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Brandon Wade HEIN

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (17) - Robbery attempt
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: May 22, 1995
Date of birth: February 17, 1977
Victim profile: Jimmy Farris, 16 (the son of an LAPD police officer)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Agoura Hills, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Commuted to 29 years to life in prison on March 17, 2009
 
 

 

Court of Appeal of the State of California
Second Appellate District

 

The People v. Brandon Hein

 
 

 

United States Court of Appeals
For the Ninth Circuit

 

Brandon Wade Hein v. William Joseph Sullivan, Warden

 
 

 
 

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 sentence.

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 separately.

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’ chest.

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.

Charges

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.

Trial

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 group.

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 trial.

Jason Holland admitted stabbing both McLoren and Farris.

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.

Sentences

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.

Supporters

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?"

Detractors

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?”

Controversy

Supporters of the defendants as well as opponents of the felony murder rule have expressed various concerns and criticisms.

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 taken place.

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 been present."

  • 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 jury.

  • 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."

Appeals

State appeals

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.

Federal appeals

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 four appellants.

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 fundamentally unfair.

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 decisions."

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 are denied."

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.

Current status

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 denial.

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 early 2020.

Wikipedia.org


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 Dan Rather.

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 life sentences.

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 brother started.

"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 victims.

"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 been there."

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 says.

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 Department.

"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 completely, forever?"

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 without bail.

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 used.

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 baseball bat.

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 told Neumann.

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 testified.

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.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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