FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
19henry smith court

Henry Albert Smith Jr., right, the suspect in the 2011 killing of Vallejo Police Officer James Capoot, appears in Solano County Superior Court, Feb. 18, 2014. His attorney Oscar Bobrow is at left. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic file)

Crime-courts

Accused cop killer’s case caught in Solano autopsy controversy

By From page A1 | February 19, 2014

FAIRFIELD — An accused cop killer was in court Tuesday, but the focus of his brief hearing was something altogether different.

At issue was the growing controversy in the Sheriff’s Office and the courthouse about 37 autopsies done in homicide cases. That controversy came to light because of questions raised by defense attorneys for the Fairfield man accused of strangling and raping a 13-year-old foster child.

The deputy public defender for Henry A. Smith, wants a judge to review more than 1,000 pages of documents relating to events that led to the termination of the doctor who performed autopsies on Vallejo police Officer James Capoot, 13-year-old Genelle Conway-Allen and many other homicide victims, including two Vacaville men authorities allege were shot and killed by Richard R. Calkins in 2010.

Smith is accused of fatally shooting Capoot after a November 2011 bank robbery.

The investigation into Dr. Susan Hogan surfaced when the lawyers for Conway-Allen’s accused killer got a copy of an email Hogan sent to the District Attorney’s Office before an arrest in the girl’s killing, claiming that the girl’s death may have occurred accidentally during consensual sex. The email included the caveat, “just between you and me,” which infuriated defense attorneys, who did not learn of the email until seven months after it was sent.

Another email by Hogan to the District Attorney’s Office explained the recent decision she made not to testify at the upcoming Calkins’ jury trial was fueled by being “fired out of the blue for no reason.”

Sheriff Thomas Ferrara has refused to comment on Hogan’s claim of being fired and Sheriff’s Office officials who have repeatedly said Hogan “retired in December 2013.”

Prosecutors in the Conway-Allen murder case said in a recent court filing that FBI and Fairfield police investigators felt frustration over “pushback” from Hogan and were “concerned about (her) autopsy procedures.” In addition, during a February 2013 meeting between top Sheriff’s Office staff and prosecutors, it was revealed that Sheriff’s Office staff were conducting an “internal evaluation” of Hogan’s work and her “suitability to remain as primary pathologist for the Sheriff’s Office.”

The evaluation ended sometime before Sept. 16, 2013, when the Hogan email was provided to defense attorneys.

Last week in Calkins’ case, Judge Donna Stashyn completed a review of more than 1,000 pages of documents relating to Hogan that were provided by county attorneys in request to a subpoena. Stashyn ruled that most of the documents would remain confidential but she gave prosecutor Karen Jensen a thick sheath of documents that might affect several pending criminal cases, including the Calkins case.

Jensen is also prosecuting Smith for the Capoot killing. She revealed Tuesday, after spending part of her weekend reviewing the newly obtained documents about Hogan, that at least four pending murder cases may be flawed by problems with Hogan’s autopsies and her other work.

“I feel uncomfortable sitting on these materials,” Jensen said at Tuesday’s hearing of a package of copies of documents about Hogan that she handed over to Smith’s defense attorney and to Judge Peter B. Foor, the judge in Smith’s case.

Foor promptly ordered nobody to copy the documents and reminded all parties in the Smith case to abide by a standing gag order. Foor’s review of the documents is pending and several other judges are expected to make similar reviews in the upcoming weeks.

Jensen said some of the documents about Hogan’s autopsies and related work revealed substandard work, interference with police investigations and having sometimes provided law enforcement authorities with inaccurate information.

Hogan’s personal attorney, who has attended several recent hearings about the documents, told Foor her client has never seen the documents reviewed by Stashyn and Jensen.

Questions about Hogan’s quality of work and how it may affect pending criminal cases are echoing revelations three years ago about Hogan’s predecessor in the Sheriff’s Office – Dr. Thomas Gill. District Attorney Donald A. du Bain in 2011 announced that at least 27 homicide cases were going to be reviewed in the wake of concerns about questionable autopsies done by Gill.

The reviews turned up nothing prompting any changes in any of the homicide cases. The reviews were done by Hogan.

Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.

Jess Sullivan

Jess has covered the criminal justice system in Solano County for several years. He was an embedded reporter in Iraq in 2003.
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Discussion | 8 comments

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  • GOODGUYFebruary 19, 2014 - 6:30 am

    Are you serious? And the defense is that A CHILD PREDATOR HAD CONSENSUAL SEX WITH HIS VICTIM? Who cares about the damn autopsy report the evidence is overwhelming! the defense attorney should be ashamed of his face being on the news for representing a BRUTAL CHILD MOLESTER! And COP KILLER YOURE DONE! THE WORLD WILL BE MUCH SAFER WITH BOTH OF THESE MONSTERS ROTTING IN HELL! FF throw away the cop cameras and spend the money on a decent Coroner! Make sure it's not a political hookup so this substandard work doesn't happen again!

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  • The MisterFebruary 19, 2014 - 6:38 am

    Do ya see how important it is to have competence and integrity in the Sheriff's Office? It is time for a change. I don't see how Mr Hand-Picked is bringing us that change. In fact, it looks like the wheels are falling off his wagon.

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  • Bill of RightsFebruary 19, 2014 - 6:38 am

    Defense Attorneys are the lowest! They capitalize on any glitch in the court process, will twist our Bill of Rights to suit their clients needs, play by a set of rules rules, that only criminals would approve, and use scare tactics against a weak court system! How could anyone sleep at night knowing this is the work that you do? A criminal could!! Henry Smith will answer for his crime! Smoke and mirrors won't work on this case!!

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  • my2centsFebruary 19, 2014 - 7:34 am

    It is clear that most Americans do not understand our adversarial system of justice. In criminal proceedings where important civil rights are at stake, everyone get a lawyer and a jury decides guilt or innocence based on the evidence presented by each side. Defense attorneys are essential to this system. Still, I would appreciate it if my public defender would shave so he didn't look like he was coming off a weekend bender.

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  • Bill of RightsFebruary 19, 2014 - 11:01 pm

    @my 2 cents, there is a difference between adversarial and slime! I stand by my previous statements. Civil rights can be protected while maintaining professionalism. The prosecutors and police are held to a higher standard than a defense attorney and his PI that failed as a cop. They divert from the truth and look for weaknesses in the case. They attack victims and the police who protect. They find character witnesses and professionals to testify for a nominal fee and they don't care if their defendant is guilty. Now what does that have to do with the violation of a defendants civil rights?

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  • Rich GiddensFebruary 19, 2014 - 8:45 am

    So exactly where is this enigmatic Dr. Hogan and when may attorneys and private investigators meet with her? All of her official communications regarding these pending cases are now due process / 6th amendment relevant discovery particular items whether we like it or not. That's the law whether we like it or not. Prosecutors withholding ''Brady'' evidence need to account, again, whether we like it or not---thats the law. The withholding of Brady exculpatory evidence happens everyday in the United States with the most eggregious recent example being Florida's Angela Corey withholding the contents of Trayvon Martin's cell phone from George Zimmerman's attorneys. In that case, DA forensic investigators revolted against Ms. Corey and turned over the photos of drugs and weapons that Mr. Martin possessed to Zimmerman's attorneys. Those investigators were then unjustly fired and they are now suing. The Dr. Hogan mess needs to be explained and revealed for justice to prevail----whether we like it or not.

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  • JBFebruary 19, 2014 - 9:02 am

    An adult having consensual sex with a 13 year old is still a crime.

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  • disgustedbyourbossFebruary 19, 2014 - 5:21 pm

    Thomas Ferrera had a representative go on local media and lie to the general public. Thomas Ferrera has no credibility and should not be the Sheriff of Solano County. His comments should have been that he can't comment on personnel matters, though he chose to have a representative go in front of the camera and lie, not thinking the documents would be disclosed. How can we trust him. And he threw a subordinate under the bus because he didn't have the courage to face the media himself. And he has now replaced Hogan with a pathologist from the same company both Hogan and Gil came from. This man must go!!!

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