Friday, November 4, 2016
Retired Commissioner Harold Vites Dies at 73
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Services will be held in Cathedral City today for retired Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Harold Vites, who died last Friday at the age of 73.
Vites was a Los Angeles Municipal Court commissioner from 1992 to 2000, when he became a Superior Court commissioner through unification. He retired in 2009.
“You have to make room for younger folks with better skills,” Vites told the MetNews at the time. He also described himself as “the luckiest guy in the world” for having had the opportunity to work at the court.
The Chicago-born son of European immigrants said he wanted to become a lawyer from childhood. He majored in government at California State University, Los Angeles and graduated from law school at USC in 1968.
He clerked for what was then called the Appellate Department of the Los Angeles Superior Court for a year before becoming a deputy county counsel. He was in private practice in Beverly Hills and Century City from 1973 to 1976, then became a deputy district attorney and later a deputy public defender.
In 1982, he joined a Panorama City practice that emphasized criminal law and became Ash, Vites & Adajian. Partner Jacob Adajian later became a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, retiring in 2006.
As a member of the firm, Vites handled several murder cases, including one in which his client and another woman were convicted of killing a high school classmate whom they believed had been involved with their boyfriends.
Vites’ client, Karen Severson, and Laura Doyle were charged with first degree murder and convicted of second degree murder, and were sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. The victim was drowned in the remote Big Tujunga Canyon area of Angeles National Forest.
He was present in a Van Nuys courtroom in 1988 when a man entered the courtroom with a gun.
Vites later told the Los Angeles Times that he was addressing Judge Michael Harwin when the man came in with an automatic pistol and held it to the head of Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Jessica Perrin Silvers, who had prosecuted him on charges resulting from a high-speed chase and later became a Superior Court judge.
The man, Jeremey Sigmond, then took out a second gun and pointed both weapons at the judge. After a deputy marshal came to the courtroom in response to an electronic signal from Harwin, Sigmond fired, precipitating a return of fire that left him dead on the courtroom floor.
A longtime resident of the San Fernando Valley, Vites’s bench assignments included the early disposition program at the Metropolitan Courthouse; trial courts in San Fernando, Van Nuys, San Pedro, and Chatsworth; and finally a direct calendar court, doing criminal cases and small claims in Santa Clarita.
He moved to Indio after his retirement.
Survivors, according to an obituary on the Desert Sun website, include his wife, Caryn Vites, daughter Erin Vites, and son Marty Vites.
Today’s services are scheduled for 3 p.m. at Forest Lawn, 69855 Ramon Rd, Cathedral City, CA 92234; (323) 254-3131.
Copyright 2016, Metropolitan News Company