Pacoima : Murder Trial Starts for Shackled Suspect

On the first day of his murder trial Tuesday, an uncooperative and shackled Pacoima man was dragged into Van Nuys Superior Court, then thrown out of the courtroom by the judge.

Even with the chaos that began the day, jury selection started in the trial of Howard Holt, 29, who along with another man is charged with killing a Studio City musician and attempting to murder a Los Angeles police officer who responded to a holdup at a Northridge restaurant.

Holt and Claude Davis, 28, face 51 felony counts stemming from a series of armed robberies at restaurants throughout the San Fernando Valley.

Holt allegedly shot and wounded Police Officer Dennis Hinman when Hinman responded to a robbery call at the Grandview Chinese Restaurant on Jan. 15, 1992. Holt was shot in the wrist in the incident, authorities said.

Davis is accused of killing Vartan Mouradian, 33, during a robbery at the Grecian Village restaurant in Studio City on Nov. 27, 1991.

If convicted, both men face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

At the beginning of Tuesday's session, three bailiffs dragged the chained Holt into Judge Howard J. Schwab's courtroom and deposited him on the floor.

"We gave him three opportunities to come voluntarily, so we had to restrain him," said one of the half a dozen sheriff's deputies who were keeping order.

"Will you behave, sir?" Schwab asked three times without getting any response.

Citing Holt's "fighting and combativeness in the courtroom," Schwab ordered that Holt be removed to a nearby holding cell, in which a speaker was placed so that Holt could hear the court proceedings.

"I don't intend to endanger my court or my staff," the judge said.

Throughout the scene in the courtroom, Davis sat calmly next to his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Dror Toister.

As soon as Holt was secured in the cell, loud banging could be heard. About 10 minutes later, a bailiff reported that Holt's chains were coming loose and that Holt would have to be subdued with pepper spray, which law enforcement officials now use in the place of Mace.

Holt eventually calmed down without being sprayed and jury selection started.

"Mr. Holt's behavior has been erratic to say the least," said his defense attorney, Ezekial Perlo.

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