Attorneys for the Palo Alto man charged with killing his girlfriend and setting their cottage on fire have asked the court to force the prosecution to release reams of reports, photos and recordings relating to the case.
The office of Mark Geragos, the attorney representing downtown hookah-shop owner Bulos Zumot, filed a motion this week asking Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge David Cena for a court order forcing the District Attorney's office to hand over all unredacted police reports, electronic recordings, autopsy records and criminal records of every witness the prosecution has interviewed as part of the investigation.
Cena granted many but not all of the requests.
Zumot, owner of Da Hookah Spot on University Avenue, has been in the county jail since October, when police arrested him on murder and arson charges. He's been charged with the murder of Jennifer Schipsi, a Palo Alto real estate agent, and with arson in connection with setting their Addison Avenue cottage on f re, allegedly to cover up the crime.
Geragos' office lists 45 categories of documents and recordings the defense wants to obtain before Zumot's murder trial begins in late September. On Thursday afternoon, attorney Pat Harris from the Los Angeles-based firm Geragos & Geragos and Deputy District Attorney Chuck Gillingham wrangled in a San Jose courtroom over which documents the defense is entitled to receive during discovery.
In his Aug. 24 motion, Geragos lists nine dates during which the defense made informal discovery requests. The requested discovery is "vital to the preparation of the defense," the motion states.
"To date, neither the police nor the district attorney have produced all of the requested items to defendant's counsel," Geragos wrote.
The defense's request includes all cellular phone records, forensic reports, police notes, radio transmissions and county Medical Examiner notes. It also includes, among other things, "all latent fingerprints lifted in the investigation," "all writings of relevant written or recorded statements of witnesses" and "any and all audio and visual recordings from the camera surveillance security system" at the San Jose restaurant, Restaurant Depot, where Zumot allegedly parked his car on the day of the fire.
Harris said the defense has had little success in obtaining these items.
"This is a murder trial," Harris said Thursday. "Why we can't get discovery in a murder trial is beyond me.
"This isn't shoplifting; this is a murder case -- just give us the discovery."
Gillingham said the specific items in the defense's motion have not been requested before. He said many of the documents in the motion don't exist; many others have already been handed over to the defense.
Gillingham said he has no problem handing over many of the items requested by Zumot's attorneys, but he declined to hand over certain documents, including witnesses' rap sheets and documents that detail police tactics during the arrest. He also said he will not release a list of witnesses who will not be called up.
"If I'm not calling them, I won't identify them," Gillingham said.
Zumot's defense also asked the county for "unredacted copies of the group attendance sheet for Defendant's domestic-violence class." Zumot attended the class in San Jose just before the fire was reported. Harris said the defense wants to check to see if a certain name is on that list.
"It's a possible suspect in the case," Harris said.
Cena cited "privacy issues" and denied the defense's request for the attendance sheet. He granted most of the defense's requests, with no objections from Gillingham, and directed Gillingham to submit a letter to the court on or before Sept. 9, detailing the progress of the discovery requests.