Judge delays – for a day – hearing on Solano autopsies controversy

By March 12, 2014

VALLEJO — The top leaders in Solano County’s criminal justice system were in court Monday for a hearing on the events that led up to the firing of the county coroner last year and the circumstances of many homicide autopsies called into question by a possible cover-up attempt.

District Attorney Donald A. du Bain, Sheriff-Coroner Thomas Ferrara, Public Defender Lesli Caldwell, County Counsel Dennis Bunting and several of their underlings showed up in Judge Daniel J. Healy’s courtroom, expecting to hear sworn testimony from several people who worked with Dr. Susan Hogan.

Instead, the hearing was postponed until Tuesday because of an eleventh-hour effort by prosecutors Friday afternoon to get Healy pulled off the upcoming murder trial in which questions about who knew what and when they knew it were about to be asked.

Defense attorneys believe prosecutors hid evidence and coaxed Hogan to flip-flop on at least one autopsy that went from having an unknown cause of death to being deemed a homicide. One of the defense attorneys for the accused killer said the prosecution effort was without merit and that comments Healy made in past hearings don’t point to bias against prosecutors.

Healy delayed the hearing until 8:30 a.m. Tuesday when he will announce how he plans to respond to the effort to pull him off the case. Healy has already ordered that more than 1,000 pages of previously undisclosed information about Hogan and a months-long internal investigation into her work be given to defense lawyers. Other judges in other homicide cases throughout the county have made similar orders in recent weeks.

The Hogan documents reveal that meetings took place and correspondence was exchanged questioning the quality and accuracy of some of Hogan’s autopsy results – questions and subsequent answers that were not shared with defense attorneys.

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.

Discussion | 6 comments

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  • my2centsMarch 11, 2014 - 5:45 am

    All, and I mean ALL of the disgustingly huge egos, on all sides in this controversy, have sacrificed public integrity in our system of Justice to "win" their cases, elections, points. It's outrageous and sickening to those of us who work in the profession.

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  • The MisterMarch 11, 2014 - 6:36 am

    I hope the cover-ups stop today. Some truth would be refreshing.

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  • Rich GiddensMarch 11, 2014 - 7:16 am

    Mr. Sullivan---is it possible if you could use precise words to describe the DA's conduct like ''coaching witness testimony?". Another precise word that should be used is ''lying''.

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  • CircusInTownMarch 11, 2014 - 3:39 pm

    @my2cents, I agree, there are some huge egos and this particular news outlet is on a feeding frenzy to make the most of this circus. Thank you, Jess, for your lopsided reports that read more like a rag magazine than thoughtful unbiased reporting. Also, inaccurate reporting. There has been a judge that threw out the public defenders allegations that there was Brady in the Hogan fiasco. Doesn't the DA have until the preliminary hearing to disclose all evidence? The case in question hasn't even had a preliminary hearing. And, are we losing sight of who the real whack-job is? Hogan. It seems to me Hogan is disgruntled and as a result is not cooperating. At the end of the day, there are a lot of victims that are being sacrificed. These huge egos are more than happy to throw them under the bus and jump straight to protecting the defendant. THAT is not justice. THAT is disusting! I am waiting to see what the DA has in their response to these allegations written up. Don't you all want ALL the facts? Jess has not reported on it. Jess has had the motion since last Friday. C'mon Jess, let us know! It doesn't matter how flat you make the pancake, there are two sides.

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  • Rich GiddensMarch 11, 2014 - 4:35 pm

    The coaching of witness testimony, suborning of perjury and the altering of previously determined investigative findings doesn't just affect one case----it's affecting many cases that the DA, Dr. Hogan and the Sheriff's Office were involved in.

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  • RobertMarch 11, 2014 - 8:29 pm

    We haven't heard Hogan's side of the story yet. After all, you mentioned something about pancakes and two sides to every story. So, to call her a whack job at this point in time is a bit harsh and pre- judgmental.

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