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Lawsuit Says Punk Rockers Disturbed Grave : Mistrial Delays Case Against Forest Lawn

November 27, 1986|LARRY GORDON | Times Staff Writer

Even before jury selection was completed, a mistrial was declared in a lawsuit brought by a Woodland Hills woman who claims that punk rockers disturbed her 17-year-old daughter's funeral and tampered with the girl's grave at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park in Glendale.

Francine Ross sought more than $1 million from Forest Lawn for alleged negligence in failing to keep her daughter's punk rocker friends, including one girl allegedly wearing a dress decorated with live rats, away from the 1981 funeral.

The daughter, Kristie, died of a drug overdose.

After many delays, jury selection began last week before Glendale Superior Court Judge Joseph R. Kalin.

But the judge ruled last Thursday that one of Ross' complaints, alleging breach of contract by Forest Lawn, was improperly drawn. Ross' attorney, Mark M. Geyer, accepted the judge's offer of a mistrial rather than continue the case with arguments only on the remaining claims, alleging negligence and emotional distress.

"All this does is to give me more time to do a better job," Geyer said.

Request to Pay Legal Fees

However, Forest Lawn's attorney, Marc J. Wodin, said he was upset by the mistrial ruling and was preparing to ask the judge to require Ross to pay Forest Lawn's legal fees, which he said amount to "many thousands" of dollars. Wodin also said he may ask the judge to throw out the entire case because of the delays.

Ross claimed that she asked Forest Lawn to prevent punk rockers from attending the funeral, but that many showed up anyway under the influence of alcohol and drugs and caused a disturbance.

"Some were in white face makeup and black lipstick. Hair colors ranged from blues and greens to pinks and oranges. Some were dressed in leather and chains and twirled baton-like weapons while yet another wore a dress decorated with live rats," Ross' suit alleges.

Ross also claims in her suit that Forest Lawn promised to guard Kristie's grave because the mother feared that the punkers might disinter the body and "use it for some sadistic or ritualistic ceremony."

Grave Disturbed

According to her suit, the day after the funeral, Ross found the flowers and surface soil on the grave disturbed and arranged to have the body moved to an unmarked grave at the cemetery.

Forest Lawn denied promising Ross special protection, saying it is forbidden by law to stop anyone from attending a funeral.

"Nazis, Hell's Angels and the Mafia, for example, have reputations considerably worse than the punk rockers, and they cannot be barred from cemetery grounds under the present law," the cemetery said in court documents. The cemetery stated in the court documents that there is no evidence linking the daughter's friends to the grave tampering.

The case was previously dismissed by another Superior Court judge, but a state Court of Appeal reinstated it in 1984.

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