Hello, this is TwistNHook from SBN's Cal site, California Golden Blogs. We've been taking a ponder at the impending Sterling trial for the last few weeks. This is part 7 and here are the other first parts:
Part 2: Mental Capacity And The Law
Part 3: Shelly Sterling's Filings
Part 4: June 23 Trial Setting Conference
Part 5: June 30 Trial Setting Conference
So, yesterday, after much wrangling, we actually started the trial. They had opening statements and then started the testimony of Dr. Platzer. Dr. Platzer is one of the two doctors who evaluated DTS and provided an evaluation supporting his removal as Trustee due to his mental health. DTS had been stating that this doctor went out for drinks with him and could not be trusted. It was unclear what happened. She provided testimony regarding her professionalism and the two hour evaluation that she performed. Then, the day ended.
Today, we were planning on having her cross-examination, testimony from Dr. Spar (the other doctor) and the testimony from DTS. Obviously, DTS' testimony was THE testimony of the day/trial/month/year/century/millennium. He did NOT disappoint! However, before we get into that, let's look at the other testimony of the day and the concept of testimony itself.
At the Superior Court level, the Judge (or jury) is called the Trier of Fact. Their role is to sort through all of the evidence/testimony and determine the facts. What they find as fact *is* fact. It does not matter if you disagree with it personally, if the Judge finds it as fact, it is legally a fact. An appellate Court Judge has no choice but to follow those facts as facts and can only determine issues relating to the law.
So, Judge Levanas' role here is to sort through the testimony presented by all witnesses and find facts. For example, one issue is the following:
*Did Shelly Sterling properly comply with the terms of the Sterling Family Trust in having Donald removed as a co-trustee, or was Donald defrauded by Shelly and/or two doctors who examined him and found him to be mentally incapacitated?
So, the Judge will take testimony as to the actions of the doctors to determine whether they properly examined him per the terms of the Trust. There are two basic types of testimony, expert and lay. Expert testimony is the type of testimony that a doctor would provide. California Evidence Code Section 801 states that that testimony is above and beyond the common experience:
801. If a witness is testifying as an expert, his testimony in the form of an opinion is limited to such an opinion as is:
a) Related to a subject that is sufficiently beyond common experience that the opinion of an expert would assist the trier of fact; and
(b) Based on matter (including his special knowledge, skill, experience, training, and education) perceived by or personally known to the witness or made known to him at or before the hearing, whether or not admissible, that is of a type that reasonably may be relied upon by an expert in forming an opinion upon the subject to which his testimony relates, unless an expert is precluded by law from using such matter as a basis for his opinion.
Lay opinion is what all of us would testify about. It is our percipient appreciation of the world around us. California Evidence Code Section 800 provides more info:
800. If a witness is not testifying as an expert, his testimony in the form of an opinion is limited to such an opinion as is permitted by law, including but not limited to an opinion that is:
(a) Rationally based on the perception of the witness; and
(b) Helpful to a clear understanding of his testimony.
So, the Doctors can provide testimony as to their expert opinion on Donald Sterling and also their personal experience before, during, and after the evaluations. Donald Sterling could testify as to his personal experience before, during, and after the evaluations. Then, the Judge has to determine what seems credible to him and find that as fact. So, if a Doctor says XYZ and DTS says ZYX, then the Judge has to base his finding on the credibility of the witnesses (and potentially other outside sources' testimony/evidence). Here, though, where there appears to be a lot of he-said she-said, it comes down to credibility.
So, let's look at the witnesses testifying today. There are three. The first is the cross-examination of Dr. Platzer.
DTS' attorney opened with more argument about HIPA violations
Trust docs state trustees waive federal rights specifically. Doesn't mention California law -- interesting wrinkle.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) July 8, 2014
Donald Sterling's lawyers keep trying to delay the trial or have it thrown out altogether. Judge is having none of it.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 8, 2014
This was similar to yesterday, when DTS' attorneys seemed to upset the Judge:
Judge is getting irked with Donald Sterling's attorney. Asking Ruttenberg to move on.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 8, 2014
Judge is beyond annoyed with Ruttenberg.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 8, 2014
This does not seem like a winning plan for DTS. However, then Dr. Platzer stated that DTS signed documents waiving those HIPA rights:
Dr. Platzer says Donald Sterling signed papers re HIPAA. Gary Ruttenberg asks why she never provided copies of those to Don's lawyers.— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) July 8, 2014
The Judge ordered Dr. Platzer to turn over the file:
Gary Ruttenberg keeps pushing for complete Sterling files from Dr. Platzer. Judge asks her to provide them by 7 pm tonight.— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) July 8, 2014
This is what happens when you have a shortened schedule like this. No time for discovery and surprises out there. We will see what the file turns up tomorrow, most likely. Despite allegations that she coerced and defrauded DTS into the evaluation, Dr. Platzer testified otherwise:
Platzer said Donald Sterling was very pleasant and cooperative during her examination.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) July 8, 2014
Donald's lawyers aren't really disputing doctor or her findings but basically the legality of the doctor revealing those findings.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 8, 2014
That was it for now. Dr. Platzer is apparently going to return to the stand tomorrow after DTS' team has had a chance to review the file.
Dr. Meril Platzer finished for today. Will take stand again tomorrow at 1:30 pm, after providing Donald Sterling lawyers with more documents— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) July 8, 2014
Dr. Spar was up next, but just before he went up, DTS walked in and everybody lost focus for a moment.
As Dr. Spar was talking on the stand, the entire courtroom turned around to look at the door as Donald walked in and took his seat.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 8, 2014
I've reviewed Dr. Spar's report and found it to be exhaustive, unlike Dr. Platzer's report. Nothing about his report and his evaluation seemed open to attack. His testimony appeared to be fairly straight forward.
Spar testifies DTS was cooperative until very end, when he got frustrated.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) July 8, 2014
Dr. Spar stated that he did not tell DTS about the legal implications, but felt it could have led to worse results:
Dr. James Spar said earlier that he thought telling Don Sterling about legal implications of exam could have caused anxiety, worse results.— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) July 8, 2014
Ruttenberg asks Dr. Spar if the exam was adverse to Don Sterling's interests. "No. He could have performed very well."— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) July 8, 2014
Dr. Spar's testimony appeared to be fairly brief. Then, there was a recess and it was prime time. Donald Sterling testifying!
Now, the question is why is he testifying? Shelly Sterling does not need his testimony to win this case. She can prove her case about the appropriateness of the removal without a word from him. No, they want to examine DTS because they can. They want to fuck with him, basically. Put him up on the big stage and let him look like a buffoon. DTS is an old racist asshole and the only person who does not know that is DTS himself.
They anticipated that he'd self-immolate up there on stage and, guess what? He did. He came off arrogant, bombastic, aggressive, cantankerous, and, most importantly, preposterously wrong in his testimony. Only a small portion of his testimony was even relevant. Discussions of how the evaluations went were relevant. But discussing the NY Times or CNN? Not relevant. What he said on Anderson Cooper? Not relevant. Even discussing whether he provided Shelly Sterling with the appropriate legal authority to sell the team isn't really relevant. What is most relevant is his lay opinion about the medical examinations. Can he provide credible testimony to disprove their evaluations?
If Dr. Platzer or Dr. Spar testifies as to the examinations and says they did something a certain way, while DTS testifies it was done another way, then the Judge has a factual dispute. The Judge would then have to determine which testimony was factual and which was not. Both could not be factual, right? So, if DTS' torpedos his credibility with unceasing rambling testimony that only barely relates? Well, that helps Shelly.
Let's look at the some of the highlights between DTS and Shelly's attorney Bert Fields:
Don Sterling, to Fields: "You're wrong. You've been wrong on every question today." Judge: "How can he be wrong if he's asking a question?"— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) July 8, 2014
Bert Field says $2 million instead of $2 billion. DTS: "Oh, you're really terrific."— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) July 8, 2014
DTS to Bert Fields "What kind of a question is that? I'm talking about your questions. All of them. But, I'm sure they'll improve."— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) July 8, 2014
"What is your name?!"... "Is that a compound question?!" Sterling to attorney so far.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 8, 2014
"Next question." Sterling to Fields. This is great.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 8, 2014
Sterling to Fields: "Are you trying to perpetrate a fraud on this court?" Judge has to intervene and essentially tell Sterling to calm down— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 8, 2014
Donald Sterling, to Bert Fields: "Tell me what you want to accuse me of. Be a man. Stand up and be a man."— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) July 8, 2014
Donald is attacking back at Bert Fields. "Tell me where that's relevant unless you're trying to be a smart ass."— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) July 8, 2014
Donald Sterling, to Bert Fields: "I thought you were going to make me cry. Isn't that what you said in the paper?"— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) July 8, 2014
Donald Sterling to Bert Fields, who is 85 years old: "I don't think you've been practicing very long."— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) July 8, 2014
Donald Sterling is denying that what his lawyers have told the press recently should be attributable to him.— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) July 8, 2014
Sterling keeps asking Bert Fields what his name is. He is more than familiar with Bert Fields.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 8, 2014
Those are lots of the examples of DTS basically being a condescending ass. He thinks he can outsmart or bully Bert Fields into backing away. He has probably done that all his life and thought he could do that here. I don't know the first thing about Bert Fields, but if Shelly Sterling is hiring him, I'm sure he's the best money can buy. I have a fraction of the trial experience of Bert Fields (insomuch as I'm a solid 50+ years younger than him), but it sounds like it'd be fun to go up against DTS. He's trying to be the King of Trolls, but I could probably out troll him. No, I know I could out troll him.
Anyway, so, those are just sort of funny/sad moments when he ruined his credibility. What did he testify to that was actually relevant? Very little. Dr. Platzer made the first move towards getting drinks:
Sterling said Dr. Platzer suggested they go for drinks at the Polo Lounge during exam and finish later. Dr. previously denied this.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 8, 2014
Sterling on doctor who examined him: "The woman was intoxicated....You know it and I know it."— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 8, 2014
This could go to the professionalism of her exam and whether she/he was drunk at the time that she performed the exam. However, Dr. Platzer testified otherwise. So, the Judge has to determine what is fact and what is not. What do you think he'll find?
Another tidbit is that Dr. Spar was creepy:
Sterling on second doctor who examined him. "He snuck into my tiny little den, yes, he snuck into my tiny little den and sat next to me."— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 8, 2014
Oh, and he called Platzer drunk and said Spar sat "too close to me I couldn't even breathe."— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) July 8, 2014
"You can call me whatever you like. But those two doctors shouldn't be practicing medicine. I know it and you know it." - DTS— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) July 8, 2014
I guess that DTS is trying to testify that Dr. Spar's evaluation is inaccurate, because he was not able to fully take the exam given the lack of space. That does not seem like a very persuasive argument. I cannot find much more on actually relevant testimony. He talks about how much he hates the NBA and how he was going to get the same TV/radio deal for the Clippers that the Lakers have (which seems unlikely). He talks about how much he loves his wife, but how she cannot or does not manage any of his businesses. He somehow got into a lecture on how much he hates CNN and took down a bunch of different media outlets. None of that relates to whether he was appropriately removed as Trustee. It just hurts his credibility.
I actually called this in yesterday's post:
If it is anything like his Anderson Cooper interview, it'll be rambling, insulting, and 100% media fodder. He'll most likely do himself no service tomorrow and the circus will continue.
Tomorrow, DTS will testify more and Dr. Platzer will be back for more cross-examination after DTS's attorneys can review her file. What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments and GO BEARS!