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'Twilight Zone' Defense Seeks Misconduct Investigation

September 18, 1986|From Associated Press

A defense attorney in the "Twilight Zone" manslaughter trial asked California Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp on Wednesday to investigate alleged prosecutorial misconduct in the tumultuous case.

Harland Braun said he made the move after the Los Angeles County district attorney's office blocked a planned defense interview with one of two prosecutors feuding over the credibility of a witness.

"We had set up an interview for today (Wednesday) with Gary Kesselman (the former 'Twilight Zone' prosecutor)," Braun said. "But Gary Kesselman was threatened, and he decided he shouldn't do it."

Braun said the district attorney's office blocked the interview.

"What are they afraid of?" Braun asked. "It makes me suspicious that Kesselman knows more than any of us know."

Kesselman stepped out of the "Twilight Zone" case last year and Deputy Dist. Atty. Lea Purwin D'Agostino took over the case.

Director John Landis and four others are charged with involuntary manslaughter in the 1982 accident on a set of "Twilight Zone: The Movie," which killed actor Vic Morrow and two children.

The trial has been punctuated by acrimonious hearings outside the jury's presence concerning the truthfulness of the first prosecution witness, Donna Schuman. Kesselman disputed her account of her dealings with him while D'Agostino sided with the witness in the credibility contest.

D'Agostino declined comment on Braun's letter Wednesday, saying she had not yet seen it.

In a separate action, Braun said he was subpoenaing Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner, Kesselman, Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Gilbert Garcetti and D'Agostino's immediate supervisor, Richard Hecht, to testify at a hearing when the trial resumes Monday.

He suggested that the jury would eventually hear about the dispute between the two prosecutors and added: "That's going to be a zoo."

Braun said the defense would argue at the trial's end that Kesselman told the truth and D'Agostino lied.

A spokesman for Reiner declined to comment on the matter Wednesday.

In his letter to Van de Kamp, Braun said, "What is at stake . . . is the integrity of the criminal justice system as well as the public's perception of that system."

The dispute that erupted between Kesselman and D'Agostino centers on Schuman's testimony that defendants Landis and George Folsey spoke of the possibility that they would go to jail for using small children in a film scene featuring explosives.

Schuman mentioned the statements for the first time in her trial testimony, having never mentioned them in front of a grand jury and at a preliminary hearing. On defense questioning, she insisted she had told Kesselman about the comments four years ago but he decided to withhold them from the defense for tactical reasons.

Kesselman, called to the stand, denied he ever heard about the statements and said he never withheld anything. D'Agostino also took the stand and contradicted Kesselman on several points. She suggested that information was withheld from her by her predecessor to sabotage her.

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