Mayor Roger Hedgecock's attorney, angered by what he views as "a disgraceful whitewash attempt" by the San Diego County district attorney's office to downplay jury-tampering allegations that could overturn the mayor's felony conviction, charged Tuesday that Dist. Atty. Edwin Miller "is more interested in seeing Roger Hedgecock behind bars than finding out the truth."
Describing the remarks by Hedgecock's attorney, Oscar Goodman, as "inaccurate and ignorant rhetoric," Steve Casey, a spokesman for Miller, said the district attorney's office is "aggressively pursuing the facts" relating to sworn allegations that a bailiff tampered with Hedgecock's jury during its deliberations.
The verbal warfare occurred as Hedgecock's attorneys filed additional court documents Tuesday to support their request that Superior Court Judge William L. Todd Jr., who heard both of the mayor's trials, not preside over a Nov. 4 hearing for a new trial.
In the defense documents, attorneys Goodman and Michael Pancer cite two major reasons why they believe that Todd should disqualify himself from next month's hearing: The judge himself likely will be called to testify, and bailiff Al Burroughs Jr., whose alleged improper discussions with the jurors are the reason that Hedgecock's case is in legal limbo, worked "under the direct supervision" of Todd.
"If you're a witness in a hearing, you can't, or shouldn't, be the judge too," Goodman said.
The filing of the court papers, however, provided little more than a momentary interruption in a day largely given over to accusations and name-calling by both sides in the case. Most of the debate focused on the district attorney's role in investigating the jury-tampering charges.
Although the state attorney general's office is probing the allegations, the district attorney's office also is conducting an investigation in preparation for next month's hearing. One key question being asked in both legal and political circles is whether Miller's substantial interest in the outcome of the case could impair his office's objectivity in investigating the allegations and assessing their significance.
While it is not surprising that the defense would question Miller's motivations, doubts also have been raised by other attorneys.
"The district attorney says, 'I want the truth,' but I don't think that the guy really means it," said Daniel Krinsky, attorney for one of the bailiffs who helped supervise Hedgecock's jury. Krinsky has indicated that his client, Holly Murlin, will refuse to testify at next month's hearing unless she receives immunity--a request that the defense supports.
"For the last year and a half, the district attorney's office has wanted nothing more than to convict Roger Hedgecock," Krinsky added. "So, as much as they pay lip service to saying they want the truth, they're also sitting up there with their little hangman's noose . . . trying to figure out a way to defeat Goodman's motion (for a new trial). Maybe it's asking more than human nature allows to expect someone to switch sides in the middle of a tough fight."
Meanwhile, Goodman, in perhaps his most caustic comments since the jury-tampering allegations surfaced last week, argued Tuesday that the district attorney's response to the charges "shows that they're not interested in the truth . . . if it upsets the verdict."
"I'm convinced that this district attorney wants to preserve this verdict at all costs," Goodman said. "In my mind, the D.A. wants only one thing--Roger Hedgecock convicted, out of office and behind bars."
Casey responded: "Some of that is so ridiculous that it's offensive. Anybody who suggests that we're not going to aggressively seek out the facts and then treat that information in an appropriate manner doesn't know what he's talking about."
From the beginning, Goodman has vehemently complained about the district attorney's office's response to the sworn documents from one juror and the attorney for another alleging that bailiff Burroughs, in violation of court rules, talked on numerous occasions with the jurors about the progress of their deliberations.
San Diego lawyer John Learnard, who represents juror Stanley J. Bohensky, had letters detailing Burroughs' alleged improper conduct delivered to both the district attorney's office and Goodman on Oct. 15.
Goodman said he finds it "absolutely incredible" that Learnard's letter apparently remained unopened in Miller's office for nearly one full day, adding, "Why they didn't jump all over this is beyond me. Maybe they just don't want to know the truth if it helps Roger Hedgecock."
Casey, though, argued that Miller's delay in reading Learnard's letter stemmed not from disinterest, but rather the simple fact that the document "got stuck in a big stack of correspondence to be read."