News

Zumot's lawyers press for documents

Attorneys for murder suspect ask judge to force county to release reports, recordings

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.

Comments

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2010 at 11:36 am

---
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.
----

The police should have to produce a standardized (more-or-less) inventory of all of the evidence they have, so that defense attorneys don't have to waste time going on fishing expeditions for each case.

It's understandable that a defense attorney might want as much information as possible, and the police should make their job as straightforward as possible. The police would be expected to provide a uniform inventory to all requests for such information from defense attorneys. Defense attorneys would then simple indicate on the inventory what they are seeking from the available evidence.

This procedure would require the police to be as honest as possible, and it would reduce the opportunities for defense attorneys to claim that "the police won't respond to by discovery requests".

When we are paying over $200K for police officers, we need state-of-the-art policing to justify these incredible salaries.


Like this comment
Posted by Clara
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Aug 27, 2010 at 12:12 pm

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.

Unless there are harsh interrogation techniques and torture methods, I don't see why this should not be handed over to the defense. If something went wrong during the interrogation--which seems like the case, and Santa Clara county is known for that--then the defense should know about it. This is not a "shoplifting" case like the defense lawayer said; it involves a life sentence and the future of a human being. Everything on this case seems to have gone wrong since day one.


Like this comment
Posted by OMG
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Aug 27, 2010 at 12:27 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by Ralph
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 27, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I smell a desperate defense attorney who is trying his best to draw attention away from the fact that his client murdered someone.

Geragos doesn't exactly have a reputation for innocent clients.


Like this comment
Posted by Clara
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Aug 27, 2010 at 1:22 pm

It's been almost one year. As far as I recall, the police said they have everything figured out since day one. If they have everything, then they should give it to the defense and remove all suspicions. And yes, it's true, we see civil rights violated here. Everybody has the right for a SPEEDY TRIAL, and asking for discovery to be handed over over nine court sessions is no speedy trial. Besides, the DA should know his job and duties: saying that "the defense did not ask for it" is no excuse. The defense does not have to file a motion for each item of evidence used in the case; it is the prosecution's duty to hand over discovery to the defense to ensure a fair trial.


Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 27, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Nothing more than typical defense posturing. It's good that the DA is standing up to the nonsense against a "big name" attorney. The defense needs to tell a tale that fills all of gaps in their story. The last thing they need is a verifiable inconsistency at trial. Asking for everything certainly helps and couldn't hurt.

The "all latent fingerprints lifted in the investigation," and "all writings of relevant written or recorded statements of witnesses" is just a maneuver to pin the crime on anyone else or at least raise some doubts. If the police talked to too many witnesses, they can imply that the police weren't sure of the defendant's guilt. If the police talked to too few, then they've obviously not looked hard enough for the "real" killer.

As far as what's been reported, nobody's pointed fingers at the police or the DA and said they were out to frame Mr Zumot for the crime. What's their motivation doing that? Is Mr Zumot such a huge name in the community that police and DA have anything to gain?

In any case, the police and the DA have no obligation to prove Mr Zumot's innocence so Zumon will have to his own legwork. We'll see how Mr Zumot holds up when the he appears in court for jury selection. That's usually the "come to Jesus" time for defendants in trials like these.


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Posted by Jo
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 27, 2010 at 2:33 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.}


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 27, 2010 at 2:49 pm

It's generally the defense who likes to delay things, not the prosecution.


Like this comment
Posted by To Joe
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 27, 2010 at 3:06 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Like this comment
Posted by Clara
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Aug 27, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Joe, not only do witnesses have to be identified in order for their testimonies to be accepted, but they also have to be PHYSICALLY PRESENT in court. If the DA thinks he is going to get away with using people's testimonies (i.e. lies and hearsay)in court without bringing them to court, he is dreaming, not in a country with huge constitutional rights like America, and not with a "big name" attorney like Geragos.
The police can talk to as many "witnesses" as they want; if these witnesses cannot make it to court 'for one reason or another' then their testimonies are useless. People can act as manly as they want in front of the police, but once they take the stand, they show their cowardness to the world, and their lies get revealed. Mr. DA for sure knows this, and this is why he will not "call them up" to testify. Such deception and nonsense will not fly on a "big name" attorney like Geragos.


Like this comment
Posted by Ralf or Roy
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 27, 2010 at 3:37 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Joe,
You tend to forget that every citizen in this country has the right for a speedy trial. The police/prosecution has to hand over the evidence to the defense in a timely manner to ensure a speedy and fair trial.

Hmmm, in this case it is the prosecution that has been delaying. If you can read well, it says above that the defense has made nine requests so far to receive discovery, which the police and the prosecution have not provided yet.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Joe,
"The 'all latent fingerprints lifted in the investigation,' and 'all writings of relevant written or recorded statements of witnesses' is just a maneuver to pin the crime on anyone else or at least raise some doubts."

Joe, are you saying that if there are other fingerprints other than the suspect's, then the "defense" should not know about them because he will try to "pin the crime" on somebody else? Now this is nonsense. Everybody has the right to defend himself in this country, this includes having a hold of the evidence and examining it. And yes, sadly and unfortunately, many innocent people are in prison right now because they could not have someone to defend them.
The police may not have an interest to "frame" Paul, but this is the nature and reality of power; it gets corrupted and people do abuse it, and this is why we--as a civilized nation--are big on constitutional rights and have a huge civil rights movement. If we were not the democracy we pride ourselves in; if we were just a dictatorship with ideologies like those of many of the third-world countries we disregard, we would certainly not need to examine the evidence; we would just throw everybody we don't like into prison, just because the DA says so.


Like this comment
Posted by SS did it
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 27, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Great job Paloaltoonline slandering an innocent man. You are in for a big law suit.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Aug 27, 2010 at 8:43 pm

It's obvious that this D.A. lacks competence and professionalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Ed
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 27, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Easy case and a desperate defense by an attorney with a big name and a loosing record.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 27, 2010 at 11:43 pm

"...but this is the nature and reality of power; it gets corrupted and people do abuse it" - & people abuse their domestic partners & then when those partners get murdered, the abusers get looked at really closely by law enforcement & they're often guilty.

What's up w/this weird thread? People who've watched too many Perry Mason reruns think they know the law, but they can't even spell correctly, use accurate legal terminology & are making irrelevant points which they think are salient.

PA Online's going to get sued? Yeah, I'm sure Zumot's got a great case...


Like this comment
Posted by Oh Yeah
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 28, 2010 at 2:29 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Like this comment
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Aug 28, 2010 at 2:45 am

"Hmmm",
*Remove the log from your own eye before attending to the splinter in your friend's." It would be a great idea to spell-check your text and fix your grammar before criticizing the work of others.
Ed,
The case is much more complicated than you would love to think. And no, the defense is not desperate. Paul, his family and loved ones are not desperate either. I know that you and the DA thought that the family and the defense might give up if the prosecution continued to drag the case, but you are so wrong. People who have the truth on their side NEVER give up or despair. That's it, 9/09 is the deadline; nothing can be hidden forever, I guess.


Like this comment
Posted by Bah
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 28, 2010 at 4:19 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Like this comment
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Aug 28, 2010 at 6:26 am

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.

So basically Gillingham is saying that if something will benefit Paul, the prosecution will not give it to the defense. Now this is abuse of power at its best.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 28, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

It'll be interesting to see, when the trial starts, what Zumot's defenders will say online. Will they attack the prosecution? The police investigators, the lab, the victim herself?

The reason law enforcement focuses on the romantic partner after a murder is because it's usually the romantic partner who's guilty - especially if they're known to be violent, as Zumot is.


Like this comment
Posted by Interesting
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 30, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Interesting is a registered user.

Hmmm,

When the prosecution has DNA from the victim and has not tested it, doesnt that tell you something?

What happened to the victim was tragic and I pray for her family. I tell you and everyone reading this, dont judge too quckly without knowing the truth and the real truth will come out.

Everything that you think you know, which is not much by your lack of intelligence is not what is seems. Mr. Zumot is not violent, maybe you should re read the police report to refresh your memory.

By the way, I do agree with you when investigator's first suspect is the romantic partner, but I ask you this..... Who is the suspect when the victim has HUNDREDS of romantic partners and lovers?

Make's the investigation endless and so lets get the easiest person.

God bless all those involved, expecially Mr. Zumot!


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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