Tuesday, February 28, 2017
S.C. Upholds Death Sentence in Prison Murder
Justices Approve Requirement That Officers Attend Attorney-Client Meetings
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Kings Superior Court judge did not violate the constitutional or other rights of a Corcoran prison inmate charged with killing another prisoner by ordering that two correctional officers attend all meetings between the inmate and his lawyer, the California Supreme Court ruled yesterday.
Justice Carol Corrigan, writing for a unanimous court, said Judge Peter M. Schultz acted reasonably to protect the lawyer after her client, Anthony G. Delgado, said in an interview that he expected to kill again. Delgado, who strangled his cellmate months before he beat and killed James Kevin Mahoney, was convicted of Mahoney’s murder and sentenced to death.
The high court yesterday rejected all of his attacks on the conviction and sentence.
Corrigan wrote that under the unusual circumstances, it was not an abuse of the defendant’s rights or of the court’s discretion to order that the two officers be present whenever Delgado and defense attorney Donna Tarter met. The arrangement was agreed to by Tarter before she agreed to represent the defendant, and the officers were instructed by the judge that they were subject to the attorney-client privilege, which they agreed to be bound by.
Delgado never voiced any objection, Corrigan noted. The justice also pointed out that there was no evidence that the officers disclosed, or that anyone asked them to disclose, privileged communications and that appellate counsel’s “bald assertion” that such disclosure occurred was purely speculative.
“We emphasize, however, that we do not suggest such measures are necessary or appropriate in every circumstance,” she wrote. “Ordering law enforcement officers to be present at attorney-client meetings is an unorthodox solution with obvious potential pitfalls. We hold only that, under these extreme circumstances, the court did not abuse its discretion. Trial courts are well advised to fashion security measures tailored to minimize the risk of intrusion on the defendant’s constitutional rights.”
The justice also rejected a defense attack on the exclusion of the defendant from the hearing at which the unusual security arrangement was approved. Avoiding resolution of the constitutional question of whether the hearing was a critical stage of the proceedings, giving the defendant a right to be present, Corrigan said any error was harmless because any objections that Delgado could have raised at the hearing could also have been raised later, but weren’t.
The case is People v. Delgado, 17 S.O.S. 985.
Copyright 2017, Metropolitan News Company