Thursday, December 6, 2001
Alleged ‘Angel of Death’ Ordered Back to Court for Hearing on Transcripts
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Former Glendale respiratory therapist Efren Saldivar, nicknamed the “Angel of Death” for allegedly poisoning patients in his care, yesterday was ordered back to court on Jan. 22 for a hearing on whether to unseal portions of his grand jury transcript.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito granted Saldivar’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Verah Bradford, an extra month to go through the transcript and determine which parts she thinks should remain sealed.
A hearing on unsealing the documents had been scheduled for this Monday, but Bradford argued that she needed the extra time to determine what would be inadmissible at trial and to decide which information from the transcripts is already in the public domain, given the massive amount of media attention Saldivar’s case has received. Thousands of articles around the world have been written on the case, she said.
Bradford said she would not seek to seal the entire transcript, but said that if some portions were made public it could make it difficult to find a jury “free of unnecessary taint.”
“It looks like this will be an interesting trial,” Ito said.
Saldivar, 32, was indicted by the Los Angeles County criminal grand jury Oct. 16 and pled not guilty yesterday to six counts of first degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
Saldivar pled not guilty at a January arraignment on six murder counts brought by the District Attorney’s Office, but the original charges were dropped yesterday by prosecutors to allow the indictment to stand.
He has been held without bail since his arrest Jan. 9.
The indictment alleges two special circumstances—administration of poison and multiple murder—that could carry the death penalty. Saldivar denied both.
Deputy District Attorney Al MacKenzie said the prosecution will decide on whether to seek the death penalty sometime early next year.
Saldivar is accused of injecting seven elderly patients with the paralyzing muscle relaxer Pavulon at Glendale Adventist Medical Center in 1996 and 1997. His alleged victims include Jose Alfaro, Salbi Asatryan, Myrtle Brower, Balbino Castro, Luina Schidlowski, and Eleanora Schlegel.
The attempted murder charge stems from an alleged Feb. 26, 1997 attack on Jean Coyle.
Saldivar also pled not guilty to one count of receiving stolen property, vials of the sleep-inducing drug Versed, which were found during a search of his Tujunga home.
MacKenzie said he expects the trial to begin late next year and continue for about three months.
There are over 100,000 documents relating to the case, MacKenzie told Ito, and he said he expects many of those documents to be presented in the trial.
The prosecution called 49 witnesses to testify in front of the grand jury and plans to call around a 100 witnesses during the trial, MacKenzie said.
Bradford said she was pleased that Ito, who made national headlines while presiding over the double murder trial of O.J. Simpson, is presiding over Saldivar’s trail.
“Judge Ito is a fair, competent, experienced judge,” Bradford said. “With a trial this complex it’s nice to have a bench officer with experience.”
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company