California Supremes Overturn Death Sentence Based on Withheld Evidence; Prosecutor Is Now a Judge

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The California Supreme Court has ruled a death row inmate is entitled to a new penalty hearing because the prosecution withheld evidence in his 1987 trial that he may have been threatened by a Colombian drug cartel.

The inmate, Miguel Angel Bacigalupo, will be sentenced to life in prison if prosecutors don’t pursue the capital sentence, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. A prosecutor in the case, Deputy District Attorney Joyce Allegro, is now a judge in Santa Clara County.

Allegro did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment.

Bacigalupo told police that a drug dealer had threatened to kill him and his family if he did not carry out orders to murder the owner of a jewelry store and his brother, according to the opinion (PDF). Allegro told the jury there was no evidence of any threats and argued the murders occurred during a store robbery, the Chronicle says. An investigator for the DA’s office, however, had information from an informant that the killings were ordered because the victims had stolen drugs, according to findings by a judge who served as a referee in the habeas appeal.

The DA’s office had argued it met its legal obligations by giving the defense a police report mentioning the confidential informant, who said she had learned the motive for the killings was revenge rather than robbery. The DA’s office says there was misconduct by the investigator, but it is unclear if Allegro had knowledge of wrongdoing, the Chronicle says.

Bacigalupo is challenging his murder convictions in a separate appeal, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

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