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THE STORK’S READY TO LAND IN OAKLAND ‘RIDERS’ TRIAL The “Riders” police misconduct trial has been inching along for eight months, but the attorneys may now have a good reason to speed things up. Juror No. 8 is very pregnant, and several court watchers say that she is due in late May. The case lost a juror before the trial began but the original group of 12 jurors has remained intact since opening arguments began in September 2002. Attorneys say that there is another month of testimony to go in the case, which accuses three Oakland cops of falsifying police reports, beating up suspects and kidnapping. Because there will be a weeklong break in the case, that would seemingly push future jury deliberations perilously close to Juror No. 8′s due date. “Juror No. 8 isn’t going to make it,” said prosecutor David Hollister, predicting that she will have to be replaced with one of the five alternates if the case continues at this pace. “It’s phenomenal that she has stuck it out this long and the other jurors have stuck it out this long.” Defense attorney William Rapoport says that he wasn’t concerned about the potential loss of a juror. “These things happen,” he said with a laugh. In other news, the Riders case will be the final curtain for two people involved with the case: Hollister and Deputy Veronica “Ronnie” Holloway, the bailiff for Judge Leopoldo Dorado’s courtroom. Holloway has been with the sheriff’s office for 29 years and will qualify for full retirement benefits in July when she turns 55. Holloway, who is a breast cancer survivor, says she is looking forward to spending time with her family and doing volunteer work for cancer awareness groups. Hollister is taking a job with the Plumas County district attorney’s office after the case wraps up. Hollister says he loves living in the picturesque northeastern California county, but he’ll miss Oakland. “I will very much miss my job,” said Hollister who has been a deputy DA for 11 years. “I have always loved it.” — Jahna Berry SELF-SERVE There was a deliberate lack of fanfare when a new multilingual resource center for pro per litigants opened in San Francisco on March 10, according to attorney Cristina Llop. “We just opened, [to] see whether we could survive,” said Llop, director of the new ACCESS center that has taken over part of Room 208 in the Civic Center courthouse building. A “grand opening” is expected sometime soon, perhaps in May, she said. ACCESS, which stands for “Assisting Court Customers With Educational and Self-Help Services,” is one of five pilot centers throughout the state, including one planned in Contra Costa County. California’s Administrative Office of the Courts has given each center $166,400 a year in grant funding, said Bonnie Hough, a supervising attorney with the AOC’s Equal Access Project. At San Francisco’s ACCESS, the emphasis is on multilingual services. People who speak English, Spanish, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Russian or Tagalog can get help filling out forms for civil harassment restraining orders, name changes, evictions and guardianships, said Llop. “We have written information on other issues,” she added, such as landlord-tenant, probate, small claims, consumer or personal injury problems. There’s no attorney-client relationship, she stressed, noting that ACCESS may help both sides in a dispute. During its first three weeks, Llop said, about 110 customers came into the center. Llop expects to rely heavily on translated written material, volunteer interpreters, and organizations that serve the city’s ethnic communities. “All the people that you see here today are students from Hastings [College of the Law],” said Llop, gesturing at the handful of people consulting with customers at small tables last Wednesday. She’ll be working with local schools and the Bar Association of San Francisco to drum up more volunteers, including attorneys, law students and interpreters, she added. In contrast to San Francisco’s bricks-and-mortar center, Contra Costa’s Virtual Self-Help Law Center will use tools such as video-conference workshops, CD-ROMs and the Internet to deliver information at a few locations. That project’s first public computer terminals, slated for branch courts and community college campuses, will start opening in about a month, said project manager Mimi Lyster. — Pam Smith RETROACTIVE REVIEW When four former members of the Symbionese Liberation Army reached a plea agreement with Sacramento prosecutors last year, the long saga of one of California’s most notorious gangs appeared to be over. But there was a catch. Because the crime — the killing of Myrna Lee Opsahl during a bank robbery — occurred in 1975, the Board of Prison Terms had the power to review the deal by holding a special “serious offender” hearing to review each defendant’s sentence. In 1977, the law changed, but the BPT can still review crimes that happened before then. Defendants Sara Jane Olson, William Harris, Emily Montague and Michael Bortin were so worried about what the BPT would do that they made the board’s action a condition of their agreement. If the board changed any sentence, the rest could back out. The defendants agreed to sentences ranging from six to eight years. Last week, the BPT announced it would not hold the hearings. Stephen Green, assistant secretary of the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, which oversees BPT, pointed to a letter from the Opsahl family backing up the pleas. “I think that had a lot of weight,” he said. Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Thomas Cecil, who watched over negotiations, said the BPT considered his opinion and those of the family, prosecutors and defense attorneys. Cecil felt so strongly about it that he was prepared to testify before the board. One defendant did capture the BPT’s attention. Olson negotiated a plea deal with Los Angeles prosecutors that she thought would send her to prison for a little more than five years. In that particular case the BPT did decide to hold a hearing, and ended up giving her 14 years. She has filed an administrative appeal. — Jeff Chorney COPING MECHANISM SAN JOSE — In an effort to cut costs, Santa Clara County Superior Court administration will shut down one of its satellite courts. Court spokeswoman Debra Hodges said the city of Santa Clara courthouse on Homestead Road is being shuttered. The court has four trial departments. Judge Robert Ambrose and two retired judges sitting by assignment — Thomas Hastings and Robert Ahern — use the courthouse. Hodges said the judges will be shuffled to one of its 12 other court facilities around the county. “It may be temporary, or we may impose it for a longer period than we intended,” Hodges said. Closing the courthouse for six months will save the court $365,000. Hodges said the Santa Clara facility has been closed before to cut costs. – Shannon Lafferty

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