Results tagged “Michelle Contois” from The Court Reporter

Convicted Rapist Andrew Luster Hopes to Get Reduced Sentence

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By Raul Hernandez

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Attorneys for convicted rapist Andrew Luster will ask a judge this week to sentence him to 25 years or less in the drugging and raping of three women, according to court documents.

The request is almost 100 years less than Luster's first prison sentence of 124 years handed down a decade ago. Judge Kathryne Ann Stoltz vacated that sentence last month after an evidentiary hearing in Ventura County Superior Court.

Luster, 49, an heir to the Max Factor cosmetics fortune, was convicted of drugging and raping three women at his Mussel Shoals home north of Ventura in 2003. He fled to Mexico before his trial ended and was convicted in absentia. He was captured five months later and has been in state prison since then.

Stoltz granted Luster a resentencing hearing "because the court failed to state specific reasons for imposing full consecutive sentences" as required by law.

Resentencing hearings are highly unusual, said Ventura attorney Nancy Aronson. She said she has been a criminal attorney for 25 years and is aware of about 10 resentencing hearings.

On Tuesday, Luster's lawyers Jay Leiderman and J. David Nick will put on testimony and evidence to convince Stoltz that Luster deserves a 25-year sentence.

In legal papers filed last month, the defense lawyers indicate that Luster deserves the shorter sentence because he isn't a sexual predator and has had a "stellar performance" while in prison. Letters from family members and friends will attest to his character, saying that the crimes were an "aberrant episode" in his life, the documents indicate. The lawyers also say that 25 years in prison is an adequate punishment for the crimes.

In sentencing Luster to 124 years, former Judge Ken Riley took into account each sexual count conviction and ran them consecutively, Haney said.

Depending how the sexual acts are counted, the judge could order that the sentences for each count run consecutively because raping a victim by using intoxicants such as drugs or alcohol is a unique crime, said former Ventura County prosecutor Bill Haney.

"Sexual assault offenses are a part of a very narrow class of felony offenses that can be, under certain circumstances, subject to full consecutive sentences," said Haney, who is now a criminal lawyer with the law firm of Dunn and Haney.

Defense lawyers argue that Riley erred in imposing consecutive sentences for different sex acts on the three victims when there was no "cessation" of the rapes.

Stoltz must conduct a "separate occasion test," Haney said. "The court has to determine whether or he not had a reasonable opportunity to reflect between each act of rape," he said.

Here are some excerpts from the defense's sentencing statement:

"The fact defendant stopped sexual activity at certain times for seconds (and at other times for less than two minutes) does not mean that under the circumstances of this case defendant ever stopped his sexually assaultive behavior on account of anything which gave him a 'reasonable' opportunity to reflect. Here, every momentary pause was part of the entire 'occasion' (and not a 'separate occasion.") which defendant is controlling and in the continuous process of orchestrating i.e., filming and doing the things involved in the filming his criminal episode while continuously moving from one sexual violation to the other without even the slightest interference of any kind with defendant's criminal episode."

"Defendant is not a sexual predator, i.e. one constantly seeking a victim to satisfy their violent and or criminal sexual fantasies, he is not a defendant with any known tendencies to inflict violence nor to be that class of dangerous sex offender that society is concerned about."

Adding, "Defendant is not known to stalk, hunt and sexually attack unsuspecting women strangers. He is not a violent predator seeking to inflict pain. Some of these dangerous perpetrators follow these outrageous acts with the infliction of pain by striking, beating, choking, tying up and other forms of pain inflicting physical attacks."

In its 17-page sentencing memorandum that include two court-record exhibits, the District Attorney's Office responses to the defense's legal arguments and argues that the 124-year sentence was appropriate.

"The original sentence was not erroneous - only the record needed to be corrected. Though lengthy, the sentence is justified by the circumstances of the defendant's crimes," wrote Deputy District Attorney Michelle Contois.

In shoring up its arguments, Contois includes the prosecution's sentencing statement filed in 2003 asking for a lengthy sentence and providing graphic sexual details of what each victim was subjected to when she was being raped by Luster who casually readjusts the video camera while recording his acts.

"During his period the music is softer and the victim's snoring can be heard very clearly while the defendant repeatedly violates her body," prosecutors stated.

Excerpts from prosecution's sentencing statements:

"Any arguments that suggests that the period of time separating the acts must be 'significant' must be rejected."

"Sexual assaults, as committed by defendant, 'are the antithesis of a consensual sexual encounter and should not be viewed the same way. Therefore, at sentencing a trial court could find a defendant had a 'reasonable opportunity to reflect upon his or her actions' even though...the parties 'merely'  change positions."

"The circumstances of defendant's crimes, preserved in shocking detail on his videotapes, support imposition of consecutive sentencs under either...But the record is not limited to the tapes or the transcript. Especially as to the charges of Carrie and David Doe, the court may consider the report of the Probation Officer, which is part of the normal record on appeal."

"The issue before this court is a new sentencing hearing to correct the previous record, it is not an opportunity to raise new substantive issues."

In an exhibit attached to the sentencing statement, prosecutors allege in a 2003 sentencing document:

"Not only has the defendant thumbed his nose at the court and society as a whole, he even filed a civil suit against victims Carey and David during the pendency of the criminal case in an attempt to intimidate and dissuade them. ..The defendant is truly a sociopath, incapable of feeling remorse for his victims."

"Given the defendant's obvious narcissistic personality traits, he is incapable of changing his beliefs and behaviors. He still thinks that he hasn't done anything wrong and will be a high risk for re-offending in the future."

In her ruling, Stoltz denied a request by Leiderman and Nick to vacate Luster's conviction. She also refused to grant him a new trial on some or all of the criminal charges.

An appeals court ordered the earlier evidentiary hearing after Luster's lawyers were granted a writ of habeas corpus. The defense's writ raised 20 legal issues in his appeal, including whether the judge used a proper method to calculate Luster's prison sentence in 2003.

Another issue is how long Luster, who has been behind bars for a decade, will have to serve before he is eligible for parole.

Leiderman said Luster will have to serve 50 percent of the sentence because the crimes weren't violent.

Haney said rape by using an intoxicant isn't considered a violent felony under the law.

"What that means is that when the court imposes the sentence, instead of serving 85 percent of the time the defendant must serve 50 percent of the time in state prison," he said.

Defense attorneys and prosecutor Michelle Contois aren't allowed to talk to the media about the case.

But Contois had indicated to Stoltz that she plans to put Luster's victims on the stand during the sentencing hearing. Luster's attorneys have told Stoltz they will introduce mitigating evidence, including that he saved six surfers from drowning at the beach.



The Court Reporter's Notebook

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It's Family Law

During the swearing-in ceremony Friday for Judge Gilbert Romero, Presiding Judge Brian Back quipped and cautioned Romero when  Commissioner Rocky Baio, who presides over family law cases, helped him take of his coat to put on a black robe.

"He is family law. He might go through your pockets," Back told Romero.

The audience laughed.

Lawyers in Andrew Luster Hearing Get Two Thumbs Up

Retired Judge Kathryne Stoltz complimented Andrew Luster's lawyers Jay Leiderman and David Nick along with prosecutor Michelle Contois on the way their did their job during the habeas corpus hearing that lasted more than a week.

The judge said the lawyers did an outstanding job and her respect for them grew each day of the hearing. She said she "profusely" thanked all three attorneys.

Luster's Three Rape Victims Could Take the Stand Again 

Prosecutor Michelle Contois told the Judge Kathryne Stoltz that the victims  who Luster drugged and raped could take the stand again and testify against him if she rules that Luster will have a sentencing hearing.

Contois said the state constitution guarantees that victims of crime must be afford the opportunity to attend court during sentencing, and make victim impact statements against defendants.

Luther will also be allowed to admit mitigating evidence if he is granted a sentencing hearing by  Judge Kathryne Stoltz.

Defense lawyers said that if Luster gets a 20-year sentence, he will be immediately eligible for parole since he only has to serve 50 percent of the sentence on these kinds of nonviolent, sex crimes.

Luster has been behind bars since 2003.


Andrew Luster's Hearing Continues on Monday Afternoon With More Defense Testimony

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One remark at the hearing of convicted rapist Andrew Luster seemed to sum up the case against Luster, a high-profile case that drew national coverage.

 "Geraldo Rivera was running around, and it created a lot of buzz," former prosecutor Bill Haney said last week in response to a question about the media.

The District Attorney's Office, headed by then chief prosecutor Michael Bradbury, tabbed high-profile cases like Andrew Luster as "Special Interest" cases that required special handing by prosecutors because they attract an army of reporters, according to court testimony last week at Luster's hearing.

These "Special Interest" cases were monitored by Bradbury, and his policy was to approve any plea agreements, no exceptions,  according to court testimony.

In this case, the heir of the Max Factor cosmetics fortune was accused using GHB and drugging and raping three women at his Mussel Shoals beach house in North Ventura County. Luster video recorded the rapes of two of these women.

One woman was snoring in a recording after being given the date-rape drug, and Luster labeled one of the rape recordings, "Shauna GHBing," the evidence showed.

A Prosecutor Pointed to What Others Say Was The Obvious

Prosecutor Anthony Wold testified that the recorded rapes were "painfully sadistic acts" by a man who defense witnesses said had the brain of a child inside a grown man's cranium.

The media flocked to the Hall of Justice after Luster's arrest, and this, seemed to set the tone after Luster's arrest, and the coverage increased after his subsequent flight in the middle of his trial to Puerta Vallarta, Mexico.

There, Luster surfed, drank high-end Tequila and fished while being holed up in a Mexican Motel.

Luster's Second Set of Lawyers Want His Sentence Reduced.

Luster's lawyers, Jay Leiderman and David Nick, who successfully filed a writ habeas corpus, citing ineffective assistance of counsel in the rape trial and other legal issues are asking for Luster's 124-year sentence to be reduced and his conviction set aside.

An appeals court agreed to the pleadings in the writ in 2012 and allowed a hearing.

The lawyers are also argued in court this week that this case quickly turned into a "media circus" but Luster's first batch of hired legal guns hadn't bothered to submit legal papers requesting  a change of venue to try and have the high-publicity case moved to another county.

Wold testified that Luster's former lawyers at his rape trial basically maintained at his court proceedings two things: That the victims were pretending to be asleep or had consented to be violated while they were conscious.

Wold and Luster's defense team, especially Attorney Richard Sherman, had an acrimonious relationship in court, according to court testimony.

Wold said he didn't trust Sherman who, he said, twisted and distorted his conversations with him, noting that Luster and his investigator Bill Pavelic appeared to be running the show and telling lawyers during court proceedings what questions to ask.

Sherman was aggressive in court and file frivolous legal motions and get countless trial delays.

The defense including investigator Bill Pavelic alleged prosecution misconduct and accused the district attorney of hiding evidence, including DNA evidence from one of the rape victims who allegedly had sex with three other men just prior to being raped by Luster.

This rape wasn't video recorded, and Pavelic called this victim a "pathetic liar" during his testimony last week. He told the judge that Luster's "celebrity status" made him an easy target for the district attorney and law enforcement.

Prosecutor Michelle Contois said in court Luster always maintained his innocence and never wanted to plea guilty. He rolled the dice and lost and now, Luster is unhappy, according to Contois.

Still, critics, including criminal attorneys,  said with the mountain of evidence against Luster was to great and that the trial could have been moved to a goat-herding country in the Middle East and the results would have been the same once prosecutors pressed the play button on the video recorder.

But what lead to a sentence where the judge probably used a pocket calculator to figure out the number of years on each of the 86-counts Luster was convicted on and arriving at a 124-year sentence?

It might have been the continuous and bitter courtroom clashes between Luster's legal dream team and the iron-fisted District Attorney's Michael Bradbury's prosecutors who had their marching orders.

All this was also coupled with the fact that many reporters were chasing a story about a millionaire surfer accused video recording the two of the three rapes of women and joked about it like a high school prankster while recording the women.


The Andrew Luster "Media Circus" and Former DA Michael Bradbury's Office

It was no secret.

Former District Attorney Michael Bradbury protected his office's projected public and political image as a California's toughest prosecutors with evangelistic zeal, according to his critics.

Bradbury didn't want that image soiled or smudged and frowned at prosecutors who he perceived had "embarrassed" the office or not followed his rules, say critics.

Bradbury often didn't fire wayward lawyers who fudged or didn't follow his rigid policies, according to Adam Pearlman, a former prosecutor who testified at Luster's trial. They were banished like him to the basement of shame - the Child Support Unit - where prosecutorial careers go to die, according to Pearlman and other former prosecutors.

Pearlman testified that he was the first prosecutor who handled the Luster case. There were at least three  others.

Bradbury's critics said Bradbury was a "hands on" prosecutor who had to sign off on any plea bargain deals involving very serious felonies, especially "special interest" cases.

There is no doubt that Bradbury whose office was on the third floor wasn't aware that Geraldo, a crew from 48 Hours and many other reporters were also roaming the halls asking dozens of questions, sizing up different angles.

Bradbury retired in 2003 and his second in command, Greg Totten, who was elected as district attorney, stepped into his shoes.

Andrew Luster's Arrogance and His Small Army of Hired Legal Guns

Some media photos and TV video show a well-groomed and confident Luster with his defense team walking down the hallway at the Hall of Justice. Luster appears to have a smug smile on his face.

His small army of defense attorneys included James Blatt, Joel Isaacson, Richard Sherman, Roger Diamond, two investigations, including  Pavelic.. In addition, there was a DNA attorney whose specialty and sole purpose was to tackle issues involving DNA issues in this case.

There were brief discussions by Luster's trial lawyers on whether to hire a "fetish film expert," according to court testimony.

Many Times Luster's Personality Got in the Way of His Defense

Last week. Luster's friend Darryl Genis apologized to Luster before telling the judge that Luster was "childlike" and described him as someone who wasn't concerned about money, was well traveled and surfed in various beaches.

"His childlike nature lead down a number of different paths," said Genis.

 Luster was a confused man that could be easily manipulated and was getting conflicting legal advice, Genis said.

Others testified that his need for a father-figure lead him to hire a 70-year-old Attorney named Richard Sherman who drained his bank account and a week before Luster's rape trial disappeared, never to show up in court again.

Luster's father died when he was 9-years-old.

Luster was left with Attorney Roger Diamond whose role from questioning a few witnesses was now relegated to being the lead lawyer in the rape trial, court testimony indicated.

Sherman surfaced again in the middle of the rape trial and contacted Luster told him about a plan he hatched to help him flee to Mexico, saying that Luster's life was in danger.

An Offer to Serve Eight to 12 Years Behind Bars In Exchange for a Guilty Plea to Rape

Defense lawyer James Blatt testified that the DA then prosecutor John Blair offered  a plea bargain  of eight to 12 year sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. But Luster's other lawyer Joel Isaacson believed that he could use the consent defense.

But Isaacson later testified that he told Luster the truth about the seriousness of the charges, and said that in one case,  where there was no video recording, there could be a defense that the sex was consensual with one victim.  Isaacson, however, said he told Luster to consider a plea agreement because he was facing 100 years.

"I don't beg people to plead guilty. It's their life, their case," Isaacson testified.

Former Senior Deputy District Attorney John Blair testified that the plea bargain offer was made by Luster's lawyers and as with any plea offer at that time, he said he simply wrote a memo to his superiors on June 5, 2001 stating that Luster was willing to plead guilty to two counts of rape.

"They asked me to put something in writing, which I did," said Blair who is now a court commissioner in San Diego.

Blair said the memo had to submitted to Bradbury who never acted on it, although his initials are on it.

Defense attorneys, who insist that this plea offer was made by the DA, argued that Luster would have accepted it if his lawyers would have done a better job of communicating to him the perils of going to trial.

Leiderman and Nick said some Luster's former lawyers including Sherman who, they quipped, arrived in a "clown car," were simply siphoning his finances, bungling the preparation and defense of this case and making the courtroom atmosphere with the prosecutor  and law enforcement so "toxic" that there left no room for any plea agreement.

Luster's financial advisor Albert Gersh testified that Luster's rape-trial lawyers emptied out Luster's financial account, and he believed that $280,000 left in Luster's account could have been used to flee to Mexico.

Luster was promised this money by Sherman and his investigator Patrick Campbell who can't be found, according to defense lawyers. Luster was never given a dime from the $280,000.

The Defense Team Gave Judge Kathryne Stoltz  a Heads Up on Investigator Bill Pavelic.

Luster's lawyers indicated told Judge Stoltz that Pavelic allege mood swings and unpredictable temperament on the stand so he could be problematic and his testimony might last longer than expected as a difficult witnesses.

On the contrary, Pavelic's testimony was straight forward, level-headed and never raised his voice on the stand.

 Pavelic, a retired investigator and former Los Angeles detective who worked on the Luster case, testified last week that his investigation showed that one of the victims, a UCSB student, had sex with three other men along with having sex with Luster and had been to nightclubs in Santa Barbara.

Pavelic said the district attorney refused to test the condom used on the female student for DNA evidence or look at nightclub video surveillance recordings. He said Luster was initially arrested for kidnapping because the victim reported the alleged date-rape to the Santa Barbara Police Department officers who notified Ventura authorities who began an investigation on Luster.

Pavelic said the UCSB student was a "pathetic liar" and very promiscuous.

Pavelic said he recommended several defense lawyers to Luster, including attorney Richard Sherman. Pavelic said he worked with Sherman on the John Gordon Jones case. The 46-year-old millionaire and businessman was found not guilty in 2001 of sexually assaulting nine women, seven of whom were allegedly drugged with GHB, according to court testimony.

Sherman was one of the attorneys in the Jones case and in that case, prosecutors were also accused of misconduct.

Sherman, who was in his 70s was very charming and persuasive and became like a father figure to Luster, soon began to use scare tactics on Luster, saying he was going to be killed in prison or by Ventura authorities, Pavelic said.

While in jail, Pavelic said Luster called him every day, seven or eight times a day and told him that he was fearful and suicidal. Pavelic said jail deputies told Luster that they would push him down the stairs and nobody would question what happened.

Both defense lawyers and Contois agreed in court that Sherman helped Luster escape to Mexico and testimony indicated that Sherman was the focus of a federal grand jury investigation about Luster's flight to Mexico.

Sherman is now deceased but denied the allegations before he died.

During her turn to cross examine, Contois said she had no questions for Pavelic who was on the stand for about an hour.

But both defense lawyers and Contois agreed and entered a stipulation in court that Sherman helped Luster escape to Mexico.

Luster's ex-girlfriend Valerie Balderrama and the mother of his two adult children, Connor and Quinn, testified last week that she didn't know that a "stressed and concerned" Luster was going to flee to Mexico.

"He felt that he was innocent and didn't deserve 10 years," said Balderrama.

Adding, "I just knew that he felt that he didn't deserve to go to prison."

A Former Judge Testified That Luster's Case Shouldn't Have Gone to Trial

Defense witness, retired Judge Arturo Gutierrez, testified at the hearing that plea deals were always struck up by prosecutors without the approval of Bradbury or Totten or their supervisors.

One way to sidestep the DA and supervisors' approval was by getting some of the judges to sign off on plea agreements and making it appear that it wasn't being offered by them not the DA.

"This case isn't worth what my supervisor wants. The punishment they want is too severe," Gutierrez said some prosecutors would basically complain to him.

Gutierrez, who took the bench in 1981, testified solely about the criminal justice practices and policies during the time he was on the bench.

Gutierrez, who retired in 2008 said the Luster case should have never gone to trial, saying that it should have been settled. He said the eight to 12 year sentence that Luster said prosecutors offered him was "average" for similar type of rape cases at that time.


The Judge Bans Cameras In the Courtroom and The Lawyers Agree to Gag Themselves.

Judge Kathryne Stoltz, a retired justice who was assigned to preside over Luster's hearing, banned cameras in the courtroom because lawyers say they don't want pre-trial publicity in case Luster is retried.

In the middle of the hearing,  Jay Leiderman and David Nick told the judge that they had reached another stipulation with prosecutor Contois that they would no longer make comments to the media during  the court proceedings.

During a court recess, Judge Stoltz ordered that a TV camera set up in the hallway just outside the courtroom last week be turned off after defense lawyers complained about the cameras being there.

The courtroom deputies ordered the camera to be turned off.

The Heir to the Max Factor Cosmetic Empire Arrives with About Four Feet of Chains on His Body

Luster, now 49 years old, comes into court wearing a chain around his waist and his ankles are shackled and his hand is handcuffed to a chair.

Luster's lawyer Joel Isaacson testified that he didn't recall talking about a possible movie about Luster's ordeal. The judge who presided at Luster's trial for rape, Ken Riley, was interviewed by Fox New's Bill O'Reilly about the case, according to court testimony.

Luster, who is the heir of cosmetics giant Max Factor Sr. and an heir to the Max Factor cosmetics fortune, has been in prison for more than 10 years.

In court and dressed in jail garb, Luster, who looks thinner, unshaven and fatigued, will occasionally lean over and quietly ask questions or talk to his lawyers.

In Mexico, Luster lived at the two-room residence at Motel Los Angeles in the hills overlooking this seaside tourist town, according to a story published in the Star in 2003.

 Luster kept two fishing poles against the wall near his queen-sized bed, a small boom box in the corner and two surfboards with accompanying covers on the floor in the adjacent den, the story stated.

"Please do not touch these boards," he wrote in a note to the motel staff.

Luster's hearing resumes at Courtroom 23 on Monday at 2 p.m.





Judge Rules that Key DNA Evidence Can Be at Admitted at Packer Trial

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A judge on Tuesday denied a request by attorneys representing murder suspect Joshua Packer to suppress robbery-related evidence gathered after detectives put a GPS tracking device on his vehicle.

Defense attorney Benjamin Maserang unsuccessfully argued that there wasn't probable cause for police to put the tracking device on Packer's SUV.

Packer, 22, of Ventura, is accused of fatally stabbing Brock and Davina Husted and killing their fetus on May 20, 2009, at the couple's Faria Beach house north of Ventura. He has pleaded not guilty.

The judge's decision is important for the case against Packer, according to prosecutors. 

A swab for DNA was obtained from Packer by Santa Barbara Sheriff's deputies as part of the jail's routine booking process after Packer was arrested in that city for a September 2009 robbery.

"It was real important," Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Frawley said in an interview, adding that this DNA evidence, which was sent to a state DNA computer bank, was key to making an arrest in the killings.

 Maserang argued in court that the physical descriptions of the suspect in a string of robberies in 2009 varied to a large degree, including discrepancies in height and hair color.

Prosecutor Michelle Contois countered that there was probable cause to use GPS and that "similar descriptions" of suspects were more than sufficient to satisfy legal and constitutional requirements.

Court testimony indicated police were baffled by several Ventura robberies in September 2009, including at a Shell gasoline station on Harbor Boulevard, an Arco gasoline station on East Main Street, a Dairy Queen restaurant on Telegraph Road and a liquor store on Telegraph Road.

On Sept. 23, 2009, a Thrifty gasoline station in Santa Barbara was robbed.

Several law enforcement officers from Ventura and Santa Barbara police departments and an investigator with the District Attorney's Office testified Monday for several hours about the robberies.

Ventura police tried to find the suspect vehicle involved in that robbery. Police twice stopped a vehicle matching that description, a 2002 beige or light brown Trailblazer.

Jarrod Wilfert, who was then an officer with the Ventura Police Department, testified that Packer was going 85 mph when he stopped him in Ventura. Packer's clothing and other clothing inside the Trailblazer, including dark hoodies and a black baseball hat, matched items worn by the Santa Barbara robbery suspect, according to court testimony.

Wilfert testified that Packer said he was going to a casino near Santa Barbara and had recently won money. Wilfert said just two screws held the license plate, which had no frame. Police maintained in court that is indicative of being able to easily change plates.

More than two hours later, another officer stopped Packer in Ventura. The same items of clothing were found inside the car along with two passengers and a small amount of marijuana. Packer was cited and warned, but not arrested after either stop.

On Oct. 1, 2009, Ventura police placed a GPS tracking device on Packer's SUV and monitored Packer's travel to the Chumash Indian Gaming Casino in Santa Ynez using a route that passes near the Thrifty gas station in Santa Barbara.

In an ongoing investigation, the casino's surveillance cameras indicated Packer had no license plates on the back of his vehicle, according to court testimony. Two search warrants were executed at Packer's residence.

On Jan. 14, 2010, Santa Barbara sheriff's deputies arrested Packer in connection with the Thrifty robbery, saying he made criminal threats using the victim's stolen cellphone.

Frawley said Packer's DNA taken in jail was entered into the state's computer data system and it linked him to the Husted killings around March or April 2010.

"Hey, we've got a match here," Frawley said state officials told the district attorney.

The Court Reporter
Raul Hernandez has spent years writing stories about the drama that unfolds in the courtroom. Here he answers common questions, share some insights on the judicial system and passes along some of the little things that make the Ventura County courts an interesting place to be. You can contact him at