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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The Durst Trial: A Brother Remembers His Lost Sister

Like so many memories, this one is jogged by a photograph.  Deputy DA John Lewin projects an image of a preadolescent Kathie Durst onto the courtroom’s over-sized video monitors. From his seat in the witness box, James McCormack, Kathie’s 76 year old brother, turns to consider it.  LEWIN: DO YOU RECOGNIZE WHO’S IN THAT PHOTO? MCCORMACK: YES. LEWIN: AND WHO IS THAT? MCCORMACK: THAT IS MY BABY SISTER KATHIE SITTING IN THE ROWBOAT THAT MY DAD BOUGHT AND...

Robert Durst’s Relentless Prosecutor

Deputy DA John Lewin’s opening statement in the People v. Robert Durst ran for three captivating days. In a weekend blog discussion subsequent to Days One and Two, CRIME STORY teased out the cinematic trappings of Lewin’s presentation (The Prosecutor’s Cinematic Opening in The People vs. Robert Durst, March 7, 2020). On its third and final day, however, Lewin’s opening statement revealed an added layer of complexity. What had already been a dramatic, binge-worthy summary of the evidence against Durst suddenly took a highly personal turn. Having spent the previous two days tracing...

Unanticipated Intimacy and the Trial of Robert Durst

A long trial can breed moments of unanticipated intimacy. CRIME STORY has been reporting on the Durst pre-trial hearings for nearly a year now, and it’s safe to say that a strained familiarity has developed between all concerned parties. There are nodding encounters in courthouse cafeteria lines and muttered asides in crowded elevators. It’s also inevitable that over the course of a lengthy court case, you will share a restroom with someone from the trial. (This probability is enhanced by the fact that all of the CRIME...

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...