Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog
     


Los Angeles Violent Crimes

Posted on: May 23, 2009 at 5:58 a.m.

In Los Angeles, violent crimes sometimes garner quite a bit of local and national attention. In one such story that was literally made into a movie, Jesse James Hollywood is currently awaiting trial for the kidnapping and murder of 15 year-old Nicholas Markowitz in 2000. Prosecutors say Hollywood was immersed in drug trafficking for years, supplying marijuana to dealers in Los Angeles San Fernando Valley. Markowitzs half-brother, Ben Markowitz, reportedly owed Hollywood $1,200, so Hollywood and several associates kidnapped Nicholas Markowitz just down the street from his home to pressure his brother into paying his debts. When Hollywood was advised by a lawyer that being convicted of kidnapping could send him to jail on a possible life sentence, Hollywood allegedly enlisted one of his dealers, Ryan Hoyt to kill Nicholas Markowitz. Markowitzs remains were found by hikers several days later and Hollywood fled from California shortly after. Hollywood was eventually captured on a beach in Brazil before being brought back to Los Angeles to await trial.

A 2007 movie detailing the case, "Alpha Dog," further stalled Hollywoods trial because film director Nick Cassavetes had been given sensitive information by prosecutors on the case to make his film. Defense attorneys attempted to block the release of the film, citing fears that it would unfairly prejudice potential jurors against Hollywood in his violent crime trial. Nine years after the violent crime, jury selection began this May.


Conviction of violent crimes such as kidnapping and murder can, indeed, land Hollywood in jail for the rest of his life. Both are classified as felony criminal offenses and both count as "strikes" under Californias "Three Strikes" laws, which can lead to enhanced prison sentences for repeat criminal offenders. The punishment for kidnapping may vary anywhere from three to eight years in a state prison if the victim is over the age of 14, and is not physically harmed during the process. If, as in Hollywoods case, the victim dies as a result of the kidnapping, then the offense is charged as First-Degree Murder, which is punished by 25 years to life in a state prison. The fact that Hollywood was not even present at the time of the murder bodes well for him, as does the nature of Markowitzs kidnapping. Investigators in the case report that Markowitz partied with his captors in the days shortly before his murder. He was even left unsupervised at one point and made no attempt to get away or call for help.



An experienced violent crimes defense attorney also knows that proving Hoyt acted on orders from Hollywood may also be difficult to prove and is one defense for Hollywood. If you are being charged with a violent criminal offense, call the attorneys at Kestenbaum, Eisner & Gorin, LLP today. Their combined 50 years of courtroom experience in defending against criminal charges is an asset you need when you are staring at a lifetime jail sentence.

Tagged as: violent crimes defense

Comments:

Sara Trider on September 16, 2010 at 7:10 p.m. wrote:

It is rather interesting for me to read that blog. Thank author for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon. By the way, pretty good design your site has, but how about changing it every few months? Sara Trider


Solicitors in Wakefield on June 15, 2009 at 1:51 a.m. wrote:

I do think that people who have seen the film could go into the hearing with pictures and thoughts already placed in their head. But it should be seen as two seperate things as the film will have probably been blown way out of proportion to give it that entertainment value so therefore could not be absoblutely true of how the events happened. It was a bad move to release the film before the hearings and i do think it could and probably will play a major role in the conviction of Hollywood. We will have to see how it all plans out though.


Komel Soin UCLA on June 11, 2009 at 12:16 p.m. wrote:

Regardless of whether or not Hoyt acted on orders given by Hollywood, given that he has the ability to refuse carrying out those orders, shouldn't Hoyt be charged with pulling the trigger? I can see how it might have been the case that to not follow the orders of Hollywood would be Hoyt putting himself in danger, but being that Hollywood wasn't there at the time that the victim was shot, then doesn't that waive the idea that it was in self defense because there was no immediate threat being posed to Hoyt? As for the situation regarding the film, I have not seen Alpha Dog, but I do think that the film should have been released at a later date as not to change the outcome of the case. Information presented in the movie, and the light in which the characters are drawn in in the particular film should be held separate from the reality. This is something that can interfere with the case subconsciously.


MatthewReynard703719660 on June 10, 2009 at 8:39 p.m. wrote:

I don't believe the film will persuade any harsh views on hollywood in anyway. I mean, we as a society understand that entertainment is entertainment and we have to separate fantasy from reality. In this case, the media does not depect reality as society needs to be media literate. We do not need to stop the media from entertaining us, but rather understand the distinguishment between fantasy and reality.


Christina Figueroa (UCLA) on June 3, 2009 at 7:38 a.m. wrote:

Well, I saw the movie as I'm sure lots of people did and I can honestly say that I do think it will influence or at least impact in some way the decisions of potential jurors. I mean, if I came in as a juror for this case, although I'd try to be as impartial as I can, the reality is that (at least for me) I would definitely come in with some hesitancy. If the facts came anywhere close to those presented by the film, I'd find Hollywood guilty of First-Degree-Murder. All the prosecution has to do is paint the facts just like they did in the film. Yes, Markowitz 'partied' with them and ok Hollywood was not there, and yes, maybe Hoyt couldn't be trusted, etc. However, in the end, this 15 year old boy was kidnapped and murdered in cold blood and Hollywood definitely played a role. It doesn't matter what role he played, whether he was there or not or whether Markowitz was too scared to escape, had Hollywood not kidnapped him (and order his death) he would've never died. I don't believe that claiming he wasn't there, or blaming it on Hoyt will sway a jury. I also don't believe it's at all a good tactic for the defense to accuse Markowitz of not 'escaping.' The prosecution can respond to that by claiming he was a child, he was scared and confused, at times he acted under duress, and even show how he was so fearful for his brother's life that he was willing to sacrifice himself for him. I will say one thing though. Something the defense does have going for them is that it seems like none of this was planned, that the situation simply escalated. Maybe their intention was never to kill him but Hollywood panicked and that was the final outcome. Regardless, a 15 year old boy was kidnapped and murdered for $1200 and that's just something difficult for a jury to ignore. I fell that Hollywood will get convicted despite the tricks the defense might have up its sleeve. Further, I believe the movie will definitely play a major role in this case.


Vincent Palladino on June 2, 2009 at 9:50 p.m. wrote:

Even though some of the facts in Hollywood’s case may be beneficial to the defense (i.e. Hollywood not present at the time of the murder and the nature of Markowitz’s kidnapping), Hollywood’s defense attorney is faced with a difficult task of disproving that Hoyt acted on orders from Hollywood. Here is what both sides have to say: The defense claims Hollywood is innocent: 'There is no question Mr. Hollywood was not present at the time of the shooting, and we are going to prove he did not give any direct or indirect order to commit this murder,' said James Blatt, Hollywood’s defense attorney. Prosecutors claim Hollywood enlisted Hoyt to kill Markowitz and delivered a gun and car for him to use in exchange for erasing his drug debt: 'Hoyt understood that he had to take care of the problem, i.e., that he was to kill Nicholas,' Santa Barbara County Deputy District Attorney Joshua Lynn said in court documents. 'Hoyt would have his $1,200 debt to Hollywood extinguished if he did so.' Hoyt was found guilty of kidnapping and murder and sentenced to death. Lynn said Hoyt will not be called as a prosecution witness. Though, doesn’t Hoyt’s testimony seem necessary for this trial? But, I digress… During today’s trial (June 2), Hollywood’s ex-girlfriend characterized Hoyt as someone that could not be trusted to carry out a murder. She said, “He was a liar, he would sleep on everyone’s couches, he was always messing everything up. If Jesse gave him a car, he would leave it on the side of the road.” Hollywood’s ex-girlfriend also testified on Monday that she overheard Hollywood yelling at Hoyt at a party after the murder took place, asking if he was crazy. The ex-girlfriend described Hollywood as panicked after his interaction with Hoyt. It will be interesting how this all plays out.


Puja Patel, UCLA on June 2, 2009 at 9:39 p.m. wrote:

What I found most surprising about this case is that Jesse James Hollywood believed that his best option to avoid kidnapping charges would be to kill his hostage, Nicholas Markowitz. I'm not sure if this is how it actually occurred in real life, but Nick Cassavetes includes a scene in the movie in which the Hollywood character consults a lawyer and asks what would happen if he were to be found responsible for a kidnapping. He was told that kidnapping charges could lead to three years in prison, and if there was proof that kidnapping occurred for reasons of ransom, he could go away for life. As a result, the character meant to portray Hollywood decided that his best bet would be to kill Markowitz so as to get rid of any evidence of the kidnapping. Since almost all of his friends were in on the kidnapping and were at risk for being charged as well, he could trust that none of them would turn him in. However, I wonder if Hollywood realized that by ordering the murder, even if he was not present during it, he could still be charged. Perhaps if he were more informed about the law, he would have turned over Markowitz alive and faced the comparatively less harsh kidnapping charges.


Samantha Simchowitz on June 2, 2009 at 1:39 a.m. wrote:

Wouldn't the prosecutions participation and forfeiture of information key in prosecuting Hollywood to a movie director constitute some sort of privilege? And if somehow it would not since the prosecution is arguing for the 'people', wouldn't Markowitz's family have raised great issue with the fact that this private information and tragic crime was being made into a hollywood movies staring a teeny-bopper star? When information of crimes pre-trial has tainted the potential jury in other types of cases the normal initiatives generally consist of sequestering the jury, or issuing a gag order, and even moving the trial to a place less infiltrated by the information leak. In this case since the 'leak' was a nationally produced and distributed movie what actions could be taken on part of the prosecution, defense, or judges to ensure that the jury pool has not been tainted? Also, while the kidnapping charge certainly has holes in the argument since Markowitz 'partied' with the criminals and did not try to escape, the murder is rather cut and dry. He was killed in cold blood, upon the order of Hollywood. I was under the impression the murder by hire or in this case 'order' was still punishable by the same sentence and murder in and of itself. Why is question raised about this fact? Is the testimony on behalf of Hollywood's involvement not well founded, or not credible? I would think that the the prosecution still has a rather strong case against Hollywood. Would the defense be allowed to bring the movies depiction of the events of the crime into question during trial?


Brian Ryoo on May 27, 2009 at 9:11 p.m. wrote:

- If it is true that 'film director Nick Cassavetes had been given sensitive information by prosecutors on the case to make his film', I do not understand the prosecutors' reasoning behind this action. The prosecutors must have known that the defense would use the movie's popularity as grounds for having the case moved, delayed or dismissed in some way. They sabotaged their own case by helping out the fillmaker. Unless they were forced to hand over sensitive documents as part of FOIA (or a state law like that), I think the prosecutors made a mistake by cooperating with the filmmaker and would like to hear their justification for it. - This following point does not really concern violent crimes, but the part about a real-life-based movie having legal consequences reminded me of this case: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-ct-csi-realtors23-2009may23,0,964767.story In a civil case like this, what does the suing party have to show to win a verdict? Would it suffice to show to the jury a 'reasonable' projection of the potential losses from the publicity of the CSI episode? What about the fact few people knew/cared about this until they filed the suit and got all this media attention? - With regard to the Hollywood case, it seems like proving that Hoyt killed on Hollywood's order will be an important item for the prosecution. From the defense's point of view, that could mean the difference between 3-8 years and life.









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