SANTA ANA — In an unusual legal maneuver, the district attorney's office Friday asked a judge to temporarily block the release of a defense lawyer from a major death penalty case.
Attorney Clancy Haynes wants off the case so he can accept an appointment as a Municipal Court commissioner, but prosecutors say that would delay the murder trial of Daniel M. Duffy for at least a year, possibly two.
Duffy, 46, has been awaiting trial in Orange County Jail for six years and three months, since his arrest in March, 1984. Along those same lines, serial killer Randy Steven Kraft spent 6 1/2 years in the jail before his trial, the longest and costliest in Orange County history.
Superior Court Judge Kathleen E. O'Leary did not act directly on the request from prosecutors. But against their wishes, she took steps to reappoint the public defender's office to represent Duffy, who has a chance to set a record for the longest stay at the jail.
That move effectively frees Haynes to accept the appointment to Municipal Court in Westminster, scheduled for late September.
Ironically, it was the public defender's office that dropped Duffy more than three years ago, declaring a conflict because it had once represented one of the prosecution witnesses. The court then appointed Haynes and co-counsel Charles Margines to serve as defense counsel.
Duffy is accused of participating with Hessian motorcycle gang lawyer Thomas Maniscalco, 45, in the slaying of fellow biker Richard Rizzone at his Westminster home on Memorial Day weekend, 1980, in a feud over drug and counterfeit money deals. Rizzone's girlfriend, Rena Miley, and his bodyguard, Thomas Monahan, were also killed.
Maniscalco is on trial now in O'Leary's courtroom, and Duffy's trial is scheduled to follow. But Haynes' withdrawal would mean a postponement for up to two years if a private attorney is assigned the case instead of a public defender.
"It's a difficult situation," co-counsel Margines said. "But in Clancy's defense, there was no way to know when he took the case that it was going to go on this long."
Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard M. King asked O'Leary on Friday to require Haynes to remain on the case at least through a critical pretrial stage: a non-jury examination of Richard Steinhart, a key prosecution witness. Steinhart is dying of AIDS, the prosecution claims, and should be questioned as soon as possible in the event that he dies before Duffy's trial begins. Steinhart has already testified against Maniscalco.
If Haynes leaves the case, King argued, it will take a new lawyer so long to prepare for the Steinhart examination that the witness could die before then, leaving the prosecution without his testimony.
Haynes was scowling as he left the courtroom.
"This borders on the absurd," Haynes said. "The D.A. is essentially asking for an injunction to stop me from taking my new job."
O'Leary said she would consider the appointment of the public defender's office instead of a private attorney for Duffy because the parties involved have told her that could cut the delay from two years to one.
"I'm just trying to do the best I can with what I've got to work with," she told the lawyers at a hearing Friday.
She gave Duffy the option of accepting the public defender now, or waiting until an Aug. 22 hearing. Duffy opted for the delay. Deputy Public Defender Michael P. Giannini said that would give his office time to see if it had any other conflicts. It's still uncertain whether the witness who caused the original conflict is going to be part of the prosecution's case. If he is, prosecutor King argued, that could mean an even further delay if the public defender has to withdraw a second time.
The Maniscalco trial has already surpassed the Kraft trial as the longest in the county. It began with jury selection in May, 1989.