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Jeb Bush Sounds Sympathetic Note for Immigrants

New York Times - California News - January 23, 2015 - 9:00pm
The speech was the first offered by Jeb Bush since he announced he was actively exploring a run for the presidency, and it focused on traditional conservative positions and avoided specifics.

Frustration Grips Authorization Vote Over Islamic State

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 23, 2015 - 7:10pm
In his State of the Union speech, President Obama repeated his call for Congress to officially endorse the fight against Islamic State forces. Republicans on Capitol Hill say they are waiting for the administration to outline exactly what it wants in a use-of-force authorization.

Property-Tax Plan Targets Nonprofits

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 23, 2015 - 7:08pm
A sweeping proposal to cut taxes for Maine families and businesses could upend one of the most widely accepted practices in the country: the property-tax exemption for nonprofit organizations.

Corruption Charges Show Allure of Asbestos Cases

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 23, 2015 - 6:48pm
The charges filed against New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver are once again drawing attention to the lucrative arena of asbestos litigation.

Police look for robbery suspect in Newbury Park

Ventura County Star - Local News - January 23, 2015 - 6:31pm

Ventura County sheriff’s officials Friday were looking for a man involved in an armed robbery in Newbury Park.

The robbery was reported about 1:20 p.m. at Rancho Conejo Playfield, 950 Ventu Park Road.

Authorities believe the man ran into a barranca in the area. A juvenile victim told police the man was walking with several of his friends and brandished a handgun.

Police used a helicopter to search trails leading to Wildwood Regional Park but could not find the suspect, officials said.

Further details on the robbery and search were not available.

Kids see their art displayed in Oxnard museum

Ventura County Star - Local News - January 23, 2015 - 6:24pm

It’s not every day that a fledgling artist gets to see her work exhibited at a professional art museum. Especially when that artist is 10 years old.

So when Jazmin Lopez, of Mar Vista School in Oxnard, found out she was a winner in an art contest and would be part of an exhibit at the city’s Carnegie Art Museum, she said she danced for joy.

“I was like, ‘Yeah!’ ” Jazmin said Thursday as she gazed proudly at her winning art piece: a large, decorative splatter of pink ink hanging inside the museum’s CAM Studio Gallery. “I feel really excited.”

Jazmin’s artwork is among dozens of award-winning pieces by local students displayed at the museum this week as part of the 2015 National Fine Arts Exhibition. The exhibit is organized by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme. Students at 15 Boys & Girls Club sites took part.

The exhibit showcases the winners for four age divisions in a variety of categories, including sculpture, printmaking, mixed media, multicolor drawing and oil painting.

While the contest is held annually, this is the first year the winning pieces are being exhibited at the Carnegie Art Museum, said Erin Antrim, CEO for the Boys & Girls Clubs.

“We’re just thrilled to be able to have this here,” she said. “This is really important for us and our core program to be able to have this level of professionalism, having it in an art museum, and for our kids and our parents to be celebrated in this way.”

Top winners in each category will continue to a regional-level competition, and regional winners will go on to compete in a national contest at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America’s headquarters in Atlanta later this year. Antrim said two local students won regional prizes in 2014.

At the Oxnard exhibit’s opening Thursday, parents and their children buzzed through the displays alongside local dignitaries and board members for the museum and Boys & Girls Clubs.

Parents LaMarcus and Danielle Keys, of Oxnard, were delighted to discover that two of their daughters — Jazmine, 13, and Jordyn, 7 — each had won prizes in two categories.

“We’re grinning wider than the kids,” Danielle Keys said. “We’re proud of both of them.”

Jordyn, a tiny girl in pink-rimmed glasses, smiled shyly as she talked about a colorful butterfly sculpture she had made. She said she hopes to be an artist when she grows up.

“I was afraid of butterflies and I wanted to feel happier around butterflies,” she said. “It really makes me happy when I paint.”

Meanwhile, students from the club at Rio Rosales School hugged program leader Grisell Delgadillo as they looked at a rose sculpture they’d worked on with her guidance.

“They were so excited,” Delgadillo said. “It’s an honor to have something at a museum.”

If you go: The exhibit runs through Sunday at the museum, 424 South C Street, Oxnard. Saturday’s hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday’s hours are 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for seniors and students, $1 for children 6 and older and free for children younger than 6. Museum members get in free. Call 385-8158 for more information.

$60 milllion for fish passage worries district

Ventura County Star - Local News - January 23, 2015 - 6:02pm

The $60 million price tag for a new fish passage on the Santa Clara River has local water managers reeling — and not with rods and lines.

The sum is only part of what will be spent in coming years to keep water flowing to area farmers and cities while also restoring habitat for endangered steelhead trout. In all, hundreds of millions of dollars are expected to go to efforts that either directly benefit the fish or create replacement supplies for river water that will be sent to the ocean rather than used for irrigation or drinking.

The agency footing much of the bill, meanwhile — the United Water Conservation District — has an average annual budget of roughly $20 million. Its members include growers and cities from Lake Piru to the coastal edge of the Oxnard Plain. All will see costs rise in the future to pay for such projects.

The scenario has been brewing for years but is taking firmer shape now as United draws up plans to comply with federal Endangered Species Act requirements.

Last week, when a National Marine Fisheries Service official addressed United’s board on the issue, a crowd packed the meeting room at the district’s Santa Paula headquarters. The fisheries service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is working with United on plans for the estimated $60 million fish passage at the district’s Freeman Diversion Dam near Saticoy.

Anthony Spina, who supervises the fisheries service’s Southern California branch, told attendees the Freeman dam is “a key item” in the river’s lower watershed that is of “exceedingly high priority” for his agency.

“It is the first structure steelhead come to when attempting to migrate,” Spina said. The fish can travel from rivers to the ocean, returning as adults to native streams to spawn.

United built the Freeman dam in 1991, before Southern California steelhead were declared endangered in 1997. The $31 million facility already has a fish ladder, but the original $1.3 million structure was later found deficient. The diversion dam channels Santa Clara River flows to facilities that replenish groundwater later pumped from the Oxnard Plain.

Lynn Maulhardt, United’s board president, brought up concerns of district growers that construction of a costly new fish passage could be done with some certainty.

“We have a structure that was permitted that now is lost,” Maulhardt said, referring to the original fish ladder.

He and other board members brought up lingering concerns about the actual size of historic fish runs. For decades, the river was stocked with hatchery fish to lure sport fisherman to the area. The district in 2008 compiled a 738-page record of trout-related newspaper clippings from 1870 to the mid-1950s that documents such stocking efforts. While the district’s official position now is that steelhead historically lived in the river and still occur there, many of its members from longtime farming families in the area remain skeptical.

“Behind the scenes, these are issues we deal with,” Maulhardt told Spina, after listing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects the district faces. “I want you to know that.”

“We get it,” Spina replied.

Maulhardt also stressed that United would build the fish passage and comply with the law.

Mark Capelli, a scientist with the fisheries service who coordinates regional steelhead recovery, said this week concerns over estimates of historic fish runs are misplaced. Recovery efforts aren’t an attempt to meet old, unreliable numbers. Rather, a complex plan for territory from Santa Barbara County to the state’s southern boundary aims to create systems where diverse subgroups can thrive and ultimately allow the species to survive long term.

“We’re not trying to restore historic conditions,” Capelli said. “We’re trying to make sure the fish are viable.”

United's steelhead history:

http://www.unitedwater.org/images/stories/Resource-Conservation/Freeman-Diversion/Scientific_and_Historical_Accounts-Vol_I.pdf

National Marine Fisheries Service steelhead recovery plan page:

http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/protected_species/salmon_steelhead/recovery_planning_and_implementation/south_central_southern_california_coast/south_cental_southern_california_coast_recovery_plan_documents.html

If all goes well, construction of the fish passage could start in 2019 after a lengthy permitting process. The experimental structure now being developed will require building a large model to scale for extensive testing in a Washington warehouse.

John Krist, CEO of the Farm Bureau of Ventura County, was at the meeting with Spina. He said afterward growers in the county’s $2 billion agriculture industry want to make sure an “extremely costly fish passage” won’t be deemed insufficient in a few years, as happened before.

“They’re not happy to pay more for less water from a project that’s been in the ground for decades,” Krist said of the Freeman dam. “That’s just hard for a lot of people to swallow.”

$60 milllion for fish passage worries district

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 23, 2015 - 6:02pm

The $60 million price tag for a new fish passage on the Santa Clara River has local water managers reeling — and not with rods and lines.

The sum is only part of what will be spent in coming years to keep water flowing to area farmers and cities while also restoring habitat for endangered steelhead trout. In all, hundreds of millions of dollars are expected to go to efforts that either directly benefit the fish or create replacement supplies for river water that will be sent to the ocean rather than used for irrigation or drinking.

The agency footing much of the bill, meanwhile — the United Water Conservation District — has an average annual budget of roughly $20 million. Its members include growers and cities from Lake Piru to the coastal edge of the Oxnard Plain. All will see costs rise in the future to pay for such projects.

The scenario has been brewing for years but is taking firmer shape now as United draws up plans to comply with federal Endangered Species Act requirements.

Last week, when a National Marine Fisheries Service official addressed United’s board on the issue, a crowd packed the meeting room at the district’s Santa Paula headquarters. The fisheries service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is working with United on plans for the estimated $60 million fish passage at the district’s Freeman Diversion Dam near Saticoy.

Anthony Spina, who supervises the fisheries service’s Southern California branch, told attendees the Freeman dam is “a key item” in the river’s lower watershed that is of “exceedingly high priority” for his agency.

“It is the first structure steelhead come to when attempting to migrate,” Spina said. The fish can travel from rivers to the ocean, returning as adults to native streams to spawn.

United built the Freeman dam in 1991, before Southern California steelhead were declared endangered in 1997. The $31 million facility already has a fish ladder, but the original $1.3 million structure was later found deficient. The diversion dam channels Santa Clara River flows to facilities that replenish groundwater later pumped from the Oxnard Plain.

Lynn Maulhardt, United’s board president, brought up concerns of district growers that construction of a costly new fish passage could be done with some certainty.

“We have a structure that was permitted that now is lost,” Maulhardt said, referring to the original fish ladder.

He and other board members brought up lingering concerns about the actual size of historic fish runs. For decades, the river was stocked with hatchery fish to lure sport fisherman to the area. The district in 2008 compiled a 738-page record of trout-related newspaper clippings from 1870 to the mid-1950s that documents such stocking efforts. While the district’s official position now is that steelhead historically lived in the river and still occur there, many of its members from longtime farming families in the area remain skeptical.

“Behind the scenes, these are issues we deal with,” Maulhardt told Spina, after listing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects the district faces. “I want you to know that.”

“We get it,” Spina replied.

Maulhardt also stressed that United would build the fish passage and comply with the law.

Mark Capelli, a scientist with the fisheries service who coordinates regional steelhead recovery, said this week concerns over estimates of historic fish runs are misplaced. Recovery efforts aren’t an attempt to meet old, unreliable numbers. Rather, a complex plan for territory from Santa Barbara County to the state’s southern boundary aims to create systems where diverse subgroups can thrive and ultimately allow the species to survive long term.

“We’re not trying to restore historic conditions,” Capelli said. “We’re trying to make sure the fish are viable.”

United's steelhead history:

http://www.unitedwater.org/images/stories/Resource-Conservation/Freeman-Diversion/Scientific_and_Historical_Accounts-Vol_I.pdf

National Marine Fisheries Service steelhead recovery plan page:

http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/protected_species/salmon_steelhead/recovery_planning_and_implementation/south_central_southern_california_coast/south_cental_southern_california_coast_recovery_plan_documents.html

If all goes well, construction of the fish passage could start in 2019 after a lengthy permitting process. The experimental structure now being developed will require building a large model to scale for extensive testing in a Washington warehouse.

John Krist, CEO of the Farm Bureau of Ventura County, was at the meeting with Spina. He said afterward growers in the county’s $2 billion agriculture industry want to make sure an “extremely costly fish passage” won’t be deemed insufficient in a few years, as happened before.

“They’re not happy to pay more for less water from a project that’s been in the ground for decades,” Krist said of the Freeman dam. “That’s just hard for a lot of people to swallow.”

Supreme Court to Review Lethal Injections

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 23, 2015 - 5:37pm
The Supreme Court is stepping into the issue of lethal-injection executions for the first time since 2008 in an appeal filed by death-row inmates in Oklahoma.

California Measles Cases Rise

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 23, 2015 - 5:29pm
The number of measles cases in California has increased to 68 from the 59 reported on Wednesday, state health officials said.

Santa Paula woman found guilty of murder

Ventura County Star - Local News - January 23, 2015 - 5:25pm

A Ventura County jury Friday found a Santa Paula woman guilty of second-degree murder for fatally shooting another woman at a park in 2013.

Yajayra Lizette Dominguez, 32, sobbed as a court secretary read the verdict in front of Superior Court Judge Kevin DeNoce.

Prosecutors said Dominguez shot 21-year-old Ashley Calanche, of Santa Paula, in the head with a small handgun as the two women fought at Mill Park on Sept. 27, 2013.

Jurors also found true that Dominguez intentionally discharged a firearm causing great bodily injury or death.

Dominguez will face 40 years to life in prison when she is sentenced Feb. 24.

Authorities said the two Santa Paula women did not know each other but Dominguez had sent threatening Facebook messages to Calanche in response to an alleged threat the victim made to a friend of the defendant.

The two women crossed paths one afternoon at Mill Park in the 700 block of North Ojai Road in Santa Paula. Prosecutors said Dominguez confronted Calanche, grabbing her by the hair, putting a small handgun to her head and pulling the trigger.

Dominguez took the stand during her trial and said Calanche tried to grab her hand as they both struggled and pulled each other’s hair. Dominguez said the small Derringer in her hand discharged accidentally.

Dominguez said she apologized to Calanche’s sister, who was also at the park during the shooting. She said she asked the sister to not call police because she was afraid of losing her children.

Her attorney, Ayala Benefraim of the Public Defender’s Office, argued that her client lacked malice and asked jurors to consider involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutor Rebecca Day, however, said forensics showed Dominguez delivered a “kill shot” to Calanche.

Dominguez now faces a sentence of 15 years to life in prison for the second-degree murder charge. The firearm allegation carries a sentence of 25 years to life.

Dominguez’s family and friends cried quietly inside the courtroom as sheriff’s deputies led a sobbing Dominguez into the courtroom sally port.

Outside the courtroom, Calanche’s family and friends wiped tears and hugged one another. Many of them wore a gold ribbon pin with a tiny sunflower, Calanche’s favorite flower.

Nancy Rodriguez, Calanche’s aunt, wiped tears and said the verdict brings some closure for her family.

Rodriguez said Calanche was studying photography and was excited to start a career while taking care of her then 1-year-old son.

“Nobody has a right to take another person’s life,” Rodriguez said. “Ashley was a very happy and loving young lady and her son meant everything to her. It’s really sad that Dominguez was so worried about her kids being taken away from her, but she gave no concern that she took away someone else’s mom.”

Santa Paula woman found guilty of murder

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 23, 2015 - 5:25pm

A Ventura County jury Friday found a Santa Paula woman guilty of second-degree murder for fatally shooting another woman at a park in 2013.

Yajayra Lizette Dominguez, 32, sobbed as a court secretary read the verdict in front of Superior Court Judge Kevin DeNoce.

Prosecutors said Dominguez shot 21-year-old Ashley Calanche, of Santa Paula, in the head with a small handgun as the two women fought at Mill Park on Sept. 27, 2013.

Jurors also found true that Dominguez intentionally discharged a firearm causing great bodily injury or death.

Dominguez will face 40 years to life in prison when she is sentenced Feb. 24.

Authorities said the two Santa Paula women did not know each other but Dominguez had sent threatening Facebook messages to Calanche in response to an alleged threat the victim made to a friend of the defendant.

The two women crossed paths one afternoon at Mill Park in the 700 block of North Ojai Road in Santa Paula. Prosecutors said Dominguez confronted Calanche, grabbing her by the hair, putting a small handgun to her head and pulling the trigger.

Dominguez took the stand during her trial and said Calanche tried to grab her hand as they both struggled and pulled each other’s hair. Dominguez said the small Derringer in her hand discharged accidentally.

Dominguez said she apologized to Calanche’s sister, who was also at the park during the shooting. She said she asked the sister to not call police because she was afraid of losing her children.

Her attorney, Ayala Benefraim of the Public Defender’s Office, argued that her client lacked malice and asked jurors to consider involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutor Rebecca Day, however, said forensics showed Dominguez delivered a “kill shot” to Calanche.

Dominguez now faces a sentence of 15 years to life in prison for the second-degree murder charge. The firearm allegation carries a sentence of 25 years to life.

Dominguez’s family and friends cried quietly inside the courtroom as sheriff’s deputies led a sobbing Dominguez into the courtroom sally port.

Outside the courtroom, Calanche’s family and friends wiped tears and hugged one another. Many of them wore a gold ribbon pin with a tiny sunflower, Calanche’s favorite flower.

Nancy Rodriguez, Calanche’s aunt, wiped tears and said the verdict brings some closure for her family.

Rodriguez said Calanche was studying photography and was excited to start a career while taking care of her then 1-year-old son.

“Nobody has a right to take another person’s life,” Rodriguez said. “Ashley was a very happy and loving young lady and her son meant everything to her. It’s really sad that Dominguez was so worried about her kids being taken away from her, but she gave no concern that she took away someone else’s mom.”

More Beekeepers Sour on Profession

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 23, 2015 - 5:23pm
Increasing numbers of beekeepers are considering early retirement or are being forced out of business as honey bees continue to die at alarming rates.

U.S. Union Membership Rate Falls

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 23, 2015 - 5:21pm
The percentage of the workforce represented by unions fell slightly in 2014 to 11.1%, down from 11.3% the year before, continuing a trend of stagnation that suggests labor will have to work harder to rebound from its decadeslong slide.

Star reporter recalls covering Simpson trial

Ventura County Star - Local News - January 23, 2015 - 5:14pm

Millions of people across the country were glued to their television screens on June 17, 1994, enthralled by the spectacle that was the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase.

I watched it with a seasoned prosecutor who was about to become a household name — Marcia Clark. She was a tough-nosed Los Angeles County deputy district attorney with a string of murder convictions who had been assigned to the Simpson double-homicide case.

I had covered the Los Angeles County prosecutor’s office — the largest in the country — off and on since the late 1970s for several news outlets including, at the time, the Los Angeles Daily Journal, a newspaper written for the legal community.

Clark and I watched a portion of the chase — in which the former football great fled from police — in the district attorney’s public information office on the 18th floor of the downtown Los Angeles Criminal Courts Building.

At one point, I remarked that maybe Simpson, who during the pursuit had released what sounded like a possible suicide note, really did intend to kill himself.

Clark rolled her eyes, fixed me a withering stare and in language that would make a sailor blush said, “How #@!&%*! naive can you be, Mike?”

She was right, of course. Simpson didn’t kill himself.

Seven months later — 20 years ago Saturday — the former USC and Buffalo Bills star running back went on trial in connection with the June 12, 1994, stabbing murders in Brentwood of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and waiter Ronald Goldman.

With opening statements, the so-called Trial of the Century was underway.

Clark and co-prosecutor Christopher Darden went first, taking five months to put on their case before a predominantly black jury. They were followed by Simpson’s defense “Dream Team,” led by Johnnie Cochran, who had relegated Simpson’s original lawyer in the case, Robert Shapiro, to a supporting role. The defense presented its witnesses over three months.

I covered just about every day of it from an assigned seat in Superior Court Judge Lance Ito’s courtroom. It felt like being at the center of the universe.

Much of the nation was riveted by the trial of the football hero-turned-double murder defendant. Broadcast live by Court TV and in part by other cable and network television news outlets, the trial dealt with issues of wealth and privilege, race — Simpson is black; his ex-wife and Goldman were white — celebrity, domestic violence and sports worship. Millions watched it daily. Some critics lampooned it as a media circus.

Source: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/Simpson/Simpsonchron.html

For a reporter, it was a dream assignment. I had the lead story on the front page of the paper just about every day for eight months.

I had known all the principals — Clark, Cochran, Ito, Shapiro — for years from covering the courthouse. To their credit, most of them didn’t let their newfound celebrity go to their heads. They remained, at least to me, accessible and down-to-earth.

Darden, however, could be difficult. Once, in a crowded elevator during the trial, I whipped out my tape recorder to ask him a question. He smothered the device in his hand.

The trial wore on for the better part of a year with testimony from dozens of witnesses, much of it centered on DNA evidence that the prosecution argued proved Simpson was guilty. The defense countered that the blood samples that were tested for DNA had been contaminated by sloppy police work and were unreliable.

After lengthy closing arguments, the case finally went to the jury.

On Oct. 2, 1995, after deliberating for less than four hours, jurors signaled they had reached a verdict. Standard wisdom at the courthouse was that a quick verdict usually meant a conviction, and to the thinking of most of the reporters who covered the trial, the prosecution had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The next morning, of course, the jury proved us wrong: it acquitted Simpson of two counts of murder. It was the most shocking verdict I ever heard read during all my years of covering the courthouse.

Some observers suggested the verdict was the result of “jury nullification,” in which jurors did not consider the evidence, but made a political statement about police/minority relations. Others said the jury did follow the law and based its verdict on the reasonable doubt the defense had created. But really, less than four hours of deliberations after eight months of testimony?

About 16 months later, a civil jury in a separate wrongful-death trial found Simpson liable for the murders and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages.

On Oct. 3, 2008 — exactly 13 years to the day after his acquittal in the double-murder trial — Simpson was convicted in Las Vegas of armed robbery and kidnapping in connection with sports memorabilia he contended was his. That December, he was sentenced to up to 33 years in prison, where he remains.

Mike Harris has been a staff writer for The Star since December 2010.

O.J. Simpson timeline

June 12, 1994: O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and waiter Ronald Goldman are stabbed to death outside her Brentwood condominium.

June 17, 1994: About to be arrested on suspicion of the murders, Simpson leads police on a lengthy chase in his white Ford Bronco, driven by friend A.C. Cowlings. The chase is watched by millions of people nationwide on television news. Simpson eventually surrenders and is taken into custody.

July 22, 1994: Simpson pleads “absolutely 100 percent not guilty” to the charges.

Nov. 3, 1994: A predominantly black jury is selected.

Jan. 24, 1995: The so-called Trial of the Century formally begins with opening statements.

May 15, 1995: In front of the jury, Simpson tries on a bloody glove found at the crime scene. It seems not to fit. Lead defense attorney Johnnie Cochran later tells the jury in closing arguments, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

Sept. 26, 1995: Closing arguments begin. The prosecution emphasizes DNA evidence that it says proved Simpson is the killer. The defense counters that the DNA evidence was contaminated and cannot be trusted.

Oct. 3, 1995: At the conclusion of the eight-month trial, the jury acquits Simpson of two counts of murder.

February 1997: A civil jury in a separate wrongful-death trial finds Simpson liable for the murders and orders him to pay $33.5 million in damages.

Oct. 3, 2008: Exactly 13 years to the day after his acquittal in the double-murder trial, Simpson is convicted in Las Vegas of armed robbery and kidnapping in connection with sports memorabilia he contended was his.

December 2008: Simpson is sentenced to up to 33 years in prison for the robbery and kidnapping.

Source: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/Simpson/Simpsonchron.html

 

Star reporter recalls covering Simpson trial

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 23, 2015 - 5:14pm

Millions of people across the country were glued to their television screens on June 17, 1994, enthralled by the spectacle that was the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase.

I watched it with a seasoned prosecutor who was about to become a household name — Marcia Clark. She was a tough-nosed Los Angeles County deputy district attorney with a string of murder convictions who had been assigned to the Simpson double-homicide case.

I had covered the Los Angeles County prosecutor’s office — the largest in the country — off and on since the late 1970s for several news outlets including, at the time, the Los Angeles Daily Journal, a newspaper written for the legal community.

Clark and I watched a portion of the chase — in which the former football great fled from police — in the district attorney’s public information office on the 18th floor of the downtown Los Angeles Criminal Courts Building.

At one point, I remarked that maybe Simpson, who during the pursuit had released what sounded like a possible suicide note, really did intend to kill himself.

Clark rolled her eyes, fixed me a withering stare and in language that would make a sailor blush said, “How #@!&%*! naive can you be, Mike?”

She was right, of course. Simpson didn’t kill himself.

Seven months later — 20 years ago Saturday — the former USC and Buffalo Bills star running back went on trial in connection with the June 12, 1994, stabbing murders in Brentwood of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and waiter Ronald Goldman.

With opening statements, the so-called Trial of the Century was underway.

Clark and co-prosecutor Christopher Darden went first, taking five months to put on their case before a predominantly black jury. They were followed by Simpson’s defense “Dream Team,” led by Johnnie Cochran, who had relegated Simpson’s original lawyer in the case, Robert Shapiro, to a supporting role. The defense presented its witnesses over three months.

I covered just about every day of it from an assigned seat in Superior Court Judge Lance Ito’s courtroom. It felt like being at the center of the universe.

Much of the nation was riveted by the trial of the football hero-turned-double murder defendant. Broadcast live by Court TV and in part by other cable and network television news outlets, the trial dealt with issues of wealth and privilege, race — Simpson is black; his ex-wife and Goldman were white — celebrity, domestic violence and sports worship. Millions watched it daily. Some critics lampooned it as a media circus.

Source: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/Simpson/Simpsonchron.html

For a reporter, it was a dream assignment. I had the lead story on the front page of the paper just about every day for eight months.

I had known all the principals — Clark, Cochran, Ito, Shapiro — for years from covering the courthouse. To their credit, most of them didn’t let their newfound celebrity go to their heads. They remained, at least to me, accessible and down-to-earth.

Darden, however, could be difficult. Once, in a crowded elevator during the trial, I whipped out my tape recorder to ask him a question. He smothered the device in his hand.

The trial wore on for the better part of a year with testimony from dozens of witnesses, much of it centered on DNA evidence that the prosecution argued proved Simpson was guilty. The defense countered that the blood samples that were tested for DNA had been contaminated by sloppy police work and were unreliable.

After lengthy closing arguments, the case finally went to the jury.

On Oct. 2, 1995, after deliberating for less than four hours, jurors signaled they had reached a verdict. Standard wisdom at the courthouse was that a quick verdict usually meant a conviction, and to the thinking of most of the reporters who covered the trial, the prosecution had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The next morning, of course, the jury proved us wrong: it acquitted Simpson of two counts of murder. It was the most shocking verdict I ever heard read during all my years of covering the courthouse.

Some observers suggested the verdict was the result of “jury nullification,” in which jurors did not consider the evidence, but made a political statement about police/minority relations. Others said the jury did follow the law and based its verdict on the reasonable doubt the defense had created. But really, less than four hours of deliberations after eight months of testimony?

About 16 months later, a civil jury in a separate wrongful-death trial found Simpson liable for the murders and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages.

On Oct. 3, 2008 — exactly 13 years to the day after his acquittal in the double-murder trial — Simpson was convicted in Las Vegas of armed robbery and kidnapping in connection with sports memorabilia he contended was his. That December, he was sentenced to up to 33 years in prison, where he remains.

Mike Harris has been a staff writer for The Star since December 2010.

O.J. Simpson timeline

June 12, 1994: O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and waiter Ronald Goldman are stabbed to death outside her Brentwood condominium.

June 17, 1994: About to be arrested on suspicion of the murders, Simpson leads police on a lengthy chase in his white Ford Bronco, driven by friend A.C. Cowlings. The chase is watched by millions of people nationwide on television news. Simpson eventually surrenders and is taken into custody.

July 22, 1994: Simpson pleads “absolutely 100 percent not guilty” to the charges.

Nov. 3, 1994: A predominantly black jury is selected.

Jan. 24, 1995: The so-called Trial of the Century formally begins with opening statements.

May 15, 1995: In front of the jury, Simpson tries on a bloody glove found at the crime scene. It seems not to fit. Lead defense attorney Johnnie Cochran later tells the jury in closing arguments, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

Sept. 26, 1995: Closing arguments begin. The prosecution emphasizes DNA evidence that it says proved Simpson is the killer. The defense counters that the DNA evidence was contaminated and cannot be trusted.

Oct. 3, 1995: At the conclusion of the eight-month trial, the jury acquits Simpson of two counts of murder.

February 1997: A civil jury in a separate wrongful-death trial finds Simpson liable for the murders and orders him to pay $33.5 million in damages.

Oct. 3, 2008: Exactly 13 years to the day after his acquittal in the double-murder trial, Simpson is convicted in Las Vegas of armed robbery and kidnapping in connection with sports memorabilia he contended was his.

December 2008: Simpson is sentenced to up to 33 years in prison for the robbery and kidnapping.

Source: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/Simpson/Simpsonchron.html

 

Man cited after ATM incident, police chase

Ventura County Star - Local News - January 23, 2015 - 4:42pm

A 29-year-old man who tried to use a sample ATM card at a Ventura bank Friday was arrested after running from police and getting hit by a car, officials said.

Police responded about 7:35 a.m. to a report of a suspicious man entering several invalid codes into a Chase Bank ATM in the 2400 block of Harbor Boulevard. The man was trying to use an inactive card — the kind banks usually send out as advertisements, police said.

An officer tried to conduct a probation search on the man, but he ran away, police said. An officer caught up to the man, but he broke free and continued running, police said.

He ran out of the parking lot and into traffic on Harbor, where he was hit by a vehicle heading east, police said. The man was thrown about 30 feet but managed to get up and continued running, police said. Eventually, officers caught him.

The man was taken to Ventura County Medical Center with moderate injuries, police said. He was cited and released on suspicion of resisting arrest and possession of narcotics, police said.

Man cited after ATM incident, police chase

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 23, 2015 - 4:42pm

A 29-year-old man who tried to use a sample ATM card at a Ventura bank Friday was arrested after running from police and getting hit by a car, officials said.

Police responded about 7:35 a.m. to a report of a suspicious man entering several invalid codes into a Chase Bank ATM in the 2400 block of Harbor Boulevard. The man was trying to use an inactive card — the kind banks usually send out as advertisements, police said.

An officer tried to conduct a probation search on the man, but he ran away, police said. An officer caught up to the man, but he broke free and continued running, police said.

He ran out of the parking lot and into traffic on Harbor, where he was hit by a vehicle heading east, police said. The man was thrown about 30 feet but managed to get up and continued running, police said. Eventually, officers caught him.

The man was taken to Ventura County Medical Center with moderate injuries, police said. He was cited and released on suspicion of resisting arrest and possession of narcotics, police said.

California job growth strong in 2014

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 23, 2015 - 4:21pm

California closed out 2014 with strong job gains, a lower unemployment rate and a record number of people in its labor force.

For December, the unemployment rate dropped to 7 percent, its lowest point since June 2008, according to data released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

The state is creating jobs at a pace not seen since before the recession, said Dwight Johnston, chief economist for the California Credit Union League in Ontario. Johnston said California’s labor force is growing while in some states it’s shrinking.

“It’s the best year we’ve had since before the recession began,” he said. “You need to see the labor force grow because that tells us people are encouraged that jobs are available.”

Economists are hoping to see more gains in 2015 and are especially counting on the construction sector to ramp up.

Steve Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto, said more construction would bring high-wage jobs, create jobs in other sectors, and address two of California’s key economic competitiveness challenges — housing and infrastructure.

Construction did not lead but was among the top sectors in job creation statewide in 2014, together with health care, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services. In December, construction jobs were up 4 percent over December 2013.

California’s nonfarm payroll jobs increased by 700 in December, but economists discounted the slight rise, saying it was at odds with previous monthly gains and will most likely be revised upward in March.

Over the year, total employment increased by 489,400, and nonfarm jobs increased by 320,300, said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

“The state registered solid job gains for all of 2014, outpacing the nation in yearly percentage terms for the third straight year,” he said.

In Ventura County last month, 5,800 nonfarm jobs were added on a year-over-year basis. The unemployment rate dropped to 5.9 percent from 6.9 percent in December 2013, while the county’s labor force shrank by 3,100 people.

Bruce Stenslie, president and CEO of the Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County, called the drop in the unemployment rate “extraordinary.”

“Our thrill over the improvement is tempered, however, by only moderate growth in private sector nonfarm jobs,” he said. “Also notable is a drop in the labor force, which may or may not be significant as an indicator of a healthy labor market, as we suspect that most of that loss of labor is tied to a seasonal decline in farm jobs, not to broader stagnation across all sectors.”

Ventura Co. Unemployment Rate |Create infographics

Hawk dies while stuck inside Oxnard Costco

Ventura County Star - Local News - January 23, 2015 - 4:07pm

A Cooper's hawk died this week at Costco Wholesale in Oxnard after flying into the store days earlier, a local wildlife advocate said.

Kim Stroud, director of the Ojai Raptor Center, said she offered to rescue the bird for $700, but the store declined the offer several times. The center is a nonprofit group that rescues and rehabilitates birds of prey and other wildlife.

Costco officials did not return phone calls for this story.

Stroud said she learned of the situation Jan. 17, when several people called her about the hawk. Apparently the hawk flew into the store while following a smaller bird, she said.

Stroud said many people sent her photos of the bird and called her daily about their concerns for it.

"Everyone was more concerned about the animal than their own safety," Stroud said.

Stroud said trapping and freeing a Cooper's hawk is complicated and requires a lot of coordination, energy and resources, hence the $700 charge. She said Costco did use some of her tips, like keeping the doors and skylights open in hopes the bird would fly out.

She said she spoke to Costco managers several times and reached out to its regional office in Washington before she was informed the hawk died Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

Stroud said Cooper's hawks need to eat a third of their own weight daily to survive, so the bird must have starved to death. "Those birds need to eat every day because their metabolism is so fast," she said.

She also said they are more afraid of humans than larger hawks, which is why the bird did not fly down and disturb customers.

"I'm hoping that in the future something like this will be taken care of quicker," Stroud said.

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