Court of Appeal Recuses Orange County District Attorney’s Office in Murder Case

On November 23, 2016, the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed the Superior Court’s Decision  recusing the entire District Attorneys Office in Orange County [OCDA] in the penalty phase of a case in which the defendant had previously pled guilty to eight counts of murder. The Superior Court concluded the OCDA had such a severe conflict of interest (its duty to fairly prosecute a case under the rule of law) with the [OCSD] Orange County Sheriff’s Department (in which the loyalty by prosecutors to  the sheriffs conflicted). As a result, the court held  it was unlikely the defendant could have a fair trial. This determination came after hearings over a period of six months in which nearly forty witnesses testified as to the systemic, known and prejudicial use of confidential informants that violated the constitutional rights of inmates, along with substantial discovery failures of the OCSD.

The ruling came after a  murder trial heavily reported by the media involving a defendant who with a barrage of gunfire killed eight individuals at a hair salon where his former wife was working. Although the Deputy Public Defender representing the defendant eventually discovered sheriff’s deputies were using confidential jailhouse informants to solicit incriminating statements from high-profile defendants, the District Attorney’s Office and its prosecutors on an ongoing basis failed to disclose this practice.


Are Firearms The Real Problem or People Who Abuse them?

With the escalating scourge of mass killings, we are obliged to examine both the underlying causes of and potential solutions to drastically reduce mass shootings, by those with depraved and evil minds, sociopaths, psychopaths, terrorists and barbarians who without any conscience (morals) whatsoever use military style assault weapons and/or stockpile and then utilize huge quantities of bullets and large quantities of ammunition magazines to murder innocent and unsuspecting individuals regardless of age, race, sex,  .

It is noteworthy, the subject of colossal shootings is complex and there are clearly two sides of the equation. Moreover, these concerns are not new; sadly and repeatedly have political overtones. Hence, it is hoped the reader of this blog will perform his/her own search on the internet to review state and federal firearms laws, exceptions, limitations and other issues, including actual statistics. We should be mindful that these are serious and horrific acts, yet we need to acknowledge there also are far more deaths that are due to other causes (such as deaths due to driving under the influence, but for the sake of this comment only and albeit an over simplification and generalization, but we do not outlaw or seriously limit the sale &/or consumption of alcohol).

Proponents of gun control claim we need stricter gun control laws. Opponents claim we already have strict regulations, and in those jurisdictions that have “gun-free zone” laws in which it is prohibited from having a firearm these locations have a far higher number of shootings.

First, it is noteworthy, that the Federal Gun Control Act, enacted in 1968, establishes a list of those (such as felons) who are prohibited from possessing, obtaining or receiving firearms and ammunition. In addition, there are many other restrictions as to the sale, use, possession, transfer, etc. of such weapons. Click the following link for the 247 page Federal Firearms Regulations: Federal Reference Guide

Second, California has one of the strictest gun control laws in the United States. Yet, the recent shootings in San Bernardino, a large metropolis in California, occurred even though assault weapons were used and are already against the law. Also, California has a huge number of restrictions, such as limiting large capacity magazines that hold a dozen or more bullets. Click the following Link for the California Firearms Laws summary: California Firearms Law

Is the solution to enact tougher gun laws? If so, why did the most recent shootings occur in three states (California, Colorado and Oregon) that already have very strict gun laws?

Some pundits argue the states that have the most lenient rules and regulations regarding firearms have the lowest number of mass shootings; perhaps, because terrorists look for sites where they will not face opposition by individuals that “carry” weapons. Maybe that is one of the reasons movie theaters and malls, shopping centers, schools, churches and social centers, etc. have been the place of choice and selected by such terrorists. These same pundits encourage individuals to arm them self to be able to defend and/or fight back; they note that police cannot be on every corner and the drive time to respond is too great to risk your death or anyone else in the interim. Some advocate we urge our legislators to pass emergency legislation to increase the number of police, sheriff and FBI, and give them the power they need to accomplish their job.

It is hoped this blog will open a further dialogue in the reoccurring debate that includes many who claim taking away &/or more severely limiting those law abiding individuals who desire to possess and/or carry firearms will not prohibit the lawless, who it seems inevitably find ways to obtain whatever weapons they desire, whether illegally or not. Choose the narrative you feel comfortable with, but be open to seeking a realistic solution that is based upon logic, reason, and, of course, our United States Constitution, and not political rhetoric. Contact your state and federal legislators to voice your opinion.

Boston Bombing – A Fortuitous Event?

On the anniversary of the Boston Bombing, April 15, 2013 in which three innocent victims were killed and nearly 300 others were injured, many are asking whether this was a fortuitous event, or calculated killings by terrorists using weapons of mass destruction. Even more compelling is the surfacing of information that one of the bombers has been linked to a triple murder in 2011 in which three individuals had their throats sliced. These insights raise a question as to whether the bombings last year could have been prevented had even only one of the radical extremists been arrested and convicted for the slayings in 2011.

Some commentators contend the government lacks the tools to prevent such horrific crimes to maintain the safety of our citizens. Others believe it may be politics and a lack of communication between agencies; they remind us of the 9/11 deaths they claim may have been prevented had the CIA and the FBI shared data bases and the substance of their respective investigations. The sad reality is that religious fanatics are rapidly increasing all over the world, and many in society are afraid to criticize under the veil of freedom of religion. Regardless how small in number they may be the fact remains the murders that have been committed have changed the way far too many people all over the world now have to live. Few will take issue with the fact we need to do more for the family members of those killed, other survivors and first responders, and to pay tribute to each and every one of them.No one disputes that we need to put a stop to senseless carnage.

Husband arrested in 2004 Westminster killing (Sam Spital)


“On February 4, 2013, the Orange County Registrar published a digital article in which a husband was arrested in connection with a cold case investigation for the death of his wife about nine years ago. According to the story, this was a brutal murder in which the wife had her throat slashed and her head was nearly decapitated. All of this happened in the early morning hours when the 17 year old son was tied up and placed in a his bedroom closet by another suspect. It was further revealed that the husband had previously pled guilty to spousal battery and attempting to dissuade a witness (the victim in the current criminal case), then being sentenced to one year in County Jail and formal probation for five years.

Either the author did not interview the investigating officers more thoroughly or the Police and District Attorney declined to provide any further details as to the underlying evidence that led them to arrest the defendant for the vicious killing after so many years had intervened. Defense counsel will undoubtedly perform a painstaking investigation given the substantial intervening period of time from the incident and the current filing of the criminal charges, as well as raise various pre-trial motions and to establish the defense strategy.

It is interesting to note the husband was not arrested after so many years even though the the spouse is generally considered the first and often the primary person of interest in a murder; when this nexus is coupled with the previous conviction for domestic violence along with the type of and manner of killing, there would seem to have been other circumstantial evidence as well to link the husband to the crime even if no eye witness, including but not limited to DNA. However, the spouse may have had an alibi, he may not have used the knife in question and/or his participation in the crime as a co-conspirator could not have previously been established beyond any reasonable doubt. If the defendant does not have the means to retain private counsel, a Deputy Public Defender will be appointed.”

–Sam Spital


Commentary by San Diego Homicide and Criminal Defense Lawyer Sam Spital:

“UT San Diego News reported on December 19, 2012 a 28 year old suspect and acquaintance was arrested in the murder of a 41 year old woman in her Vista apartment, a community in the north part of San Diego County. Also, her 8 year old child who was in the apartment at the same time was seriously wounded, taken to the hospital in critical condition.

The article did not establish any basis or motive for the attack, information regarding the perpetrator such as criminal history, nature and extent of his relationship with the victims, explanation, possible mitigation and/or remorse. These are not only elements that assist one in reading a balanced account, but without such details it is more challenging to comprehend the underlying cause(s) that led to the crime. A criminal defense attorney would likely employ an experienced private investigator to obtain this extremely important information and perhaps retain a forensic expert to assist in the strategy and analysis of legal counsel.”

– Sam Spital

Judge Won’t Lower Bail for Arizona Woman Accused in Death of Stranger at Sorrento Valley Hotel (Sam Spital)


“A story was published online by San Diego 6 local news on November 28, 2012 in which a defendant is charged with second-degree murder in which the Judge declined to reduce the $1 million bail. It is interesting that the defense attorney referenced the killing to be in self-defense while the prosecutor argued the defendant came to the victim’s hotel room after they had been in an altercation and in order to get her to open the door under the pretense it was a hotel worker, she announced: ‘housekeeping.’  The Deputy District Attorney proceeded to describe what then took place by the defendant who stated: ‘This is what you deserve, bitch’ as she grabbed the victim by her hair and slammed her against the mirror on the wall.

Ordinarily, bail hearings focus on a reduction of the bail previously set or a release on your own recognizance (O.R), in which the payment is waived on condition the defendant promises to appear in court. Some of the key factors a criminal defense attorney should reference in their Motion for a Reduction in Bail are: 1. The absence of a past criminal record or minimal record; 2. That any previous criminal incidents were minor and/or occurred many years earlier; 3. The defendant has resided in the community for many years; 4. The defendant is employed and has a regular job; 5. He has a spouse, children &/or parents living in the community; and 6. He has always appeared in court as required for any previous crimes, in short, there have been no prior arrest warrants or ‘failures to appear’ in any past cases. Bail may be paid in cash, with a credit card, cashier’s check, or the cash equivalent in property. It is refunded when the defendant appears in court as required, except in the case of a bail bondsman with whom the details of such an agreement should be discussed.”

Trial ordered for man accused of killing mother, mutilating body, over financial support (Sam Spital)

Commentary by Sam Spital, San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer:

“On November 19, 2012, a 31 year old son used a baseball bat, hammer or other blunt object to inflict 75 wounds in the beating death of his 60 year old mother who resided in the  North County community of Solana Beach as reported by the CBS Channel 8 online news. Now that the Preliminary Hearing in the San Diego Superior Court was concluded, the son will stand trial for the crime of murder for financial gain and murder with special circumstances (torture), which took place the day after his mother went to Los Angeles where he lived to buy a car for him but thereafter refused to continue providing financial support. It was also reported the defendant cut up parts of her body and placed them in a refrigerator.

The Defense Attorney argued her client was schizophrenic and insane, but the Judge refused to find a nexus between the defendant’s mental illness and the murder. Some will argue the mutilation and brutal killing by a son of his mother deserves no mercy, while others will point to the failure of our mental health system to provide safe guards to prevent this horrific murder.

The writer did not indicate whether previous warning signs or symptoms had ever led to a 72 hour hold in a psychiatric hospital or previous treatment for the defendant’s very serious mental disorder. However, Defense Counsel did identify an email the son wrote to his mother in which he said ’It’s no joke mom, I’m insane,’ and she then said to the Court “this is just crazy.’ It is clear that society has a far greater part to play in educating the public to take responsibility, intervene, and utilize the psychiatric treatment facilities in place &/or seek care through the County Mental Health Services. Perhaps not every criminal offense associated with mental illness can be prevented, but certainly there is help that is available and can be provided to those that suffer these disorders, and support to their families as well.”


Palm Springs police say Pendleton Marine assaulted cop before killing (Sam Spital)


Palm Spring police were reported to have shot and killed a Marine from Camp Pendleton, age 22, who accelerated his car at a police officer in a parking garage, refusing to turn the vehicle off as another officer attempted to climb inside the passenger window, according to the CBS Channel 8 online news of November 13, 2012. Even though one of the officers ‘repeatedly ordered the suspect to stop the vehicle,’ at the same time a fellow Marine in the passenger seat did nothing to stop the inevitable tragedy in which the driver drove toward one of the officers, who feared for his life. The car crashed and the officer that was struck was injured and treated at a local hospital in Palm Springs.

The incident occurred about 2:00am and one of the Marines was ‘visibly drunk.’ Clearly, our soldiers sustain serious challenges in serving our country, and the stress they feel on a daily basis can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, drinking alcohol is used to cover up the damaging memories that are carved into their brain from daily (negative) military experiences. While the excruciating pain seems more tolerable when drinking, the unintended consequences and behavior that stems from the consumption could be prevented &/or controlled. Clearly, we need more and better preventive care and treatment. Of course, public intoxication and driving under the influence are far too frequently the source of criminality. Since the officers are on administrative leave, no further information was supplied in the article in order to evaluate the facts and circumstances any further.


Man accused of trying to sacrifice child at cemetery found mentally competent to stand trial


“KFMB Channel 8, CBS News on November 7, 2012 reported the father of three children, ages 18 months, 3 and 8 years old, has been determined mentally competent and, therefore criminal court proceedings were reinstated after he was arrested e

arlier in the year for attempted murder and felony child abuse and was accused of trying to sacrifice them at a grave site of another family member, after having everyone drink sangria and eat energy bars, and being heard saying ‘The Last Supper, they’re my kids. They’re going to Jesus.’Certainly this is a bizarre incident and one that lacks understanding or explanation. The Deputy Public Defense allegedly had no comments or they simply were not included in the article by the reporter. It is conceivable she will claim insanity as a defense, which is not inconsistent with the court’s determination the defendant is competent to stand trial, meaning he can understand the charges and assist his attorney in the defense, but he either did not know what he was doing was wrong or was unable to understand the nature and quality of his act when he committed the offense. If there is an acquittal by reason of insanity, the defendant is not released from custody but he is committed to one of the California Mental Institutions, which can even be for a longer period of time than he would have received had he been found guilty of the crime charged.”SAM SPITAL, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY

Pit bull owner arraigned following attack on girl (Sam Spital)

“The owner of a 65 pound terrier pit bull was charged with a felony for having a dangerous animal that can cause great bodily injury when it attacked and mauled a 4 year old girl when she tried to pet it in the apartment courtyard where she resided.

The District Attorney stated the pet’s owner immediately afterwards ‘grabbed her dog, went to her apartment gathered her belongings and went to her car. When the cops got there she was trying to drive away. They stopped her from doing so, but when they did, she admitted that she was headed to Tijuana.’Owners of animals often focus on how much they love their pet or pit bull dog, even having cared for since birth and for all intents and purposes claim the pet is calm and gentle. Nonetheless, it is critical everyone always be mindful of the dangers involved when they have a pit bull or similar type pet that might escape a fenced yard, get loose from its leash &/or be near anyone else. This seems particularly evident in California where there is both civil and criminal liability. Of course, the impact on the victim and his/her family can be life long, and certainly the pet owner wants to avoid this and their own sorrow and anguish.”

SAM SPITAL, Criminal Lawyer

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