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No Stars, But New Witness Emerges in Hollywood Trial

Case Should Be In Jury’s Hands By End of Next Week


Friday, June 19, 2009

There will be no stars in this Hollywood. That was the message from Judge Brian Hill on Wednesday, when he told an attorney for Jesse James Hollywood that calling director Nick Cassavetes and actors such as Justin Timberlake from the movie Alpha Dog would be irrelevant to the defense’s case.

James Blatt, attorney for the man accused of kidnapping and ordering the murder of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz in August 2000, said it was important for the jury to know that Cassavetes and actors like Timberlake had all of the DA’s confidential file on the case when they interviewed people for the movie Alpha Dog, a fictionalized account of the killing. The movie makers could have shared confidential information and skewed witnesses throughout the course of those interviews, Blatt argued, and that point should be known to the jurors.

But Judge Hill said he didn’t see the relevance, and said he would only allow the defense to call Cassavetes or Timberlake as witnesses if the defense was trying to prove witnesses who took the stand in the Hollywood trial were making consistent or inconsistent statements.

Celebrities aside, the main focus of Wednesday’s proceedings, done outside the presence of the jury - they got a break until Monday - was the proposed testimony of Jerry Hollywood, a second cousin of Jesse James Hollywood. Up until this month, Jerry Hollywood had nothing to do with the case, and the only members of law enforcement to speak to Jerry Hollywood were FBI agents looking for Jesse James Hollywood years after the alleged murderer disappeared. He wasn’t interviewed in connection to this case.

However, a phone log shows Jesse James Hollywood called his second cousin in the midst of Markowitz’s disappearance in August 2000. Blatt said he came across the phone call while poring over documents in preparation for trial, and eventually had his investigator call to conduct an interview. But Jerry Hollywood said he was groggy during that interview, so he decided to write a statement for Blatt’s office. While the letter contains information that has mostly been corroborated by other witnesses or evidence, there is a significant group of sentences which the defense wishes to introduce at trial, in which Jesse Hollywood allegedly tells his second cousin that the boy that had been kidnapped was coming home.

So on Wednesday, Jerry Hollywood, 70, a real estate agent, took the stand to outline his interactions with his second cousin that day. According to Jerry Hollywood, when Jesse Hollywood visited him to sign papers to put his house on the market, he also told him he and some friends had taken a boy, and that he was going to call his attorney because of the situation he was in. He told prosecutor Josh Lynn that he didn’t call police because he didn’t have a firm grasp of what was happening. “I wasn’t in his world,” he explained. “He was vague when he was talking about it.” Later that day in 2000, when Jesse Hollywood called his second cousin again to check on the listing, Jerry Hollywood asked about the situation and Jesse James Hollywood allegedly told him “the boy was coming home.”

But under cross examination from prosecutor Joshua Lynn, Jerry Hollywood indicated that Blatt’s investigator “reminded” him of some of the events from 2000. “Most of the statements he said were correct,” Jerry Hollywood testified. “It’s just that they weren’t quite my words.” He never took notes to remind himself of what had occurred.

Lynn called the recent events suspicious. Hill said he didn’t think Jerry Hollywood had a “very clear recollection of the event of August 2000,” and also was concerned the investigator was asking the man leading questions, instead of letting him rely on his independent recollection.

Earlier in the afternoon, the judge denied a defense motion to dismiss the aggravating kidnapping charge against Hollywood.

On Monday, the defense will begin to present its case, calling an investigator from the district attorney’s office, deputies and detectives from the sheriff’s department, and Brian Affronti, a fellow drug dealer of Hollywood’s who already testified. He was in a van with Hollywood, Markowitz, and William Skidmore, who all drove up to Santa Barbara together.

The case is expected to go to the jury next week.

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