Jurors get case in Vallejo trial that started coroner controversy

By From page A1 | April 17, 2014

FAIRFIELD — Jurors began deliberating the fate of a Vallejo man who faces a murder charge for the 2012 death of his girlfriend in a rough residential motel in Vallejo.

Michael A. Daniels and Jessica Brastow had both been drinking heavily before she passed out in their motel room. Vallejo police believe Daniels, 62, suffocated Brastow. His defense attorney believes Brastow, whose blood-alcohol level would later be measured at 0.37, either suffocated on her own vomit or that the alcohol shut down her breathing.

“This is a difficult case,” prosecutor Andrew Ganz told jurors in his closing argument. “We’re never going to know exactly happened in that motel room.”

Ganz repeatedly talked about blood spots police found on both their bodies and on her shirt, which was found torn in half, and on one of his socks. Tests showed the blood came from both of them. Daniels had scratches on his forearms and her chin had been scuffed.

Ganz described the motel room as “a scene of violence all over the place” and said that Brastow had done something to send Daniels over the edge. He also reminded jurors that he had given different details to police about what led up to his 911 call reporting she was passed out on the floor of the motel room.

Daniels’ attorney, Deputy Public Defender Meenha Lee, told jurors again and again that Dr. Susan Hogan, who did the autopsy on Brastow, had refused repeatedly in the face of hostility from Vallejo police and Ganz to label Brastow’s asphyxiation death a homicide.

Hogan was asked by Ganz earlier this week what the likeliest cause of death was for Brastow, to which she responded, “I don’t know.”

Lee reminded jurors that Ganz had never shared details of a January 2013 meeting Hogan had with Ganz and police about Brastow’s death until the meeting was referenced in an email that was uncovered shortly after it was revealed that Hogan had been fired after a monthslong secret investigation into a handful of her autopsies, including Brastow’s. Ganz and his supervisors in the District Attorney’s Office participated in the investigation.

Ganz was dismissive of not having a determination that Brastow’s death was a homicide, telling jurors Hogan was not a detective, had not gone to the crime scene and hadn’t listened to Daniels’ 911 call.

“The body doesn’t tell the whole story in this case,” Ganz told jurors. “Her inability to determine the cause of death is not the end all and be all.”

After the closing arguments, jurors deliberated for two hours before agreeing to return Thursday for further deliberations.

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 | 3 comments

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  • The MisterApril 17, 2014 - 6:10 am

    The corruption in our local governments, Sheriff/Coroner, DA, etc., will come out in case after case for some time to come.

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  • No dummy hereApril 17, 2014 - 12:46 pm

    Out of fear of losing the endorcement of the Vallejo Police duBain used Ganz has his sacrificial lamb. Then Vallejo PD still chose not to endorce him. Says it all folks. Says it all

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • interestingApril 17, 2014 - 2:58 pm

    Not Guilty

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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