An appellate court’s decision to allow the prosecution access to a
local murder defendant’s mental evaluation while letting the defense
challenge the disclosure piecemeal left neither side happy leading to
both asking the state Supreme Court to step in.
Both the Attorney General’s Office, on behalf of the San Mateo
County District Attorney’s Office, and defense attorney Paul DeMeester
filed paperwork known as a petition for review asking that the high
court look at the appellate ruling.
Deputy Attorney General Jeff Lawrence did not return a call for comment on the filing.
The Supreme Court is under no obligation to review the decision
but both DeMeester and prosecutor Al Giannini hope the novelty of the
legal issue propels it to take up the issue.
“The Court of Appeal broke new ground and mandated a procedure
that had never been used before,” said Giannini who is prosecuting the
murder case of Reynaldo Maldonado, 30, and co-defendant Erick Romeo
Morales, 29, for San Mateo County.
Both are charged with fatally stabbing 15-year-old Quetzlcoatl
Alba, a teenage acquaintance, to death in 2001 and Maldonado has
previously had his mental fitness for trial questioned.
Giannini wants Maldonado examined by doctors because a
psychiatric defense is expected but DeMeester said releasing those
findings in their entirety to the prosecution is a violation of his
client’s right against self-incrimination.
“The analogy I draw is that the prosecution doesn’t get to
interview the defendant just in case he might testify,” DeMeester said.
The decision to release the information but allow it to be
challenged is splitting the baby down the middle, according to both
In his petition, DeMeester asks that the results of the mental
health examination be sealed from the prosecution until its case is
over and the defense confirms its intent to introduce the information
as part of its case.
By reviewing the decision, the state Supreme Court won’t hold up
the trial. A date has yet to be set and Giannini said he does not
anticipate one being picked any time in the near future. One reason for
the recent delay was the joining of the two men’s cases; Morales was
apprehended and extradited from the East Coast just as Maldonado was
previously beginning trial. The new co-defendant and consolidation
leaves Morales’ attorney needing time to get up to speed, Giannini
Yesterday’s request is just the latest twist in a case that is
nearing a decade long. Alba was an acquaintance of Maldonado and
Morales whose fatally stabbed body was stashed in a storage area of the
Westlake Apartments in Daly City. Maldonado and
Morales were eyed as
suspects but fled before either were arrested.
In 2007, a year after Daly City police reopened the case,
Maldonado was identified by a friend who said he confessed to the
killing and had a “trophy photograph” of Morales standing over the
body. Authorities extradited Maldonado from Florida and two years later
was being tried when Morales was apprehended.
On Oct. 12, 2009, New York state troopers pulled a car over on
suspicion of driving while under the influence. The driver gave a false
name but was later identified through fingerprints as Morales.
Both Maldonado and Morales remain in custody on no-bail status.