An appellate court wants the Fresno County District Attorney's Office to find the female informant who helped authorities solve the killing of a Kerman couple four years ago so defense lawyers can interview her.
Appellate justices also want prosecutors to find out whether the Sheriff's Department and police agencies obtained information about the double killing from other informants. If so, the information should be turned over to defense attorneys, the justices said.
The 5th District Court of Appeal ruling this week overturned Superior Court Judge John Vogt's decision in November to deny the defense's request for the information.
Leroy Johnson, 46, Jose Reyes, 22, Dawn Singh, 38, Neko Wilson, 31, Chris Butler, 37, and Andrew Jones, 21, were arrested in connection with the July 22, 2009, killings of Gary De Bartolo, 61, and his wife, Sandra De Bartolo, 62.
The couple had a sophisticated marijuana-growing operation in their El Mar Avenue home near Kerman High School where they were killed.
Butler and Jones have accepted plea deals to testify against the other defendants. Johnson faces the death penalty if convicted. The other defendants face life in prison. Their trial is pending.
Sheriff's reports say the informant, known as S.G., tipped off authorities about thieves planning to rob the De Bartolos. But while the De Bartolo home was under police surveillance, the couple was killed, the reports say.
Wilson's lawyer, Alonzo Gradford, challenged Vogt's ruling, arguing in court papers that S.G. might have information that could exonerate his client.
According to the ruling, S.G. witnessed members of the Asian Boys Club, two Hispanic men, two Asian females and another female talk about robbing the De Bartolos. Gradford, in court papers, says one of the participants was Singh.
The appellate court granted Gradford's request to interview S.G. because she "might be able to identify one or more of the codefendants as being participants in the discussions," the ruling says.
Regarding the existence of other informants, Vogt denied the defense request after prosecutors said there were no law-enforcement reports regarding other informants helping authorities. But prosecutors made the assertion without being sworn.
"Any such showing should have been made in sworn testimony and/or declarations declared to be true under penalty of perjury," the appellate ruling says.
Prosecutors must "make appropriate inquiries" with homicide detectives and officers to determine whether there are other informants. If they exist, prosecutors must inform the defense unless Vogt determines that such information should remain confidential, the ruling says.
In addition, prosecutors must ask detectives and officers if any information about S.G. hasn't been turned over to the defense. If no such information exists, prosecutors must say so in a declaration under penalty of perjury, the justices said.
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