Nine years after the crime, on May 15, the trial finally commenced for SF valley boy and baby thug, Jesse James Hollywood, a middle class-raised West Hills drug dealer who, in the summer of 2000, allegedly ordered the kidnapping and eventually the murder of 15-year-old Nick Markowitz, when Hollywood was in a feud with Markowitz’s older brother Ben. And then he went on the run. Hollywood was captured in Brazil in 2005
In past years, the story of the crime has been chronicled in a long narrative article by my pal Jesse Katz for Los Angeles Magazine, a novel by Michael Mehas called Stolen Boy, and a film by Nick Cassavetes called Alpha Dog.
Marc Cooper’s wonderfully smart daughter Natasha Vargas-Cooper is covering the trial for The Awl and hers will assuredly be the account to read as this thing unfolds.
Hollywood is represented by LA super attorney James Blatt. I had occasion to speak to Blatt when I was researching a story, and poured over lengthy court transcripts on a case for which he was the defense attorney. The impression I came away with was that Blatt was exactly the attorney your or I would need and couldn’t afford if we ever found ourselves accused of a bigtime felony. He seemed able to convince judges and juries that black is white, up is down, no is yes, and guilt is really innocence.
Natasha herself has a special interest in the case. As it happens, she knew the victim, Nick Markowitz.
Here are some clips from her story:
I grew up with Nick Markowitz. We had a three-day hand-holding affair the summer of 7th grade. He was a part of my tight circle of goofy theater kid friends who were transformed into a traumatized fraternity after his murder.
In the summer of 2000, Nick’s older brother Ben owed a $1,200 drug debt to Hollywood. Ben and Jesseâ€”who had played in Little League togetherâ€”were now feuding.
In a haphazard plan to exact revenge and ransom, Hollywood and his friends kidnapped Nick, who was 15. The boys took Nick to Santa Barbara, where they partied, hung out with girls. Hollywood consulted a retired attorney about the circumstances. Instead of possibly facing a life-sentence for aggravated kidnapping, it was decided that they would kill Nick and make it look as though he disappeared. Ryan Hoyt, also in debt to Hollywood, and now on death row, volunteered to fire the gun.
The trial started on Monday, May 18, with the usual amount of civility. Throughout the week, that dissolved, due largely to the style of defense attorney James Blatt. In a silk suit, with cropped hair and an ostentatious pinky-ring, Blatt’s tactic is to accuse witnesses of lying, and regularly badgers them until Judge Brian E. Hill intervenes.
[Prosecution witness] Saulsbury said that his wife had received a phone call from Blatt’s private investigator, requesting his home address.
On Thursdayâ€”the day after that phone callâ€”Saulsbury’s dog had ingested rat poison and was, he said, “bleeding out of his eyeballs.” He said that, after testifying, he would need to go immediately to the vet and have his dog euthanized.
Blatt began another round of questioning.
“Are you accusing me of poisoning your dog to threaten you?” asked Blatt.
“Yes, I am,” said Saulsbury.
Blatt threw his arms open. “How could you say that?” he asked
Read the rest.