Closing arguments in the trial of Lee Peyton who is
charged with using a stolen debit card to steal $300 at an ATM and two weeks
later, stealing a CD case begin in Courtroom 48 on Tuesday morning.
Peyton, who is representing himself but is getting help
from court-appointed lawyer Victor Salas, will make most or all of the closing
The trial, which has lasted two weeks, has seen 14
witnesses take the stand, including four defense witnesses and six Sheriff's
deputies for the prosecution.
The case has lingered in the courts for more than three
years, and it has cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of dollars to take this
pro per case to trial.
Peyton has been assigned seven, court-appointed lawyers,
including Salas, who is being paid $150 an hour. Also two defense experts have
been paid more than $13,000, so far.
In addition, Peyton was awarded $7,500 to pay for a
private investigator to help him in his defense, according to Salas.
There also have been four prosecutors assigned to this
case including the latest prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Stuart Gardner.
Gardner said he was assigned the case two weeks before it
went to trial on Feb. 5. The last prosecutor Brian Weilbacher recently went
into private practice.
Charges Against Peyton
The 34-year-old Peyton was arrested on Jan. 27, 2010 and
has been in jail since that time under a $175,000 bail.
Peyton, of Ojai, allegedly got a stolen credit card after
a vehicle was burglarized in the Ojai Valley and used the card an hour later at
a Wells Fargo ATM machine in Ventura to
withdraw $300. Two weeks later, prosecutors said another vehicle was burglarized
and a CD case was stolen.
Sheriff's deputies testified that there had been a rash
of vehicle burglaries in the Ojai area.
Peyton is charged with two counts of receiving stolen
property and one count of identity theft. He has never been charged with
burglary in this case.
Peyton maintains that he couldn't have broken into the
car in Ojai, drove to an ATM in Ventura and accessed the bank account within an
hour without knowing the PIN number.
The victim believed the PIN was inside an address book
that was missing, and the number was in the W section (Wells Fargo).
Are Three ATM Photographs of the Suspect Admitted as Evidence
Prosecutor Gardner said the hooded suspect in the grainy
photograph is Peyton.
That photograph appears to look like Peyton, according to
Peyton's friend of 12 years who testified as a defense witness last week.
"It appears to be him but I wasn't there when the picture
was taken," said Steven Robertson.
Robertson also had his photograph taken from the same
Wells Fargo ATM that allegedly captured Peyton withdrawing money. He testify that
he couldn't recognize himself from the ATM photograph and was admitted as evidence for the defense.
The photograph is just a bright light with no discernible
image of a person.
For his part, Peyton maintains that the person in the
photograph captured by the bank's security camera isn't him.
Peyton's court-appointed expert Ron Guzek, who got into
hot water with the judge for his off-the-cuff comments to jurors, testified
that he can't identity of the person on the ATM photo.
Were Offers to Plea Guilty to the Crimes
Judge David Hirsch has offered Peyton seven years in
prison in exchange for a guilty plea; and the District Attorney's Office offered Peyton seven years and four
Salas said the offer was up to nine years, and he has been able to whittle
that down to seven years.
If convicted on all the criminal charges, Salas said the
most Peyton can get is 10 years in prison and he'll end up serving about two
more years behind bars.
Peyton, who has Tourettes syndrome, a neurological
disorder characterized by involuntarily movements and vocalizations called tics,
said he was willing to plead guilty for a six year sentence. Peyton wants to be
given credit for time serve along with credits earned for good behavior which
now total more than five years.
"He wants to go home. So, he'll accept going home even if
he has to plea," said Salas.
Initially, the District Attorney's Office wanted to put
Peyton who has two robbery convictions
behind bars for the rest of his life under the three-strikes law, said
But Proposition 36 changed the Three Strikes Law and was
approved by voters in November. Only felonies that are considered serious or
violent offenses can be considered a third strike. So Peyton's charges don't
meet this new criteria approved by voters.
Prosecutors, for their part, admitted as evidence two
convictions against Peyton for possession of stolen property 1999 and 2003,
including the theft of a what they allege is another CD case.
the Jailhouse Lawyer Insults the Judge and Others
During his time behind bars, Peyton has filed 50 legal
motions and has spent hundreds of hours researching the law while in jail. Some of his legal arguments have made their
way to the appeals court and the California Supreme Court.
Salas said he is impressed by his client's legal writings
and knowledge of the law.
Along the way to trial, however, Peyton has insulted or
belittled prosecutors and judges, including Hirsch who he accused of being a
bully and unfair.
The judge who was extremely patient and calm while on the
bench accused Peyton of "gamesmanship," noting that Peyton of causing deliberate
disruptions and delays.
On the day his trial on Feb. 5, Peyton insisted on
wearing his jail garb to trial and fired his lawyer Salas, again. The judge ordered
Salas to take over Peyton's defense after Peyton refused to stay in the
courtroom during his trial.
He later changed his mind and through a partially opened
detention cell door adjacent to the courtroom he told the judge he wanted to
return to court.
Salas talked to Peyton who agreed to let Salas sit next
to him during his trial, insisting that Salas sit four feet away from him.
Later, Salas and Peyton were smiling and the attorney-lawyer relationship was
back on track.
Prosecutors maintain that Peyton has wasted the court's
time and resources, including filing frivolous legal motions. One motion asked
the judge to give him money for new clothes so he could wear them for his
Statements of One Victim and Experts Testify
Last week, the defense focused on questioning the
prosecution's witnesses about the inconsistent statements of what the victim of
the second burglary told police.
It also put two court-appointed experts on the stand.
Thursday, defense video
and audio expert Ron Guzek, of Yorba Lina, testified that he had been paid
$12,000 for 18 months work and is still owed $8,000. He said he submitted two
He testified about the
photographs lifted from a Wells Fargo's ATM cameras that prosecutors say grainy
photograph of Peyton withdrawing $300 by using a debit card stolen from a
burglarized vehicle in Ojai.
After being grilled
about JPEG or the compression of digital photography, the enlargement, cropping,
compression and positioning of photography among other things, Guzek said there is no way to say the person in the
ATM photo is Peyton.,
"That's a picture of Mr. Peyton?" Gardner asked Guzek.
"I couldn't say that,"
During one point in his
testimony, Judge Hirsch admonished Guzek after he commented that it would be
unfair to send Peyton to jail for a photo taken by an ATM security camera that
was not the right size.
The judge said this
was inappropriate testimony because Guzek had inserted his personal opinion
about a possible sentence against Peyton if he is convicted.
After his testimony,
Guzek got the judge angry.
Guzek walked out of
the courtroom during a court recess as jurors were also leaving and wished some
of the jurors a "Happy Valentine's Day," which caught the ear of the judge who
"Don't say anything
take a seat," the judge told Guzek, accusing him of committing a "contemptible
act" by talking to jurors as they walked out.
The judge ordered
Guzek, who had testified in court numerous times as an expert, to sit on the
witness stand while everybody else, including the lawyers, went on a 15-minute
break. The judge said he was going to leave the court and return with a
decision as to whether there would be a contempt hearing against Guzek.
Guzek sat quietly on
the stand during the recess, looking straight ahead.
The judge returned and
told Guzek that he would not hold a contempt hearing and ordered Guzek to
immediately leave the courtroom and not to smile, look at anyone or say
anything on his way out.
The defense's other
expert Michael Eisen, is a professor in psychology from California State
University in Los Angeles who testified about the impact of stress and trauma
Eisen said there is a
myth that our memories are as powerful as cameras.
"We are not cameras.
We are humans. We have limits," he said.
Eisen said the mind
can be very selective about what it takes in and there can be gaps in memory
that are often filled by sources. He testified that people do not pay enough
attention to collect details.
"We infer information
that sounds right to us," he said,
Although there were no
eyewitness that saw Peyton steal the debit card or steal the red CD case, Eisen said witness description of things at a
crime scene including trucks seen leaving the area can also be skewed or embellished
by victims who are sometimes stressed or want to help police find a suspect.
Police can also say
things in a certain to witnesses that influence their judgment.
Salas gave a
hypothetical situation to Eisen where a victim sees a truck and describes it to
police and is later given one photo of Peyton's truck and asked if it was
similar to the truck leaving the scene in a poorly lit area.
The victim whose CD
case was stolen gave police different statement about the truck he saw leaving
the area right after his car was burglarized, said Salas.
Eisen. who is the
director of forensic psychology program, testified that he is paid $150 an hour
and will get paid $1,500 for a day of testimony.
He said he's been
testifying as an expert for more than 10 years, and the overwhelming time he
has testified for the defense.
The Juror Who No
Longer Wanted to be on the Jury
Wednesday, a young
female juror told a bailiff that she checked at her work and was no longer
going to be paid while she was on jury duty.
The bailiff told the
judge. The judge called the juror into the courtroom and she told him that she
wanted an alternate to replace her because her job was no longer paying her
while she served on the jury.
The judge said he
couldn't legally release her at this point of the trial and told her she would
have to continue with her jury service.
The juror walked out
with a frown on her face.
There are seven women
and five men on the jury, including three teachers and two engineers.