Brandon Wade Hein (born February 17, 1977)
was sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole for
his involvement in the 1995 stabbing murder of 16 year-old Jimmy
Farris, the son of an LAPD police officer.
Hein and two other youths who were present when the
murder took place, as well as the actual killer, were convicted under
the felony murder rule because the murder was committed during the
course of a felony – the attempted robbery of marijuana kept for sale
by Farris's friend, Michael McLoren. Under the felony murder rule, any
participant in a felony is criminally responsible for any death that
occurs during its commission. In 2009, Hein's life sentence was
commuted to 29 years to life.
A documentary film called Reckless Indifference was
made about the murder, trial and resulting prison sentences. Hein was
the only defendant interviewed in the film and has received the bulk
of media attention, while equally heavy sentences were handed out to
other defendants. His conviction has courted much controversy, as some
feel that the life sentence was overly harsh and politically
motivated, while others feel that his involvement justified the
Fistfight and murder
On May 22, 1995, five youths ranging in age from 15
to 18 were drinking alcohol and cruising in a pickup truck around
Agoura Hills, a suburban town in Los Angeles County, California.
Less than an hour before the stabbing, one of the
five, Jason Holland, 18, grabbed a wallet from an unlocked vehicle in
the parking lot of a public park, an act witnessed by the wallet's
owner, a mother playing in the park with her children. Shortly
thereafter, she recognized the truck and confronted the five,
demanding and receiving her wallet back in the face of their threats
and intimidation. This theft and intimidation would be used to support
the prosecution's contention that the five were still acting in
concert at the time of the murder.
Looking for marijuana, the five drove to the home
of Michael McLoren, who was known to sell marijuana from a desk drawer
in a ramshackle one-room "fort" in his backyard. A key factor in the
murder trial would be whether the five intended to buy marijuana or to
steal it. McLoren, 17, and his friend, Jimmy Farris, 16, were in the
yard outside the fort when four of the five youths hopped the fence,
with Micah Holland, 15, leading the way. Micah entered the fort and
Anthony Miliotti, 17, physically the largest of the group, stood in
the doorway. Their entry to the property would draw an additional
charge of burglary.
Jason Holland testified he was drunk and lagging
behind the others and did not see how the argument between his brother
Micah and McLoren started. As he entered, the two dropped their heads
and started fighting. Brandon Hein, 18, jumped into the fight, as did
Jason, who says he was trying to get the bigger McLoren off his
brother Micah's back. Jason opened a folding pocketknife and "pricked"
McLoren twice in the back to get him off his brother, then stabbed him
in the chest. When Farris entered the fort to help McLoren, Jason
stabbed him twice and Hein punched him in the head and face. McLoren
survived his wounds but Farris died in the emergency room. When Jason
Holland learned from his mother that he was wanted for murder, he went
into hiding but several weeks later voluntarily surrendered.
The following description of the fight and stabbing
is from the "SUMMARY OF FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS" in the January 29, 2001
California Court of Appeal findings. Note that the term "appellants"
excludes Christopher Velardo, 17, owner of the pickup truck, who
remained in the truck throughout the incident and was tried
At approximately 7:00 p.m. McLoren and Farris were
in the McLoren backyard in the immediate vicinity of the fort. Without
permission or invitation, all appellants as a group entered the
McLoren backyard by hopping over a fence. Micah Holland (Micah) and
Miliotti entered first. Jason and Hein followed approximately ten to
fifteen feet behind Micah and Miliotti. Micah immediately entered the
fort and Miliotti stood in the doorway. Appellants did not have
permission or invitation to enter the fort. There had not been prior
arrangement for the sale of marijuana between McLoren and appellants.
Appellant Jason was carrying a folding pocketknife.
There is no evidence that appellants Micah, Hein, or Miliotti carried
weapons or that any of them knew Jason carried a pocketknife.
Appellant Micah unsuccessfully attempted to pull
open the locked desk drawer. Next, appellants Micah and Hein, in a
threatening manner, shouted words demanding that McLoren turn over the
key to the locked desk drawer. Appellant Micah, when threatening
McLoren and demanding the key, shouted, “Give me the key fool” and
“Give me the key, ese. You want shit with Gumbys, ese?” McLoren
refused to relinquish the key.
Appellants Micah, Jason and Hein then verbally and
physically assaulted McLoren. The intensity and violence of the battle
escalated. McLoren held Micah face down on a bed and elbowed him about
the back and neck. Jason attempted to pull McLoren off of Micah.
McLoren kicked Jason in the face. McLoren then heard appellant Jason
say, “Let’s get this fucker.” While being held in a headlock, McLoren
twice felt sharp, debilitating, pulsating sensations, which later
proved to be multiple stab wounds. Jason admitted stabbing McLoren.
After McLoren was stabbed, Farris entered the fort
and became involved in the melee. Farris confronted Jason, who turned
and, without hesitation, stabbed Farris twice in the torso.
Immediately thereafter, McLoren observed Hein beating Farris in the
head and face with his fists. Farris did not resist or otherwise
defend himself from the blows administered by Hein.
Both McLoren and Farris broke away from the fight
and ran to McLoren’s house. They each reported to McLoren’s mother
that “. . . they (appellants) came to get our stuff . . .” and had
stabbed them. Mrs. McLoren saw a stab wound in the center of Farris’
Witnesses observed appellants together leaving the
McLoren yard, being met by the Velardo pickup truck and driving away
in Velardo’s pickup truck. A witness testified that he observed the
four appellants on the street as they left the McLoren backyard
apparently talking among themselves and smiling.
Christopher Velardo, 17, who remained outside in
the truck throughout the incident, was charged and tried separately.
Micah Holland, 15, Brandon Hein, 18, and Anthony
Miliotti, 17, as well as the actual killer Jason Holland, 18, were
charged with burglary, attempted robbery, and murder committed during
the course of a burglary and an attempted robbery, and with attempted
willful, deliberate, premeditated murder of McLoren.
All four were charged with felony murder because
the murder was committed during the course of a felony, the alleged
attempted robbery of McLoren's marijuana.
California law allows felony murder charges to be
"enhanced" by special circumstances if the murder is committed during
the commission of certain other crimes, among them robbery and
burglary. The special circumstances of robbery and burglary were both
alleged in this case. Murders under special circumstances require the
imposition of the death penalty or life without possibility of parole.
The severity of the charges polarized the small
town of Agoura Hills and attracted international attention. The case
was heard in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County in Malibu,
California, with Judge Lawrence Mira presiding.
The issue of the defendants' intent when entering
the McLoren property and during the events at the fort was critical
and hotly contested throughout the trial. The defendants said they had
gone to the fort to buy, not steal, marijuana that day, so there was
no burglary or attempted robbery. McLoren, testifying as a prosecution
witness under promise of immunity from prosecution on drug charges,
said there had been no prior arrangement for the sale of marijuana.
Testimony about the earlier wallet theft was
introduced, with Judge Mira instructing the jury that it could be
considered only to determine if it tended to show the criminal intent
required for the offenses charged later that day. The prosecution said
that both incidents were alike, in that they were theft-type offenses
involving group action and intimidating conduct by members of the
Extensive media coverage before the trial had
suggested that the defendants were members of Gumbys, a local street
gang. In pre-trial proceedings, Judge Mira found that there was
insufficient evidence that the defendants were gang members and ruled
that any evidence of gang membership would be excluded.
Notwithstanding this ruling, during cross-examination the prosecution
twice asked Jason Holland about Gumbys, including asking him if he was
a member. Judge Mira instructed the jury to ignore these questions.
During closing arguments, the prosecution again
strongly suggested the existence of gang activity. These suggestions
of gang activity would be brought up in the defendants' later appeal
as prejudicial misconduct that deprived them of their right to a fair
Jason Holland admitted stabbing both McLoren and
On May 28, 1996 the jury found the four defendants
guilty of burglary, attempted robbery, and murder committed during the
course of a burglary and an attempted robbery, that is, felony murder.
In addition, Jason Holland was convicted of assault with a deadly
weapon. The jury also found the allegations of special circumstances
to be true, and found the murder, burglary and attempted robbery to be
of the first degree.
The four were sentenced to state prison as follows:
Jason Holland - life without possibility of parole
plus eight years.
Brandon Hein - life without possibility of parole plus four years.
Anthony Miliotti - life without possibility of parole plus four years.
Micah Holland - 29 years to life.
Christopher Velardo pleaded guilty separately to
voluntary manslaughter and conspiracy to commit robbery and was
sentenced to eleven years. Velardo was released from prison in 2000.
The case attracted international attention and
support, due largely to media coverage of the charges, the application
of the felony murder rule, and the long sentences imposed.
Director William Gazecki made a documentary film
called Reckless Indifference about the murder, trial and resulting
prison sentences. In his film, Gazecki argues that the defendants
received an unfair trial and overly harsh sentences.
A bill by former California state senator Tom
Hayden to revise California's felony murder rule died in the Senate.
Actor Charles Grodin wrote and directed a
sympathetic play, The Prosecution of Brandon Hein.
In 2005 Gazecki was a guest speaker at California
State University Los Angeles, where his film was shown to Soren Kerk's
sociology class with the question in mind, "What is Justice?"
Although the crime occurred outside his
jurisdiction (in Los Angeles County, not in the city of Los Angeles),
Los Angeles police chief Willie Williams wrote to Judge Mira
recommending the maximum punishment for all four defendants: life in
prison without the possibility of parole.
In an interview with Farris' parents his mother
asks, ”How much is too much time for killing someone? For taking away
and changing our lives completely, forever?”
Supporters of the defendants as well as opponents
of the felony murder rule have expressed various concerns and
Regarding the charges
According to William Gazecki and other critics, the
prosecutor's office was spurred to lay the heaviest possible charges
by the victim's father, an LAPD police officer; and says that if the
victim had not been a police officer's son the felony murder rule
would never have been applied. In a CBS 60 Minutes II segment, a
spokesman for the defendants' families charges that the boys were
punished not for what they did, but for who was killed. The spokesman
says, "It's about a police officer's son who died. And the only way
they could convict all these kids was use the felony murder rule."
James Farris Sr., the victim's father, says "The fact that I'm a
policeman has nothing to do with anything. I just happen to be a
policeman whose son was murdered. That's it."
The felony murder rule itself has been criticized
as unjust and offensive to the basic notion of fairness, since all
participants in the underlying felony are punished equally regardless
of their role, or lack of a role, in the murder. Supporters of the
rule regard it as an example of strict liability, whereby a person who
chooses to commit a crime is considered absolutely responsible for all
the possible consequences of that action.
The application of the felony murder rule in this
case was also questioned by those who did not agree that an underlying
felony, the attempted robbery of McLoren's marijuana, had actually
Regarding the trial
Critics have accused the Los Angeles district
attorney's office of being less interested in justice than in making
up for their embarrassing high-visibility loss in the murder trial of
O. J. Simpson a few months earlier.
The fact that the victim's father was an LAPD
police officer also generated suspicions that the district attorney's
office was pressured for convictions, with Farris Sr. supposedly
enjoying extraordinary access to authorities and attorneys, and using
his influence to gain favors for the prosecution. Farris says in the
film he never was present while prosecutors interviewed witnesses,
while Deputy District Attorney Jeff Semow says that Farris "may have
To prove felony murder, the prosecution had to
prove that an underlying felony had taken place, the attempted robbery
of McLoren's marijuana. On the witness stand as a prosecution witness,
McLoren testified that there had been no prior arrangement for the
sale of marijuana. Before he testified, the prosecution had given him
immunity from prosecution for selling drugs, a fact not known to the
Extensive pre-trial media coverage available to the
pool of potential jurors suggested that the defendants were gang
members. Judge Mira found that there was insufficient evidence of gang
membership, and ruled that no evidence of this type would be allowed
in the trial. Notwithstanding this ruling, the prosecution several
times asked questions about gang membership or otherwise suggested to
the jury the existence of gang activity. After each suggestion, the
judge instructed the jury to ignore it, a process likened by some
critics to "trying to unring a bell". Interviewed in Reckless
Indifference, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz says the
prosecutors "terrorized" the jury into believing the defendants were
violent gang members.
Regarding the sentences
The sentences – 29 years to life for Micah Holland,
life without possibility of parole for Hein, Miliotti, and Jason
Holland – have been widely criticised as out of proportion to the
nature of the crimes. Dershowitz calls the sentence "disproportional,
outrageous, unconstitutional and immoral."
An appeal of the convictions and sentences to the
California Court of Appeal for the Second District charged prosecutors
with misconduct and presenting inadmissible evidence, including
alleging that the defendants belonged to the Gumbys street gang. Among
other things, the appeal also alleged that it was improper to present
the earlier wallet theft to the jury; that the prosecution engaged in
egregious personal attacks on defense counsel; and that the verdicts
were inconsistent. It further alleged juror misconduct, judicial bias,
and faulty instructions to the jury.
Defending the sentences, Deputy District Attorney
Victoria Bedrossian argued that while only Jason Holland wielded the
knife, the defendants acted "in concert." "Each appellant was a major
participant who acted with reckless indifference to Jimmy Farris'
life," Bedrossian said. "The sentences in this case do not offend
fundamental notions of human dignity and the penalties in this case
should not be changed."
On 29 January 2001 the California Court of Appeal
ruled that "In order to warrant reversal, it must be determined that
the alleged misconduct has prejudiced appellants’ right to a fair
trial. In this case, the evidence against appellants was
overwhelming." The Court affirmed the convictions and sentencing of
Jason Holland, Brandon Hein and Micah Holland. The special
circumstance finding against Anthony Miliotti, who stood and watched,
was struck from the record and his crime reduced to second-degree
murder, and his case sent back to the trial court for resentencing,
resulting in a new sentence of nineteen years to life.
The California Supreme Court denied petitions for
review on April 25, 2001.
Hein filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with
the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on October 1, 2001.
A petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the
California Supreme Court was filed on September 23, 2002, which was
summarily denied on May 12, 2004.
Following exhaustion of their appeals in state
court, Hein, Miliotti, Micah and Jason Holland filed individual
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the United States District Court
for the Central District of California in May and July 2004. The
petitions raised identical, overlapping, and separate claims: Brady
violations, prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective assistance of
counsel, improper exclusion or admission of evidence, juror
misconduct, judicial misconduct, cruel and unusual punishment, and
arbitrary and capricious sentence reduction.
On April 3, 2007, the United States Magistrate
Judge assigned to the case filed a joint Report and Recommendation,
recommending that the petitions be denied. All four appellants filed
objections to the Magistrate's report, but the United States District
Judge adopted the Report and Recommendation without modification. Each
appellant then requested a Certificate of Appealability to the United
States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which were all granted
in whole or in part by the District Court. On January 17, 2008, the
Ninth Circuit Court granted a motion to consolidate the appeals of the
On October 7, 2009 the appeals were heard by a
three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth
Circuit. Attorneys for the four alleged false testimony by McLoren and
misconduct by the prosecution, including failure to disclose evidence
favorable to the defense.
On April 12, 2010 the appeals were denied, with the
court acknowledging some instances of prosecutorial misconduct but
saying their combined effect, along with the nondisclosure of
McLoren's immunity, was not sufficient to render the trial
On May 26, 2010 attorneys for Hein, Miliotti, and
Jason Holland filed a "Joint Petition for Rehearing En Banc."
Attorneys for Micah Holland filed a separate "Petition for Rehearing
En Banc." In the petitions, the attorneys argue that the April 12
opinion by the three-judge panel "conflicts with a well-settled body
of law within the Ninth Circuit," and that "En banc review is
necessary to secure and maintain the uniformity of this Court’s
On July 16, 2010, the three-judge panel of the
Ninth Circuit Court issued an order stating that "The full court has
been advised of the petitions for rehearing en banc and no judge has
requested a vote on whether to rehear the matter en banc. The
petitions for panel rehearing and the petitions for rehearing en banc
On November 15, 2010, attorneys for the four
petitioners filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme
Court of the United States. The petition was denied on April 18, 2011.
Brandon Hein, Anthony Miliotti, Micah Holland, and
Jason Holland remain in prison. Their legal appeals have been
exhausted. Miliotti appeared before the Board of Parole Hearings on
April 28, 2011. The board found that Miliotti was "not yet suitable
for parole and would pose an unreasonable risk of danger or a threat
to public safety if released from prison," and gave him a ten-year
However, under Marsy's Law, a life inmate who is
denied parole may, in three year intervals, request that his or her
hearing be moved to an earlier date. Hein and Micah Holland will be
eligible for parole in 2020.
Commutation to 29 years to life with the
possibility of parole
On March 17, 2009, Hein's sentence was commuted by
Governor Schwarzenegger, from life without possibility of parole plus
four years, to 29 years to life with the possibility of parole.
California laws require that 85 percent of a sentence must be served
to be eligible for parole, meaning that Hein would be eligible in
Life In Prison: Felony Murder
By Mary-Jayne McKay - CBSnews.com
February 11, 2009
In California, three young men are serving life in
prison. They were all found guilty of murder even though only one them
actually did the killing and the other two swear they didn't even know
he had a weapon let alone that he would kill somebody.
How does that happen? It's the law. The felony
murder rule law - but this old law is under new attack - as well as
vigorous defense - because of cases like Brandon Hein - a teenager who
went looking for marijuana and ended up in prison for life.
The felony murder law, which goes all the way back
to old English law, treats people who are guilty of lesser crimes as
murderers if they are with murderers when the murder occurs, reports
Hein was 17 in 1995 when he and some teen-age
friends got into in a fistfight. One of those friends pulled out a
knife…and ended up killing another teen-ager. All four are now serving
It began on the kind of day dreaded by parents of
troubled teen-agers. Five of the boys were drinking alcohol and
driving around their mostly safe suburbs near Los Angeles.
In the afternoon, they stopped in a parking lot.
One of them grabbed a wallet, which turned out to be empty, from
inside a car. The owner, a mother playing nearby with her two kids,
cornered them and demanded her wallet returned. Another boy cursed at
her and allegedly hit her car.
The five drove off – this time to find some
marijuana. They went to the home of the neighborhood drug dealer –
another high school teen-ager named Mike McLoren, who sold marijuana
from a one-room structure in his mother's backyard. McLoren's friend
and neighbor, 15-year old Jimmy Farris, was with him that day.
One of the teens stayed with the pickup trick; the
others, including Hein, Jason Holland, 18, and his 15-year-old brother
Micah, approached Mike McLoren's shed, which was called "the fort."
Jason Holland says he was drunk and lagging behind
the others and he did not see how the argument between McLoren and his
"By the time I get in there," he says "step into
the door, he and Mike McLoren are standing, like, face to face, you
know, and, you know, there was clearly a problem there.
"They were already in a argument, you know. But
there was no words being exchanged by the time I got in there.
Immediately when I got in there, I stepped in there, they just dropped
their heads and started fighting."
Brandon Hein jumped into the fray; so did Jason,
who says he was trying to protect his brother Micah from the bigger
and stronger McLoren.
"Mike McLoren was on top of my brother," Jason
says, "he's hammering him in the back of the neck, and I'm telling him
to get off him, get off him. You know, I'm trying to pull him off of
him. I'm hitting him, I'm yelling at him. He's not listening, so I
pulled a knife and I stabbed him.
"After two times of pricking him in the back and he
wasn't getting off my brother, I stabbed him in the chest." After
stabbing McLoren, Jason stabbed McLoren's friend Jimmy Farris. McLoren
survived; Farris did not.
Mike Latin and Jeff Semow, the two Los Angeles
deputy district attorneys who prosecuted the case, charged each teen
under the felony murder rule under the theory that they went to the
place where the murder occurred with the intention of robbing the
"I guarantee you this," says Latin. "That stabber
would not have been there if he didn't have the bravado that the
accompaniment of the other four young boys gave him. He wouldn't have
Semow says the rule is designed as a warning to
those who would participate in gang robberies. "They are not going to
be able to hide behind the defense of saying, 'But the other guy
actually pulled the trigger,' if, in fact, the victim is killed," he
For the felony murder rule to apply, prosecutors
had to prove that a felony occurred. Without that, the felony murder
rule could not apply.
All the defendants deny intending to rob the
marijuana: "Going there to buy some weed," says Jason Holland. "We
were just partying, having a good time."
But the jury did not believe him. Instead, jurors
were convinced the snatching of the mother's wallet earlier in the day
indicated they also plotted to rob drug dealer Mike McLoren.
The teen-agers' families were stunned when they
heard the verdicts and the sentences: Jason Holland and Brandon Hein
were convicted of murder and got life without the possibility of
parole. Micah was convicted of murder and got 29 years to life.
The fourth defendant, Anthony Miliotti, 17, got
life without the possibility of parole even though he stood at the
door and never got into the fight. The fifth teen, who stayed with the
truck, pled guilty and was sentenced to nine years.
Brandon's parents, Gene Hein and Pat Kraetch say
their son is being punished for something he did not do. "I don't know
over the years how many people have come up to me now, adults, who
have gotten past that scary 18- to 25-year-old age and said, 'But for
the grace of God, it could have been me,'" says his mother.
Jeff Laden speaks for the group when he charges
that their boys were punished not for what they did but for who was
killed: the son of a 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police
"It's about a police officer's son who died. And
the only way they could convict all these kids was use the Felony
Murder Rule," Laden says.
Don't tell that to Jimmy Farris's parents. Jim
Farris, his father, says, "The fact that I'm a policeman has nothing
to do with anything. I just happen to be a policeman whose son was
murdered. That's it."
Jimmy's mother, Judy, asks, "How much is too much
time for killing someone? For taking away and changing our lives
As for Jimmy Ferris's friend, Mike McLoren, he was
never prosecuted for selling drugs. He still lives at home. When 60
Minutes II visited, he refused to speak with correspondents or crew.
No one feels worse about the punishment of the
others than Jason Holland. "I didn't try to kill him, I didn't mean to
kill him," he says. "But he died. I can't give it back, but I took
responsibility for it. I thought that was the right thing to do, and I
thought that they would do the right thing, but they didn't. They came
after us. And they got my brother and my two buddies. And we're all
doing life now. And they're doing life for something they didn't do."
England, where the felony rule began, took it off
the books in 1957, believing it is wrong to punish someone who intends
to rob as severely as someone who intends to kill. Many states have
followed suit; California is not one of them.
Man Faces Murder Charge in Farris Killing :
Agoura Hills: The suspect is one of five. Three juveniles are being
held; the fifth suspect is still at large.
By Mack Reed - Los Angeles Times
June 08, 1995
A murder trial was ordered Wednesday for a
baby-faced Oak Park teen-ager accused of joining three friends in
killing an Agoura Hills teen-ager and wounding another youth at a
jerry-built clubhouse while trying to steal marijuana.
Brandon Wade Hein, 18, fidgeted and hung his head
in Malibu Municipal Court as Judge James A. Albracht ordered him held
Hein's mother burst into tears on hearing that her
son--at 130 pounds and 5 feet, 4 inches tall--would be returned to the
Los Angeles County Men's Jail until he is arraigned June 22.
He faces charges of murder, attempted murder and
robbery in the May 22 slaying of James Farris III--the son of a Los
Angeles police detective--and the stabbing of Michael McLoren, both
16. Prosecutors say they could seek the death penalty because the
slaying was committed during a robbery in which a deadly weapon was
Meanwhile, a 17-year-old Westlake Village boy
denied the same charges Wednesday in Sylmar Juvenile Court, said Los
Angeles Deputy Dist. Atty. Laura Foland-Priver. He and two other
minors are at Sylmar Juvenile Hall, awaiting a June 16 hearing to
learn whether they will be tried as adults for murder, attempted
murder and robbery, she said.
But one suspect--a Thousand Oaks
18-year-old--remains at large.
Facing TV cameras outside court Wednesday, Jason
Holland's mother begged her son to turn himself in.
Sharry Holland told reporters that the last time
she heard from him was when he phoned her after the slayings.
"I told him he needed to turn himself in and that
they were looking for him," she said. "And he went into shock and told
me he loved me three times, and then he hung up the phone."
Witnesses sketched out the crime scene for the
judge in a preliminary hearing Wednesday, describing the bloody melee
that exploded in Michael McLoren's back yard in a plywood shack known
as "the fort."
Banged together from scrap lumber and plywood, the
sturdy 13-by-14-foot structure had one beaten plexiglass window to
shed light onto walls festooned with posters, testified Los Angeles
County Sheriff's Detective Robert Tauson.
"It's pretty much decorated like a teen-ager's
bedroom," he said.
But in the beams of detectives' flashlights the
night of the slaying, Tauson said, there were signs of a violent
scrap: an overturned plastic chair stained with blood and a bloodied
When McLoren's family helped detectives unlock a
padlocked desk drawer, they found five small bags of marijuana and
some cash, indicating drug sales had been going on, Tauson testified.
A few days later while recuperating at home,
Michael McLoren told police what happened, testified Sheriff's
Detective William Neumann.
McLoren said he and Farris were lifting weights and
slugging a punching bag just outside the clubhouse about 7 p.m. that
evening, Neumann testified.
Hein, Holland and two juveniles vaulted the
chain-link fence lining the yard and walked up, unsmiling, McLoren
One of the group, a 15-year-old Thousand Oaks boy,
strode into the fort and began tugging on the locked drawer, Neumann
testified. Holland, Hein and a 17-year-old Agoura Hills boy walked in
behind him, followed by Farris, Neumann told the judge.
The 15-year-old demanded that McLoren give him the
keys, but even when the other three chimed in, McLoren refused twice,
Neumann said. Then, Neumann said, "Fists started flying and he [McLoren]
got socked on the head about 10 times."
At one point, Holland, Hein and the 15-year-old
were hitting McLoren together; at another, as Holland was stabbing
him, McLoren saw Holland pass the knife back and forth with the
15-year-old, Neumann said.
Then McLoren saw Farris sit on a mattress with his
head down, Neumann testified. "And he observed Brandon Hein sock James
numerous times with uppercuts," he said.
McLoren could not see whether Hein was holding
anything while punching, but Farris did not fight back, Neumann
Soon after McLoren was kicked into a corner, he
realized he had been stabbed and bolted for an opening in the brawl,
the detective said.
As he ran for the back door of the house, "He heard
voices calling from inside the fort, 'He's getting away, he's getting
away, let's get out of here,' " Neumann said.
McLoren and Farris then ran into the kitchen and
collapsed, Neumann testified.
Farris died later that night of two stab wounds to
the chest, each nearly 3 inches deep, while McLoren was treated for
three similar wounds to the back and abdomen, Tauson testified.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Richard Ramirez
testified that he stopped Holland, Hein and the three juveniles in a
pickup truck less than two hours later, and found a knife in a pouch
on Holland's belt. But there was no blood on it, the deputy said, and
he let the five go.
Defense attorney Jill Lansing argued that Hein
should not face trial because prosecutors offered no proof that there
was a robbery, nor that he had stabbed anyone.
But Judge Albracht disagreed, saying that Deputy
Dist. Atty. Jeffrey Semow had offered proof that Hein aided and
abetted the other four suspects in trying to rob the fort and stabbing
McLoren and Farris.