Silver Rights

News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.

Thursday, September 18, 2003  

In the news: The docket

  • Felon charged in murder of Williams' sister

  • The first of what will probably be several suspects has been charged in the killing of Yetunde Price.

    COMPTON, Calif. -- Prosecutors charged a 24-year-old convicted felon with killing the older sister of tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams.

    Aaron Michael Hammer, of Compton, briefly appeared Tuesday before Superior Court Judge John J. Cheroske, but his arraignment was postponed until Sept. 23 at the request of defense lawyer Excel Sharrieff.

    Prosecutors charged Hammer with murder and a special circumstance allegation of personal use of a firearm, along with one count of possession of a firearm by a felon. He remained jailed without bail.

    . . .Price was shot as she sat in a sport utility vehicle early Sunday with Rolland Wormley. An assault rifle and shell casings were found at the scene.

    A couple of oddities have arisen in the case. Instead of taking Price directly to a hospital, her alleged fiance drove her to his sister's house miles away from the scene of the shooting.

    . . .Los Angeles County coroner's spokesman David Campbell said an autopsy showed Price died of a gunshot wound to the head. The shooting occurred about 12:05 a.m. Sunday, he said. A call to 911 was made about 12:15 a.m. and Price was pronounced dead at 12:43 a.m., three minutes after arriving at a Long Beach hospital.

    . . .[Wormley's sister] said Price had come to her Long Beach home about 9 p.m. Saturday. She said the couple were "just driving through" Compton at the time of the shooting. "There was no confrontation," she said.

    Investigators, however, have said Price and Wormley got into a dispute with residents in front of a Compton home known for gangs and drugs.

    Authorities don't believe Price was involved with drugs or gangs. Carmelle Wormley said her brother was neither a gang member nor a drug user.

    Rolland Wormley has a criminal history that included convictions for transporting or selling marijuana, vehicle theft, receiving stolen goods and unlawful firearm activity, Gibbons said.

    After the shooting, Rolland Wormley was arrested for investigation of violating his parole, along with assault with a deadly weapon using a firearm, sheriff's Deputy Bill Spear said. However, authorities said Tuesday they did not have enough evidence to seek the assault charge.

    I suspect Wormley cared more about trying to avoid what he knew would be an arrest than he did about getting prompt medical care for Price. That's a thought that could lead to a lengthy inquiry about why some women are beguiled by sorry excuses for men. Maybe later.

  • Bryant accuser's mental health history sought
  • The defense in the Kobe Bryant rape case is attempting to obtain transcripts of her calls to 911 and her medical records.

    In another filing Tuesday, the Vail police department balked at turning over records of 911 calls to Bryant's attorneys, saying it would violate a court order issued in the sexual assault case against the Los Angeles Lakers guard.

    An attorney for the department asked Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett to quash a subpoena served by Bryant's attorneys seeking the sealed records.

    The judge did not immediately issue a ruling.

    Earlier this month, a state judge rejected the Vail Daily newspaper's request to release the 911 records, saying the "intensely personal" material would subject the alleged victim to harassment and abuse. The woman had been treated earlier this year for mental health problems.

    The Vail paper wanted any 911 records made from the accuser's home this year. Vail police handle emergency calls for the Eagle County sheriff's office and Eagle police.

    Bryant is charged with sexually assaulting the woman June 30 in his suite at a mountain resort where she worked and he was a guest. Bryant has said the two had consensual sex.

    Bryant is scheduled to appear for an Oct. 9 preliminary hearing at which Gannett will decide whether he will stand trial.

    An attorney for the accuser asked Gannett to deny a defense request for a hearing before Oct. 9 on whether she has waived her privacy rights on medical records.

    Attorney John Clune said the material could be used only to attack the woman's credibility, which is not relevant at a preliminary hearing unless other testimony is determined "wholly implausible."

    Defense attorneys Pamela Mackey and Hal Haddon are seeking medical records from a clinic in Eagle, a hospital in Greeley and the student health service at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, where the woman was a freshman last year. They say the documents would help the judge evaluate the accuser's credibility.

    Prosecutors and Clune are fighting that request, along with a defense attempt to force the accuser to testify in person Oct. 9.

    These developments are not unexpected. Writing for the New Yorker last month, legal commentator Jeffrey Toobin said the defense's case will be to present Bryant as truthful and reliable and his accuser as unstable and unreliable. The evidence sought, 911 calls and medical records, may be admissible. Her alleged suicide attempt also involved relationship problems with a man. Arguably, it could support a claim of a pattern of striking out at others when the woman feels she has been taken advantage of sexually. (Mental health experts consider suicides or attempts aggressive acts.) The demand she testify at the Oct. 9 hearing is the most unwarranted. I doubt the judge will agree with the defense.

    Toobin has expressed admiration for these determined advocates for Bryant.

    DOBBS: Gravity in that he could face as much as life in prison under Colorado law if -- depending upon the charges that are ultimately brought and the penalties that could follow. There was a surprise, at least to me, in that courtroom, Jeffrey, and that was the appointment of a special investigator. What do you make of that?

    TOOBIN: Well, I mean, I think this was a small example of why it pays to have extremely aggressive, competent defense attorneys. Because what they did was they took some arguably improper statements attributed to prosecutors and to the sheriff, and they said we want an investigation. We want to go forward.

    Now, this is the kind of thing that goes on all the time in high-profile cases, these sorts of comments. But you know, oftentimes it's just sort of shrugged off. Here they have asked for an investigator. Now they've got one. They've got a sheriff who's going to interview everybody and talk -- and find out whether there's more to investigate.

    This sheriff, who's from a neighboring county, will investigate and report back to the judge. Maybe there will be a hearing about these possible violations. Maybe there won't. But the wheels are churning now. Stuff is being churned up. And that's where defense attorneys flourish, in improvising, in finding out stuff that prosecutors didn't want to disclose necessarily. And the wheels are turning now. Perhaps it will add up to nothing. But it's a start.

    I feel sorry for the accuser. She is about to get hit by the legal equivalent of a Mack truck. I doubt she has the emotional strength to withstand the impact.

    Also on the docket:

    • The murky history of Maher Hawash.

    • Hawash: A traitor for all seasons.

    posted by J. | 10:03 PM