
State of California will never be changed and the defendants will be found
guilty and remain incarcerated for the remainder of their natural lives.
During the various pretrial hearings that have been held (which we do not
attend) the two public defenders for the defendants and the DA representing
Wendy, calendars have been reviewed and motions discussed. There is
another pretrial hearing this week. At this time, the female defendant's
trial is tentatively set for early December. Hopefully, after this week,
the date of the male defendant's trial will be set.
The most important thing we can do at those trials is to have the gallery filled with as many supporters as possible. As we approach the trials, we will keep this part of the site updated as ANY dates are changed, decisions made or any pertinent information.
The preliminary hearing was held on Friday, May 4th and continued to Monday, May 7th. We have now completed the hearing and the defendants are held to answer in Superior Court later this month on ALL charges. Arraignment is scheduled for May 21. The public defender for the woman defendant tried to get one case dismissed but was unsuccessful. The witnesses did very well. The hearing was extremely difficult for us as expected. However, several friends were present on Friday to support us along with representatives from Occidental College. One of the Oxy professors was also present today. We now understand the chain of events of that evening which included 4 robberies - all within 40 minutes. There was one before Wendy's and two after. The defendants were apprehended in the commission of the fourth event. Two police officers actually observed the fourth incident and apprehended the defendants. We now await the decision of the District Attorney's office on the penalty they will seek in this case.
In a hearing held in Los Angeles County Criminal Court on February 28, 2001, Assistant District Attorney Gretchen Ford agreed with the defense attorneys and the judge to hold the preliminary hearing on May 4, 2001. Subsequent to then, the District Attorney will determine whether or not to seek the death penalty for each defendant. The alternative penalty for conviction of murder during a robbery in California is life without possibility of parole.
At the preliminary hearing the assistant DA will present testimony and a summary of the case against Araceli Gonzalez Pena, 19, and Demetrio Cabrera, 31.
Hearing date and location: Friday, May 4, 2001 8:00 AM
210 West Temple, Los Angeles
Criminal Courts Building, Department 43 on the 3rd Floor
Friends and interested people from the community are encouraged to attend the preliminary hearing to support Wendy's family. Please let us know ahead of time if you are planning to be there.