Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Central Florida Agencies Take a Stand Against Animal Cruelty

Successful “Cruelty Hurts” Campaign Achieves Major Results by Second Year

ORLANDO, Fla.—April 1, 2010—Today marks the start of Prevention of Animal Cruelty Month, as well as the second anniversary of Orange County Animal Services’ “Cruelty Hurts” campaign aimed at educating Orange County citizens about animal cruelty and its link to human violence. Since kicking off last year in partnership with Crimeline of Central Florida, the campaign has integrated new partners into a community-wide approach to prevent and prosecute animal crimes.

CourtWatch Florida has recently signed on to track and publicize felony animal cruelty cases in Orange County through its WatchList blog and “Weekly WatchList” e-newsletter.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the response, both from partners and from the public to stand up for innocent animals that are subjected to unconscionable cruelty,” said Katherine Lockett, Division Manager of Animal Services. “Studies show animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people, so we are proud to be leading this effort to keep our community safe.”

Since partnering one year ago, Crimeline and Orange County Animal Services have achieved remarkable results. With 97 tips to date, the relationship has yielded multiple confiscations of severely neglected animals, a multi-county cockfighting investigation and a felony arrest for animal cruelty that paid a $600 reward.

“Now that people can report these types of crimes completely anonymously by calling 800-423-TIPS, and potentially receive a cash reward for doing the right thing, we’ve seen a tenfold increase in the number of anonymous tips,” said Barbara Bergin, Executive Director of Crimeline. “Animals lives were saved by people who cared enough to call, and that’s exactly what we set out to do.”

Animal Services and Harbor House of Central Florida joined together in 2009. Focused on “The Link,”—a term trademarked by American Humane, which illustrates the relationship between animal cruelty, child abuse, domestic violence and elder abuse—the organizations are working to increase awareness about The Link, create the first Pets and Women’s Shelters (PAWS) Program in Central Florida and provide first-responder transport to animal victims of domestic violence.

“We’re thrilled about creating an innovative program for animal victims of domestic violence in Orange County, and we’re confident our partnership with Animal Services will save lives and keep families together,” said Carol Wick, Chief Executive Officer of Harbor House.

Beginning in April 2010, Animal Services partnered with CourtWatch Florida to track and publicize felony animal cruelty cases in Orange County. The non-profit organization, which currently monitors domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse hearings, was a natural fit because of The Link between animal cruelty and other domestic crimes.

“It is time perpetrators of animal cruelty are treated like the criminals they are by the courts, and we’re glad to be a part of the process to ensure that happens,” said Laura Williams, Executive Director of CourtWatch.

In addition, Animal Services has been working with local law enforcement to foster collaboration, much like its positive relationship with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office whereby the agencies cooperatively handle the civil and criminal aspects of investigations. Its trainings with Orlando Police Department and Ocoee Police Department have proved successful. Following Animal Services’ training with Ocoee Police Department, the agency made two significant felony animal cruelty arrests.

Animal Services also recently completed Continuing Legal Education (CLE) training for the State Attorney’s Office.

“Last year, we conducted 3,486 investigations of animal cruelty, neglect and abandonment,” said Lockett. “Our efforts are working towards getting these crimes reported, getting animals to safety, and ensuring criminals are brought to justice. That keeps our entire community safer.”

For more information about the campaign, click here.

About Orange County Animal Services
Orange County Animal Services is Central Florida’s largest pet rescue and adoption centers. Last year alone, Animal Services received nearly 24,000 animals at its shelter. For 40 years, the agency’s mission has been to protect pets and people in Orange County through courteous enforcement of the Orange County Code. Its vision is to give abandoned and neglected pets a second chance to live long, healthy lives in safe, loving homes. For more about Orange County Animal Services, visit their website.

About Crimeline
Central Florida Crimeline is an anonymous tip line answered 24 hours a day by live operators. All tipsters are kept completely anonymous. Crimeline does not trap, trace, record or have caller ID. If a tip leads to solving a felony case, the tipster may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000. Crimeline accepts anonymous tips at 800-423-8477 and via their website.

About Harbor House
Harbor House provides safe shelter, a 24-hour crisis hotline, counseling, emotional support and legal advocacy for thousands of domestic violence survivors and their children each year. Harbor House also prepares survivors for re-entry into the community—connecting them to resources that will enable them to live independently, safely and peacefully. Harbor House is Orange County's only state-certified domestic violence facility. Its 24-Hour Crisis Hotline is (407) 886-2856 (TDD) or (800) 500-1119 (FL). For more information, visit their website.

About CourtWatch Florida
CourtWatch Florida began as a subcommittee of the Orange County Domestic Violence Task Force and was incorporated in 2007. CourtWatch monitors domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse cases to make sure the system holds perpetrators accountable and doesn't re-victimize the victims. CourtWatch is a member of the National Association of Court Monitoring Programs. Its first training class was held in April 2007, and it has now trained over 150 volunteers as CourtWatchers and monitored in excess of 7,000 hearings. For more information, or to register for weekly emails to stay apprised of cruelty cases, visit our website.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Whatever Happened to. . . ? #13

Thomas Brazzle
2010-CF-000313-A-O (Orange)
Stalking (2 counts); Aggravated Assault w/Motor Vehicle (2 counts)
Defendant allegedly attempted to run over his ex-boyfriend and his ex's new girlfriend with a motor vehicle.
No Information Notice was filed [case dropped]

Fidel Juarez-Avila
2008-CF-003343-A (Seminole)
1st Degree Murder; Aggravated Child Abuse
Defendant pled no contest to the lesser offense of Aggravated Manslaughter of Child in the death of his 14-month old child and was sentenced to 21 years DOC + 5 years probation. The medical examiner concluded that the child's liver was broken in two from having been punched in the abdomen so hard.

Laszlo Arsenio Horvath
2009-CF-011232-A-O (Orange)
Cruelty to Animals
Defendant allegedly sexually assault his dog, who had to be euthanized
Defendant pled and was sentenced to 3 years probation

Victor Bard Davidson
2008-CF-010821-A-O (Orange)
Possess Material Depicting Sexual Performancy by Child (272 counts)
Defendant was found guilty by a jury in December and was sentenced to 75 years Department of Corrections this week.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Prosecutor disappears in the middle of trial

Every so often people in the hallways and elevators ask us to visit a particular courtroom. Sometimes they are part of "the System" and sometimes they're just citizens who are associated with a particular case.

Yesterday, I ran into Assistant State Attorney Mark Interlicchio as he stepped into the elevator I was riding. Between the 12th and 7th floors, he mentioned that a domestic violence case he was handling was about to get JOA'd in Judge Richard Conrad's courtroom. I was training a volunteer, so I got her situated in a courtroom on the 7th floor and went back up to Judge Conrad's a few minutes later.
But what happens if the prosecutor leaves the courtroom for a few minutes to research caselaw and fails to return?
JOA is legalese lingo for Judgment of Acquittal. After the State has presented its case in a trial, the jury is excused and the Defense makes a motion for Judgment of Acquittal, citing the areas in which they believe the State failed to prove their case. The judge then decides, based on the facts presented thus far, whether or not the jury will deliberate on the charges as presented. Sometimes a charge is reduced  (for instance, if someone is charged with grand theft but the State fails to prove the value of the items stolen reached a certain threshold, the charge might be dropped to petit theft). Sometimes a charge is dropped altogether. Most of the time, the Motion for JOA is denied.
I'll tell you what happens. The judge grants the defense motion.

At 1:25 pm the jury was excused, the Motion for JOA was heard, and Mr. Interlicchio was given 5 minutes to produce caselaw to support his argument.

At 1:40 pm I arrived in the courtroom wherein the defendant, his attorney, court deputies, the court reporter and the judge were patiently awaiting the prosecutor's return.

At 1:48 pm Judge Conrad asked the court reporter what time they had recessed. He expressed his extreme irritation at the prosecutor's failure to return.

At 1:57 pm the judge asked Defense Counsel, Mark Lippman, if he had a motion. He reiterated his Motion for JOA and it was granted because, as Judge Conrad noted for the record, "the Assistant State's Attorney has absented himself to research an issue he should have researched the night before."

The defendant, Andrew Michael Phillips, age 35, had his case dropped.

There was back slapping and smiles at the defense table.

I left a few moments later.

CourtWatch finds Mr. Interlicchio's behavior extremely irresponsible. He was not adequately prepared for trial and he disrespected his colleagues by not returning in a timely manner (or notifying the court of his status). 

Finally, Mr. Interlicchio taught Mr. Phillips that the courts will not hold him accountable for his crimes.

Just to provide a little perspective, here's some history on the defendant:

1/8/09 offense: Osceola County case 2009-MM-000175
Charged with misdemeanor battery. Jury found defendant guilty. Sentenced to 28 days jail + probation. A Violation of Probation was charged in October and dismissed in February.

1/29/09 offense: Orange County case 2009-MM-001093-A-O
Charged with misdemeanor battery. Case dismissed.

4/14/09 offense: Orange County case 2009-CF-005484-A-O
Charged with Felony Battery but pled to misdemeanor battery & sentenced to 12 months probation, 25 hours community service, and to write an apology letter to the victim.
A Violation of Probation is pending for this case and a DUI case.

9/19/09 offense: Orange County case 2009-CF-015403-A-O
Charged with Felony Battery - Motion for JOA granted. Prosecutor's antics noted above.

10/10/09 offense: Osecola County case 2009-MM-004175
Charged with Battery-DV and Battery. Victim filed a declination of prosecution and case was dropped 2 weeks later.


PS: I learned that Mr. Interlicchio subsequently returned to the courtroom after I left.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Judge Apte "gets" domestic violence

Judge Alan S. Apte moved from Juvenile Court to a Criminal division in the Orange County courthouse at the beginning of the year. After watching him for the past 2 1/2 months, CourtWatch is pleased to have him here.

Judge Apte routinely asks probing questions, makes thorough explanations to the participants in his courtroom, shows compassion to victims, treats everyone professionally and with respect, and exhibits a good understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence.

CourtWatch monitored two hearings in the judge's courtroom related to the case of State v. Bryan Deangelo Lee last week.  Mr. Lee is charged with Aggravated Battery and Tampering w/Witness in an assault on the mother of his 2-yr old child. Defense Counsel Christina Shepherd filed a motion to set bond (defendant was still in custody), modify victim contact, and delete the GPS requirement that was imposed at his initial appearance. The State requested pretrial detention.

The defense requested a modification of victim contact in order to enable the defendant to visit with his 2-yr old child. Judge Apte asked if the defendant and the child's mother (the victim in this case) were married. They are not. He took the time to explain to the defendant that unless paternity has been legally established, the defendant has no legal right for contact with the child. CourtWatch rarely sees judges in criminal cases inform the parties about what the law allows in these situations. The motion was withdrawn.

Ms. Shepherd then requested a reasonable bond be set, and argued that the defendant could only afford a $5,000 bond. He claimed to have a job selling magazines door-to-door and in a good week, makes $500. He also said he is unable to pay his child support obligations. Judge Apte asked what he reported his income to be on the Affadavit of Indigency he completed when he requested the services of the Public Defender. He admitted he wrote $0.

The State then presented testimony from the victim's mother and sister who were fearful for the safety of the victim. They testified to injuries and property damage they've seen in the past, as well as threats made by the defendant.  The State also presented evidence that the defendant had violated his "No Contact" Order by making 267 phone calls to the victim's cell phone since his arrest on January 21, 2010.

The victim testified on behalf of the defendant and said she was not afraid of the defendant, admitted that law enforcement had been called on previous occasions and that he did hit her, and claimed that she and the defendant had never discussed her testimony. She had filed a declination of prosecution.

A 15-minute recording of one of the many jail calls was then played in court. In the call, the defendant blamed the victim for not getting him out of jail, told her to claim she hit him first, and demanded that she get get him out. He cursed and yelled at the victim during the call.

Judge Apte asked several probing questions about the defendant's history which included approximately 13 arrests (some of which were batteries on different victims).

Defense Counsel Christina Shepherd argued that the cost of GPS monitoring was burdensome and requested a $5,000 bond.

Assistant State Attorney Eric Trabin argued that there were no conditions of release that could protect the victim, and noted that the defendant's having violated the no contact order while in jail 267 times is indicative of the his likelihood of non-compliance with any conditions that the judge might impose. He requested no bond be granted.

When requesting pretrial detention of a defendant, the State has a two-pronged burden. They must demonstrate that proof is evident that the defendant committed the crime(s) for which they're charged and the presumption is great that the victim/community would not be safe if the defendant is released - no matter what restrictions might be placed upon them by the judge. Another factor the judge may consider is whether or not the defendant is a flight risk.

Judge Apte granted bond in the amount of $25,000, ordered GPS Monitoring and Home Confinement, and revoked his phone privileges at the jail. He explained that there was insufficient evidence presented at the hearing to cover the "proof evident" prong mentioned above.

Two days later, Mr. Lee was back in court on the State's Motion to Revoke Bond because he called the victim after having been admonished that "no contact" truly does mean "NO CONTACT." Judge Apte told the defendant he would be found in contempt of court and given 364 days in jail if he called her again. He also remarked that hopefully the jail would prohibit Mr. Lee from having access to a telephone since his phone privileges were revoked at the previous hearing.

Bond was revoked.

Kudos to the judge for holding this perpetrator accountable.

Kudos to the prosecutors and advocates at the State Attorney's Office who cared about protecting this victim, in spite of her initial efforts on behalf of the defendant. I'm told that she is now a "cooperative" witness for the prosecution.

Lee's trial is now scheduled for June 21, 2010.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Domestic Violence doesn't just happen at home

The murder of Anicia Yankton earlier this month while she was at her place of employment is a grim reminder that domestic violence doesn't just happen at home. Anicia's estranged husband, Andreau Yankton, waited behind other shoppers at her checkout line at Publix and reportedly shot her in the face. When confronted in the parking lot, he turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.

Two previous wives had filed injunctions against Mr. Yankton in 1996 and 2002.

It makes me wonder how many people in the past might have witnessed an altercation between Mr. Yankton and one of these women.

It makes me think about what we as average citizens could/should do if we happen to witness what appears to be an abusive/violent altercation in public. I think that when confronted with a situation, most people are at a loss to know how to respond. But if we prepare ourselves ahead of time, we might be able to assist law enforcement and the courts in holding a perpetrator accountable for their behavior.

Here are some suggestions.
  1. Make sure anything you do doesn't jeopardize your safety. Violent people sometimes attack those who attempt to render aid to the victim.
  2. Call law enforcement and remain at a safe distance until they arrive. Keep an eye on the situation if possible.
  3. If the individuals are in a vehicle, get the tag number.
  4. Provide your location to the dispatcher. Answer their questions. Describe what you see.
  5. Take a picture (if practical) with your cell phone or other camera.
  6. Some cell phones can also record audio. Capture any evidence of the assault if possible.
  7. Provide a written statement to law enforcement after they have defused the situation.
  8. Be available to the investigators and the prosecutor. Be willing to testify in court.
Prosecutors are using 911 recordings, victim & crime scene photos and the testimony of witnesses to prove an assault, even when the victim declines to assist in the prosecution. These "victimless" cases are resulting in convictions, as is evidenced by an earlier blog entry on the subject.

Uncertainty causes cases to resolve?

In Orange County, where the cases are plentiful and the funds are tight, we have a judge who plays a kind of "Russian Roulette" with his trial docket and costs the taxpayers more money than is necessary.

Having worked in the prosecutor's office in a substantially smaller jurisdiction (population 120,000), the learning curve I experienced when starting this program was a bit daunting.

In Orange County, each judge has his/her own division where their cases are heard. There are 12 felony divisions, a similar number of misdemeanor divisions, plus several judges that do trial assistance for the divisions on a rotating basis.

To view a flow chart of the process a criminal case takes through the courts, click here.

During part of the calendar each month there are a couple of weeks where various motions are heard. These can include pretrial motions/hearings (e.g., bond motions, motion to suppress evidence, a motion to modify terms of pretrial release, etc.) or post conviction hearings (e.g., sentencing, violation of probation, etc.). Once a case has its "pretrial conference" during this period, all pretrial motions, depositions, and other matters are supposed to be completed. The trial period begins approximately 10 days later.

When you have a trial date, your case will be set for the first day of a 2 or 3 week trial period. Obviously, not all of those cases will be heard that day. The court does a triage (which is incredibly chaotic to those not familiar with the process) and determines which cases on its docket really will be going to trial during that 2 or 3 week period. The rest of the cases either get continued or resolved in some fashion - usually being "nolle prossed" (i.e., dropped) or pled out.

Here's where we get to the "Russian Roulette."

During Judge Tim Shea's trial periods, dockets are issued on a day-to-day basis, unlike other divisions who set trials by Thursday or Friday for the upcoming week. Dockets for his division during the non-trial period are distributed a week or more in advance.

An observer in his courtroom noted that both the State and Public Defenders have requested more than one day's notice for trial - giving them adequate time to prepare, to have witnesses ready, etc.

They were told by the judge that "uncertainty causes cases to resolve."

Uncertainty causes cases to resolve?

Does the judge prefer to have cases either plead out or dropped because a victim or other witness is unavailable at his whim? Are victims and other witnesses (both for the State and Defense) expected to drop what they're doing and be available at a moment's notice during the entire 2 or 3 week trial period?

What happened to providing justice to our citizens? Witnesses often have jobs and/or childcare for which arrangements need to be made. For out-of-town witnesses, the State pays exhorbitant transportation costs when all they have is one day's notice of trial.

Defendants, whose freedoms are at stake, are supposed to be represented by an attorney who is not as prepared as they could be with just a few extra days notice?

It seems as though Judge Shea enjoys creating uncertainty in his courtroom.

The citizens of Orange County deserve better.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Arsonist/Stalker now in custody

In following up on the arsonist/stalker case from last month, I was delighted to learn that Tommy Lee Knight's charges were amended to 3 counts of Attempted Murder and he is now in custody. The State's Motion to Revoke Bond on March 5th was also granted by Judge Lubet.

This is one of those cases that haunted me after monitoring the February bond hearing. The fear that the victim exhibited, as she trembled during her testimony, was abundantly evident. Her mother expressed how helpless she felt in keeping her teenage daughter safe from the defendant.

Knight now has two new misdemeanor charges pending. In case 2010MM2269AO there are two counts of Resisting Officer w/o Violence and in 2010MM2250AO he is charged with one count of Violating Pretrial Release Conditions on a Domestic Violence case (both filed on 3/3/10).

Mr. Knight is now in custody. His trial is scheduled for next month.

Friday, March 5, 2010

DV = Domestic Violence = Deputy Villella

CourtWatch monitored the Villella injunction hearing held on March 2nd, which involved a lengthy conference at the bench so the press could not hear. What wasn't reported in the media is that the "no hostile contact" was the Judge's idea!

In spite of having his own attorney, it appeared to me that the petitioner in this case was intimidated into acquiescing. I hope the petitioner doesn't get a false sense of security thinking that this injunction has any teeth.

There is no wiggle room in Florida Statute 741.31(4)(a)5 for "no hostile contact." Intimate partners have numerous non-verbal ways they communicate with one another. In a healthy relationship, these might constitute an "inside joke" or word/gesture of endearment. In an abusive relationship, they engender fear.

An abuser can be very crafty about the methods they use to intimidate their victim. For example, one woman's husband routinely removed his wedding ring and set it upon the fireplace mantel before he beat her. The gesture terrified her. When she finally had the courage to seek an injunction, and they were in court, he calmly removed his wedding ring and set it on the table.

Needless to say, the meaning was crystal clear to his wife. It was a hostile gesture that communicated his intention to do violence. Yet no one else in the courtroom even realized the implication of his action.

Therefore, the concept of a "No Hostile Contact" order is ridiculous. Imagine the wife in the above scenario attempting to convince a law enforcement officer to arrest her husband because he removed his wedding band. No officer would. And the abuser knows it.

Non-hostile contact orders simply empower an abuser to continue abusing - albeit in a less overtly "hostile" manner than before.

They are simply not enforceable.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"Victimless" Domestic Violence case results in 5 year sentence

The number one reason that perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual assault are not held accountable for their crimes is because victims decline to prosecute them. Most of the time, these offenses do not have outside witnesses that can testify to the assault. But the State Attorney, when they have enough evidence, will proceed without the victim's assistance.

CourtWatch congratulates Assistant State Attorney Lorraine DeYoung for a superb job in prosecuting Larry Price this week. Mr. Price was charged with Attempted 1st Degree Murder, Aggravated Battery (Great Bodily Harm), False Imprisonment, Battery (2 counts), and Resisting Officer Without Violence as a result of a June 27, 2009 assault on his ex-girlfriend.

By using photos of the victim's injuries, the 911 calls made by the victim's daughter, and law enforcement's testimony of what they witnessed at the scene, Ms. DeYoung constructed a case that will put this offender behind bars for the next five years. He was convicted on the lesser charge of Felony Battery. Because he is a prison release reoffender, he will serve every single day of that five years.

Mr. Price attempted to convince the jury that it was a case of mutual combat. I suspect that his lack of injuries at the time, the gruesome photos of the injuries the victim sustained to her head (showing two large gashes that bled profusely with substantial swelling), combined with the frying pan in the front yard conviced the jury otherwise.

This is a wonderful example of what our court system is capable of accomplishing when a victim is too terrified to participate in prosecuting their abuser. Kudos to Ms. DeYoung.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Man Who Wouldn't Let Go

I spent most of last week monitoring the Loc Tran 1st Degree Murder case in Judge John Adams' courtroom. Prosecutor Robin Wilkinson methodically and thoroughly introduced evidence in the form of testimony from the victim's sister (who lived with her) and several coworkers, medical and law enforcement personnel, and crime lab analysts. Physical evidence consisted of photographs of the scene, ligatures that the defendant created from materials available at the home, and the murder weapon - a household knife.

All were artfully woven together to paint a picture of this man who wouldn't let go of his girlfriend, 20-yr old Anh Tran (no relation), when she decided the relationship was over in 2006.

Tran repeatedly harrassed Anh with phone calls, text messages and lengthy visits to the restaurant where she worked, sometimes staying there for her entire shift. He showed nude pictures of her to her coworkers in an effort to embarrass and further make her life miserable.

The victim's only, and tragically fatal, mistake was in trying to remain friends with the man she had once dated. She permitted him into her home and allowed him to use the sofa that fateful night because it was late and he had a long drive back to Clearwater. It was there that Tran fabricated the ligatures using a pair of kitchen scissors and some t-shirts. At some point he returned to her bedroom where he tied her to the bed, sexually assaulted her, and then stabbed her in the abdominal region at least 14 times. Eleven of the wounds were deep enough to penetrate major organs. Evidence also indicated her mouth and nose had been covered, temporarily cutting off her oxygen and restricting her ability to call for help from one of her three roommates (two of whom were sisters).

The defendant was found with superficial stab wounds to the abdomen and underwent surgery after he was discovered. The evidence showed that they were self inflicted and did no lasting damage.

The jury, thankfully, found Tran guilty of first degree murder and Judge Adams, even more thankfully, sentenced him to LIFE in prison. The jury never heard of his 1998 conviction where he raped a Clearwater woman who had rejected him (DOC's website shows he was incarcerated for 26 months on that offense - Defendant was also required to register as a sex offender). But the judge knew about it.

In Florida, a life sentence is a life sentence. Tran will die in jail, never having the opportunity to victimize another girlfriend again. Kudos to the prosecution and the judge.

One thing troubled me about this trial.

The defendant, who is Vietnamese, spoke and understood English without a problem. Yet his attorney, Wesley "Buck" Blankner, ordered interpreters for him. Typically two interpreters are needed during trial because fatigue sets in after simultaneously translating for an hour. I learned that the cost of these intepreters is $45 each, per hour. That's not what troubled me.

I, as a taxpayer, was bothered by the fact that Mr. Tran quit using them Tuesday morning. The case went to the jury at lunchtime Thursday. So we, the taxpayers, paid $90 an hour for two interpreters to watch the case for two full days.

I had the opportunity to ask Mr. Blankner why they were present when his client clearly understood English and was able to communicate with him. He verbally tap danced around my question, claimed they were there in case there was some legal terminology that Mr. Tran didn't understand, indicated they would be probably be used when jury instructions were done, and mentioned that Mr. Tran's parents (who were present for the entire case) might need some assistance understanding what was being said.

I, as a taxpayer, don't buy it. But I guess I had to buy it because they were there all week.

The court is not required to provide an interpreter for a defendant's parents. And I didn't remain in the courtroom once closing arguments had concluded (jury instructions are extremely tedious to watch - I have the utmost sympathy for judges having to read page after page of them) so I don't know if Mr. Tran used them.

The taxpayers of Orange County can thank Mr. Tran and his attorney for wasting their money on unnecessary interpreters. But since he's been living at taxpayer expense at the jail since October, 2006 and will be on the taxpayer's dime for years to come (he is currently 24 years old) I suppose a couple thousand more dollars is small change.