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Judge Rejects Request by Tuffree Defense

September 10, 1996|TRACY WILSON

A Superior Court judge denied a request by defense attorneys Monday to dismiss a special allegation that would send Daniel Allan Tuffree to death row if convicted of murdering a Simi Valley police officer.

Tuffree, 49, is on trial for first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Officer Michael Clark on Aug. 4, 1995. Police went to Tuffree's house last summer to check his health after reports that the former schoolteacher was taking Valium, drinking alcohol and was possibly suicidal.

During Monday's court proceedings, which were conducted without the jury being present, defense attorneys sought to dismiss a special allegation that makes premeditated murder of a police officer punishable by death or life in prison without parole.

Tuffree's attorneys argued that Clark was not acting in the capacity of a police officer when he went to Tuffree's home, and therefore Tuffree should not face a death sentence if convicted.

"We have taken what we think is a narrow view of the term duty," Deputy Public Defender Howard Asher said, explaining that case law suggests duty is defined as an officer being involved in crime prevention or investigation.

But Judge Allan L. Steele ruled that police officers perform a variety of duties. He said that if a Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer was shot on a school campus, that would meet his interpretation of an officer killed in the line of duty.

"Police officers frequently are acting on things other than arrests and warrants," Steele said. "This is something he is doing as part of his regular police duty and involves risk."

Defense attorneys, who plan to open their case today, also argued that the shooting was not premeditated and that Clark broke the law when he entered Tuffree's backyard without his permission. Steele also denied that motion.

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