This is the second in a series of articles about the murder trial of Andrea Moorer. The first was Strong Female Lead by Molly Miller.
Outside of Department 111 at the Criminal Courts Building, a stocky man in his late 60s sits upright and energetic, sticking out amongst those lounging in the hallway. The man is Larry Smith, an ex-cop here today to testify in defense of Andrea Dommique Moorer, who is charged with killing an abusive pimp, Ruffino Anderson.
A clean-cut, gray-suited, and similarly energetic man with pomade-carved jet-black hair exits 111: Defense Attorney Jimmy Chu. He smiles at Smith, shakes his hand, and the two enter the courtroom together as a team.
Inside 111, Chu sits down next to Moorer as Smith takes his oath at the witness stand. Also present is Deputy District Attorney Brittney Phillips, garbed in a black suit and skirt with her long blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. She sits with impeccable posture and a confident, exacting look in her eyes as she flips through her binder, jotting notes.
Chu questions Smith first, asking him to explain several trauma-response concepts to the jury. Smith makes a compelling case that Moorer had killed her victim in self-defense, because he had attacked her minutes earlier. He explains specifically that for Moorer to attack her aggressor and continue beating him, even after overpowering and pinning him to the ground, is a common response to being in a fight-or-flight situation. Though it may look to be a one-sided assault, the brain, he argues, is simply caught in a state of panic. Smith then describes instances where many of his peers on the force were caught in a similar state after being attacked on the job.
The idea holds weight in the courtroom, and the jurors lean in while Smith confidently testifies. He sits as straight and poised as he was in the hallway. His tone is matter-of-fact. His eyes are wide and stern, as if the matter of Moorer’s defense is of grave concern not only to the courtroom but to the whole of society. But that tone changes once Chu sits and Phillips begins her cross-examination.
PHILLIPS: ARE YOU AWARE THAT A BYSTANDER WHO WAS ALSO AT THE SCENE AT THE BANK OF AMERICA TOOK A SNAPCHAT?
SMITH: NO, I WAS NOT.
PHILLIPS: YOU WEREN’T TOLD THAT? YOU DIDN’T REVIEW THAT INFORMATION?
This is after Smith claimed that he reviewed evidence for 22 hours. He shakes his head “no” and bites his lip.
PHILLIPS: WERE YOU AWARE THAT THAT SNAPCHAT VIDEO WAS AN ANGLE DIRECTLY LOOKING AT THE DEFENDANT ON TOP OF THE MAN AS HE’S ON THE GROUND NOT MOVING?
SMITH: NO, I DIDN’T.
PHILLIPS: OKAY. AND THEN WHAT ABOUT ANOTHER VIDEO FROM THAT BYSTANDER THAT HE TOOK DIRECTLY AFTER MS. MOORER RUNS OVER THE GUY WITH THE CAR? DID YOU SEE THAT?
SMITH: I DON’T BELIEVE SO.
PHILLIPS: DID YOU KNOW IT EXISTED?
SMITH: DOESN’T SOUND FAMILIAR.
PHILLIPS: SO THE DEFENSE DIDN’T GIVE IT TO YOU?
SMITH: I DON’T BELIEVE SO.
PHILLIPS: HOW ABOUT BODY-WORN VIDEO?
SMITH: NO. I DIDN’T SEE ANY OF THAT.
Smith describes a summary he had given the jury earlier in the trial, that he had written in response to the video he had watched. What he concluded in that summary was that Moorer’s actions were solely in response to her abuser, part of the fight-or-flight response. Despite this, Phillips keeps on him.
PHILLIPS: YOU DIDN’T DESCRIBE HER AND THE VICTIM FIGHTING INITIALLY AND FALLING TO THE GROUND, DID YOU?
SMITH: NO. I DON’T THINK I DID.
PHILLIPS: YOU DIDN’T DESCRIBE HER STRADDLING HIM AND BEING ON TOP OF HIM, DID YOU?
PHILLIPS: YOU DIDN’T DESCRIBE HER HANDS AROUND HIS THROAT?
PHILLIPS: YOU DIDN’T DESCRIBE HER CHOKING HIM WHILE HE LAID IN FRONT OF THE CAR?
PHILLIPS: YOU DIDN’T DESCRIBE HER STOMPING HIS HEAD AFTER HE STOPPED MOVING?
PHILLIPS: DID YOU SKIP THOSE PARTS IN YOUR SUMMARY BECAUSE IT’S THE PARTS THAT MADE HER LOOK BAD?
Smith’s confidence wavers. He slouches in his seat, avoiding eye contact with Phillips. His voice becomes irritable as she starts asking him about the coroner’s report for the deceased pimp. He states that he had not reviewed that either.
PHILLIPS: SO IT WASN’T IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO DOCUMENT THE INJURIES THAT THE DECEDENT GOT?
SMITH: I DIDN’T THINK SO.
PHILLIPS: BECAUSE YOU WERE HIRED BY THE DEFENSE?
Smith pauses for a long time. He was hired by the defense. Chu objects to this but is overruled.
PHILLIPS: WHY WASN’T ALL THAT PERTINENT INFORMATION INCLUDED IN YOUR SUMMARY?
SMITH: I JUST DIDN’T DO IT.
Smith almosts barks at Phillips. He starts responding to her questions with “I have no answer,” because he really, truly, doesn’t. It looks bad. At one point, he states, “I’d like to say something, but I’m afraid it might prejudice the jury.” Judge Henry Hall simply responds, “Don’t.”
Phillips then discusses police interviews with Moorer where she felt “safe” after she had gotten back into the car, after choking and stomping on the deceased pimp’s head. Phillips is addressing Smith’s earlier statements, in which he claimed that Moorer’s actions could be attributed to the “fight-or-flight” response.
PHILLIPS: SO I WANT TO ASK YOU IF IT WOULD CHANGE YOUR OPINION IF SHE TOLD YOU THAT ONCE SHE GOT IN THE CAR SHE FELT SAFE?
PHILLIPS: WHAT IF SHE TOLD YOU ONCE SHE GOT IN THE CAR SHE FELT SAFE BECAUSE SHE WAS INSIDE THE CAR AND HE WAS OUTSIDE OF THE CAR? WOULD THAT CHANGE YOUR OPINION?
PHILLIPS: WOULD ANY ANSWER I GIVE YOU OR ANY INFORMATION I GIVE YOU CHANGE YOUR OPINION?
SMITH: RIGHT NOW I DON’T SEE WHY I WOULD CHANGE IT.
Phillips simply nods, really hitting her stride. By this point, Chu has objected to many of her questions but has been overruled each time. Phillips takes a moment, then approaches the witness stand with a document titled: “SUPERIOR COURT PANEL OF EXPERT WITNESSES.”
PHILLIPS: WHAT HEADING OR SUBHEADING IS YOUR NAME UNDER?
SMITH: POLICE FORCE EXPERT. TASER CERTIFIED.
Chu objects, wondering what the relevance is. Hall overrules him again. Phillips points to the name above Smith’s on the list of expert witnesses, asking him to read what it says for the jury.
SMITH: RICHARD LIPTON. POLICE AND JAIL PROCEDURES, CONSULTANT AND CIVILIAN VERSUS CIVILIAN SELF-DEFENSE CASES.
PHILLIPS: SO HE’S QUALIFIED AS AN EXPERT ON CIVILIAN VERSUS CIVILIAN SELF-DEFENSE CASES, RIGHT?
PHILLIPS: YOU DO NOT HAVE THAT QUALIFICATION UNDER YOUR NAME, DO YOU?
SMITH: NO, I DON’T.
PHILLIPS: SO YOU ARE NOT APPROVED AS A QUALIFIED EXPERT IN L.A. SUPERIOR COURT ON THIS TOPIC, ARE YOU?
PHILLIPS: YOUR QUALIFICATION IS FOR POLICE USE OF EXCESSIVE FORCE, ISN’T THAT RIGHT?
SMITH: YES… MA’AM.
PHILLIPS: NOTHING FURTHER.
Hall then orders the court to reconvene the next day. Smith finally gets off the stand and starts leaving. He mutters to himself, “Jesus,” as he leaves Department 111, joining the throng of exhausted witnesses, jurors, and others who roam the hallway. Seconds later, Chu exits, his sharp look deflated by an air of defeat. He joins Smith. Heads hanging, the two mutter under their breath about Phillips, who seems to be the only person left in the building standing tall, energetic, and confident.
UPDATE: Andrea Moorer was found guilty of arson but the jury hung on the charge of second-degree murder and a mistrial was declared. Initial proceedings for a retrial were scheduled to begin on September 10.