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Judge Rebukes Ramirez’s No-Show Lawyer

Times Staff Writer

The chief defense lawyer in the Night Stalker trial narrowly escaped a contempt-of-court citation Friday but was severely rebuked by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge for failing to appear for Thursday afternoon’s court session.

Judge Michael A. Tynan told attorney Daniel V. Hernandez that his disappearance after Thursday’s lunch break was “inexcusable” and “a deliberate and calculated act of rudeness in contempt of this court and these proceedings.”

Tynan’s remarks came after both Hernandez and co-defense counsel Ray G. Clark apologized profusely, blaming Hernandez’s absence on a misunderstanding between the two lawyers.

Hernandez, the chief counsel for accused Night Stalker suspect Richard Ramirez, said he had thought that Clark knew, by prior agreement, that Hernandez would not return after lunch. Clark said he understood that Hernandez would be present when court resumed at 1:30 p.m.

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“I’m a little upset with Ray,” Hernandez added in a Friday interview.

When Hernandez did not return after Thursday’s lunch recess, court personnel and jurors waited until about 3 p.m. before the judge adjourned for the day, ordering a bench warrant prepared for Hernandez.

Reports on Activities

On Friday, Hernandez said he had gone to a Mexican restaurant in Hollywood with his legal assistant and then had run some personal errands, including stopping at a bank, before returning to his Alhambra office later in the afternoon.

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Hernandez and Clark alternately apologized to Tynan, offering assurances that neither attorney would be absent without checking first with the judge.

Tynan was not mollified. “It’s your obligation to be here for your client,” the judge told Hernandez. “What you did yesterday is reprehensible and could be construed by the State Bar as an act of abdication of your duties.”

Tynan indicated that he would not hold Hernandez in contempt, only because the judge had not specifically “ordered” all parties to return after Thursday’s lunch recess. Instead, Tynan had simply said, “See you at 1:30, folks.”

When Tynan finished his tongue-lashing, Hernandez sought to respond. But Tynan cut him off and adjourned the hearing.

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Trial Winding Down

The flap over Hernandez’s absence came in the waning days of the trial. Defendant Ramirez is charged with 13 murders and 30 other felonies arising out of a string of night-time residential burglaries throughout Los Angeles County, mostly in the spring and summer of 1985.

Lead prosecutor Phil Halpin was in the middle of his closing argument to the jury of seven women and five men on Thursday when the proceeding was halted. The Los Angeles deputy district attorney is scheduled to resume Monday morning. When he is done, either Clark or Hernandez will began the defense’s closing argument.

After final arguments, Tynan will instruct the jurors and then they will begin deliberations, perhaps by the end of next week.

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