Monday, October 09, 2006

Hollywood v. Superior Court (Cal. Ct. App. - Oct. 5, 2006)

I like the caption of this case: Hollywood v. Superior Court. Needless to say, Hollywood wins. I also like the name of the defendant: "Jesse James Hollywood". Nice. Though that probably not the name you want read to the jury when, as here, you're a defendant in a death penalty case charged with premediated murder. Sort of makes you sound guilty, huh?

The "Hollywood" name is also especially appropriate since this is another case involving a prosectuor with the Santa Barbara District Attorney's Office who's recused because he's personally involved in creating a media account of -- here, a movie about -- the pending case. This time the prosecutor is Ronald Zonen, and he helps Nick Cassavetes to make the movie Alpha Dog, the "true life" story of the defendant (who's one of the youngest people ever to be on the FBI's most wanted list) and the murder he (allegedly) committed. Remember: The prosecutor is helping to make a movie about a death penalty case that has yet to be tried.

Perhaps there's something in the water up in Santa Barbara that makes prosecutors there go loco. This the second case in which recusal of a prosecutor was ordered by the Second District due to their involvement in the Hollywood/media scene (I posted about the first one here). The prosecutor here, according to the movie people, was "star-struck", and really made massive efforts to get this story out. His efforts to assist with the movie also included some pretty disturbing conduct, including giving rap sheets to the movieamkers -- which is flatly illegal -- and also telling the moviemakers that he'd give them anything they wanted, but that if caught, they should say that the information came from the mother of the victim. Not good.

The Court of Appeal harshes less on Zonen than they did on Dudley (in the prior case). But there's still plenty here not to like. This (fairly short) opinion also contains an interesting interchange between Justice Yegan, who writes the majority opinion and who focuses on the fact that it's a death penalty case in ordering recusal, and Justice Gilbert, who concurs and contends-- punchily -- that the conduct here would have been improper in any case.

By the way, Emile Hirsch plays Jesse James Hollywood (who's called "Johnny Truelove") in the movie, and the cast includes Justin Timberlake, Sharon Stone, Bruce Willis, and Olivia Wilde. I haven't seen the movie, and since my third child ("Charlie") is allegedly due to be born within the next 24 hours, I almost assuredly won't see it anytime soon. So someone else will have to give me their review.