The John Chamberlain Murder Trial Begins

[Moxley Confidential] Some defense lawyers claim the deputies made their clients do it

During his opening statement, defense attorney Thiagarajah called Taylor an "ex-deputy." This brought a quick prosecution objection. Judge James A. Stotler has consented to a government request to keep the deputy's status (fired) away from consideration by jurors. California's Police Officers' Bill of Rights goes to ridiculous lengths to shield law-enforcement officers—especially dirty ones—from public accountability.

In open court but outside the presence of the jury, Stotler told Thiagarajah to not refer to Taylor as an "ex-deputy"; Baytieh had called him "deputy" during his opening argument, which—after the admonition to Thiagarajah—prompted another defense lawyer to point out it was not factual to call him a deputy at this time. Stotler then ordered everyone to refer to Taylor only as "Kevin Taylor."

The name debate seems trivial. What's abundantly clear is that while this deputy was on duty, Theo Lacy inmates in F-West barracks believed that Taylor was their devious overlord and would punish them with a loss of privileges if they didn't beat Chamberlain. Or, alternately, that they, the inmates, were running the asylum, so to speak. Either way, the hideous result sadly tells us that we aren't as civilized as we'd like to think.

Jim Rugg


This column appeared in print as "Staring Into the Blind Spot: As the trial for John Chamberlain's grisly jailhouse slaughter begins, some defense lawyers claim the deputies made their clients do it."

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