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Palo Alto Weekly

News - November 25, 2011

News Digest

Downtown murderer loses his conviction appeal

A man who was convicted of first-degree murder and robbery for a downtown slaying outside Palo Alto City Hall in 2008 lost his appeal in California State Appellate Court on Tuesday (Nov. 22).

Otto Emil Koloto, a Gilroy resident, was convicted in March 2010 for the July 12, 2008, murder of Philip Lacy during a robbery, in which he had demanded Lacy's gold chain and diamond-studded crucifix. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder, plus five years for the robbery. The robbery sentence was stayed.

In his appeal Koloto argued a juror had engaged in misconduct and was compromised. The trial court also erroneously instructed the jury, his defense said. But the appellate judges ruled unanimously against the arguments.

Juror No. 3 admitted to the trial court that he spoke with a forensics expert witness during a recess because both were from the same country. The juror said he told the expert he was impressed that anyone could work in forensics, and they discussed neonatal and stem-cell biology and plants. The juror said the interaction had no effect on his ability to be fair and impartial. The trial judge agreed, and the juror remained on the jury.

The appeals court unanimously ruled against Koloto, saying there was no dispute that the juror committed misconduct but that the subject matter discussed did not involve information before the jury or Koloto's guilt or innocence. No presumption of prejudice arose from the conversation, the court said.

Koloto's attorneys also argued that the trial judge erred when he told jurors that although they all had to agree Koloto committed murder under one of two theories, they did not all need to agree on the same theory. Attorneys said the judge's instructions were misleading because only one theory supported first-degree murder and the other supported second-degree murder.

But the appeals court disagreed and found there was no error or likelihood that the jury misunderstood the instruction.

One in six Palo Alto grads attends Foothill-De Anza

About one in six Gunn or Palo Alto high school graduates goes directly to Foothill or De Anza community college, according to Linda Thor, chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District.

Speaking at a private event Sunday, Michael Kirst, a Stanford University professor and current president of the State Board of Education, said that getting more students successfully through community colleges will be critical for the future economic success of California and the nation.

In the fall of 2009, about 18 percent of Paly and Gunn graduates entered Foothill or De Anza, and the rate over the past decade has ranged between 13 percent and 19 percent, Thor said.

According to Foothill statistics, about 80 percent of Palo Alto students meet their goals of completing preparation for transfer or successfully transferring to a four-year university.

Between 2004 and 2009, Palo Alto students attending Foothill or De Anza transferred to about 95 four-year institutions, including every University of California campus, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Cornell, Mount Holyoke, Northeastern, Occidental, the University of Michigan, the University of Southern California and Yale, Thor said.

Former mayor Kleinberg helps garner award

The philanthropic arm of a nonprofit foundation headed by former Palo Alto Mayor Judith Kleinberg has won a prestigious award for its grant making under her leadership.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation won the Silicon Valley Community Foundation Outstanding Foundation Grant Maker Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Silicon Valley Chapter (AFP).

Kleinberg, who served on the Palo Alto City Council between 2000 and 2007 and was mayor in 2006, is now the Knight Foundation's program director for San Jose and Silicon Valley. Since joining in June 2010, she has helped the Silicon Valley branch take a regional approach. The Knight Foundation, which is headquartered in Florida and has a branch in San Jose, has a mission of "advancing journalism in the digital age."

Kleinberg said although she was singled out at the ceremony, she sees herself as a team member. And "my predecessors were phenomenal. I stand on their shoulders," she said.

The foundation focuses on grants in the areas of arts and culture and digital and media literacy. More than $1 million has been given for each of three years, she said.

Grant recipients have included Montalvo in Saratoga, Mexican Heritage events in San Jose, interactive and children's cultural programming, the San Jose Symphony's Random Acts of Culture and the ZERO1 Art and Technology Network.

— Sue Dremann

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