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 arguments.
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.
The 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).
There 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.
There 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 months.
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 Salas.
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.
Peyton 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 trial.
Inconsistent 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 reports.
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," he replied.
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 became furious.
"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 on memory.
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.