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Jury Deliberations Begin in Trial of Judge

Jurist faces up to 19 years if found guilty on all charges connected to an alleged drunken confrontation with her domestic partner.

August 27, 2003|William Overend | Times Staff Writer

SANTA BARBARA — A judge facing six criminal charges stemming from an alleged drunken confrontation with her domestic partner should be found guilty on all counts to show that "nobody is above the law," a prosecutor told jurors on Tuesday.

But a defense lawyer countered that Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Diana R. Hall was the real victim in the case, and he appealed to the jury for an acquittal.

In her closing argument, Assistant Dist. Atty. Kimberly Smith urged jurors not to focus on the effect of the case on Hall's career.

"Why are we here?" Smith asked. "A woman reported a crime. The fact that this is a lesbian relationship makes it no different than any other domestic abuse case."

Smith angrily accused defense lawyer Jack Earley of belittling and mocking Deidra Dykeman, the judge's ex-lover, as a "wacko."

"Let's get in the mud and throw it all up and see what will stick," she said. "What's the point of her coming in to go through all this? The bottom line is there has to be some justice here for Deidra Dykeman."

Hall, 53, is charged with two felonies and four misdemeanor counts in connection with the alleged incident Dec. 21 at the Santa Ynez Valley home she and Dykeman owned.

Dykeman, 39, a program manager on defense projects for Raytheon with advanced degrees in physics and business administration, made a 911 call that night saying Hall had attacked her, threatened to shoot one of their dogs, destroyed a telephone and had walked around the house with a loaded .38-caliber revolver.

Hall, then presiding criminal judge in Lompoc in northern Santa Barbara County, could face up to 19 years in prison if convicted on all counts and would automatically lose her job as a judge if convicted of either felony. Hall is currently suspended with pay.

The felony charges against her are damaging a phone to block a 911 call and dissuading a witness by force or intimidation. That charge also carries an enhancement of using a gun.

Arrested shortly after the 911 call while driving away from her home, Hall is also charged with misdemeanor counts of domestic battery, brandishing a gun, driving under the influence and driving with a blood-alcohol level higher than the legal limit of .08%. Her blood-alcohol level was .18%.

The seven-day trial saw Earley present a defense that virtually all of Dykeman's charges were deliberate lies aimed at destroying Hall's career because the judge had decided to end their relationship.

Trial Judge Carol Koppel-Claypool, a retired municipal court judge from Victorville, had considered a motion on Monday to dismiss the two felony charges, but ruled Tuesday morning that she would let jurors decide the validity of all six charges.

Primarily concerned about the gun enhancement provision, which carries a mandatory prison term of three to 10 years, Earley spent much of his closing argument on Tuesday trying to convince jurors that Hall never touched a gun or Dykeman during the argument.

Attacking Dykeman's earlier testimony, he said she pretended to have problems with English whenever confronted with a contradiction she could not explain, often saying, "I'm not an English major."

At one point, he noted, Dykeman said during the 911 call that she could see an empty wine bottle on a kitchen table in the house.

But, he added, she also said she was in the garage behind a closed door at the time.

"So then she says she can see the bottle in her mind's eye," Earley continued. "She gets a Buddhist moment, visualizing the bottle. Kind of like the gun."

Earley said Dykeman was upset that Hall would not publicly identify herself as gay and that she had repeatedly threatened to "out" the judge.

He also said Dykeman had failed to prove allegations that Hall had described her as her gardener and dog-watcher to keep people from knowing their true relationship.

"They couldn't find a soul to back that up," he said. "Don't you think they could say who met the gardener? Who met the dog watcher?"

Earley added: "I don't know how to say this nicely, but when a witness tells you I don't mean what I say because I can't use English and then starts saying how she had to egress the house, it makes you pause. 'Egress' isn't a word most people use."

Jurors began deliberations late Tuesday and will resume deliberations this morning.

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