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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Mitrice Richardson’s Parents Expect to View LASD Video This Week

• Concerns Being Raised about Quality of Copies and Extent of Possible Editing

BY ANNE SOBLE


Parents and attorneys, including those who last March viewed the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department video of Mitrice Richardson, taken at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station six months earlier on the day before she disappeared and was subsequently found dead, expect to watch and rewatch the video this week.
A Superior Court judge ruled that copies of the video denied to the parents until now had to be provided to them. They have been requesting copies of the tape from the LASD for the last 11 months, and it was not until their attorneys took legal action that copies were made available.
News media are also preparing to take action to allow video copies to be made available to the press and thus the public.
Richardson’s mother, Latice Sutton, her daughter’s college mentor and friend Ronda Hampton and other family members indicated that they have been informed that there may be quality issues with the copies of the video that were provided by the LASD.
Hampton, also speaking for Sutton, told the Malibu Surfside News that the quality of the tape they saw in CD format last March was “acceptable.” They said they were able to identify deputies and station personnel at Lost Hills.
Richardson went missing after being booked at the Lost Hills Station on Sept. 16, 2009, for alleged nonpayment of a Malibu restaurant tab. Patrons and staff had said the 24-year-old was speaking gibberish, appeared to fixate on lights, and was acting bizarrely.
Richardson was released the next morning shortly after midnight, alone, without her car, which had been towed to the Malibu impound lot, her purse, or her cell phone, in the remote industrial area.
In August, 2010, park rangers stumbled upon the honors college graduate’s remains in a former marijuana grove less than eight miles from Lost Hills.
Hampton said the video of Richardson shows her entering the station in handcuffs, walking to the booking area, and being prepared for a search by removing her shoes. She is then shown in the booking cage where her behavior is perceived by Sutton and Hampton to be anxious and regressive.
Hampton said that she is concerned about the extent of the editing of the video, which she said should have been limited to protecting the identity of the other person in custody at Lost Hills that evening.
She said that one “break” in the video involves pieces of paper that Richardson may have been given. “Those pieces of paper are next seen [crumpled up] on the floor without the video showing how they got that way.”
Hampton, a clinical psychologist, said Richardson is “clearly agitated.” She said, “If you know someone well, you know when they are acting unusually.”
The family friend said that having seen the video in March led her to question descriptions by civilian jailer Sharon Cummings of Richardson’s “lucidity” and “the long conversation the two supposedly had about music because none of that appears on the video.”
Hampton said the video ends with Cummings escorting Richardson to be released, not in the bright and open station lobby but to a side door that leads into what Hampton said is a “less well lit, gated parking lot,” and “from there, she went into the darkness.”
Hampton said because there is a camera directed at the station side exit, Richardson can be seen at the door, and right after Cummings returns inside, an unidentified sheriff’s deputy exits.
While obtaining the video may be the end of one legal skirmish, it is the beginning of what may be a protracted battle for other evidence from the LASD in the litigation filed against Los Angeles County and individual sheriff’s deputies by each of Richardson’s unmarried parents separately.
Family members indicated they want the discovery process to get underway in the hope that testimony and documents will shed light on the mystery surrounding Richardson’s still undetermined cause of death.

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