Sean Smith

A screenwriter and creative executive, Sean moved to LA years ago and refuses to leave. He misses Al’s Bar, Hop Louie and the chickens of Echo Park. Sean is a graduate of Harvard, Stanford and USC’s School of Cinema-Television.

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Robert Durst: You Can’t Unring the Bell

For a judge, maintaining courtroom control over unruly attorneys can be a daily challenge. According to one retired jurist, some judges have a knack for courtroom control; others do not. “The trick,” she notes, “is to maintain control without holding anyone in contempt.”  In other words, it’s like corralling kindergartners hyped on juice boxes and unbridled joie-de-vivre… without resorting to timeouts. Throw in unpredictable personnel changes, as attorneys tag-team restlessly through pre-trial hearings, and you have a sure recipe for judicial irritability and chaos.  Three recent pre-trial hearings in The...

PODCAST SPECIAL: A Congressional Crime Hearing in the City of Angels – Part 2

This is the second part of our two part coverage of this hearing. You can find part 1 here. Stanley Bailey served 36 years in the California state prison system on a three-strikes violation life sentence. An addict dating back to his teenage years, Bailey’s third strike was non-violent, triggered by the discovery of a single hypodermic needle in his prison cell.  BAILEY: TWO MONTHS BEFORE MY 19TH BIRTHDAY, I ENTERED THE PRISON SYSTEM.  A MONTH BEFORE MY 54TH BIRTHDAY, I WAS RELEASED. 

PODCAST SPECIAL: A Congressional Crime Hearing in the City of Angels – Part 1

VARGAS-EDMOND: MY HUSBAND, AT THE AGE OF 19, WAS FACING 150 YEARS TO DOUBLE LIFE FOR AN OFFENSE IN WHICH NO ONE WAS HURT. HE ENDED UP BEING SENTENCED TO 10 YEARS AND PLED OUT TO THINGS THAT HE DID NOT DO BECAUSE OF THE WAYS THE DISTRICT ATTORNEYS HAVE THE ABILITY TO STACK CHARGES. This past July, Taina Vargas-Edmond, co-founder of the Los Angeles-based prisoner rights group, Initiate Justice, addressed a congressional field hearing on criminal justice reform hosted by Representative Karen Bass (D. CA).  Vargas-Edmond shared her personal...

Robert Durst Stares into the Camera (Durst 6)

This is the sixth in a series of articles about the hearings before the murder trial of Robert Durst. You may click on the hyperlinked titles to read Two Hearings: Robert Durst and Armon Nelson, While Robert Durst Flips Through Photos, Robert Durst Fades Away, Robert Durst and the Inequity of Judicial Time, and Robert Durst’s Warrior in Court. It’s mid-morning in Department 81, Airport Courthouse, and Deputy District Attorney John Lewin has me locked in a bearhug. Then again, maybe it’s more of an awkward embrace, a clumsy blend...

Robert Durst and the Inequity of Judicial Time (Durst 4)

This is the fourth in a series of articles about the hearings before the murder trial of Robert Durst. You may click on the hyperlinked titles to read Two Hearings: Robert Durst and Armon Nelson, While Robert Durst Flips Through Photos and Robert Durst Fades Away. A video camera operator for Dan Abrams’ website, Law & Crime, is setting up in the Department 81 jury seating area, training his lens on the empty chair across the room where the defendant will sit. The going rate for a video operator is $400 per day. In...

“Your Honor? I’m Here to Give Myself Up.”

It’s late on a Friday morning in Department 117. The docket has been cleared and court personnel are straightening up their things in preparation for the lunch break. Judge Katherine Mader glances up at the mostly deserted gallery and spots her.  Late 40s. Restless.  And her hand is up in the air, like a student with an answer to a question no one asked. “Yes?” “Your Honor?” A long beat as the woman hesitates at the crossroads, then decides to do what...