New documents surface as Solano autopsies hearing ends

By From page A1 | March 13, 2014

VALLEJO — Solano County District Attorney Donald A. du Bain announced his re-election bid last week, touting as a major accomplishment his implementing a “rigorous” new policy with all local enforcement agencies in 2012 that he labeled the “gold standard” of policies.

Testimony concerning evidence procedures Wednesday revealed that policy is what caused a huge mistake that is affecting dozens of murder cases throughout the county.

Du Bain’s “gold standard” complies with state law, often referred to as Brady law, which requires prosecutors to provide all information and evidence in criminal cases to defense attorneys as soon as they find out about it.

The hearing in Vallejo, which began Tuesday, is focused on why prosecutors did not provide copies of more than 1,000 pages of documents in a murder case involving a woman found dead in a Vallejo motel in 2012. Her boyfriend, Michael Daniels, is set to stand trial for murder next week. The documents involve Dr. Susan Hogan, who did the autopsy on the woman.

Hogan was the subject of a secret internal investigation last year into her autopsies that resulted in her being fired.

Judge Daniel Healy on Wednesday renewed what he called “a colossal issue” discovered Tuesday while Hogan was testifying at the hearing. She said she had handwritten notes and diagrams from the woman’s autopsy that were put into a case file. That was news to Healy and to prosecutors and defense attorneys.

County counsel on Wednesday turned over to Healy 49 pages of new documents about the victim, documents that were kept in an autopsy file.

“How could this have not been handed over initially?” Healy asked aloud. “I am so stunned I am beyond words to be getting this now.”

Evidence policy

Chief Deputy District Attorney Jeff Kauffman testified Wednesday that shortly after Hogan’s firing, du Bain arranged for a meeting in October 2013. His top staff, top Sheriff’s Office officials and lawyers for the county in the County Counsel’s Office were to meet and talk about the impact of Hogan’s firing and to review whatever documents needed to be provided to defense attorneys if Hogan did the autopsy.

“Our policy is to rely on county counsel to turn over any material,” Kauffman testified, adding that, yes, the policy delegates authority belonging legally to prosecutors to another agency.

The day of the scheduled meeting, du Bain had a brief speakerphone conference with Kauffman and a top attorney in the County Counsel’s Office who represents the Sheriff-Coroner’s Office. That attorney told du Bain and Kauffman that there were no documents about Hogan that needed to be shared with defense attorneys. The meeting was canceled.

Healy reviewed the Hogan documents a few weeks ago and ordered more than 1,000 pages of them be shared with defense attorneys. Several other Solano County judges have recently made similar reviews in other pending murder cases and have ordered hundred of pages of documents be shared with defense attorneys.

“If this is the gold standard then God help us all,” Healy said.

Healy has repeatedly pointed out that ultimately it is the district attorney’s responsibility to comply with the Brady law and that it does not matter if failing to do that is intentional versus being uninformed.

“The root of the problem is that there was a systematic failure to install and properly address problems with the policy,” Healy said. “There was also a failure at intelligently assessing what to do when problems arose.”

Concerns come to light

Du Bain, his three chief deputies, all the top prosecutors in their Vallejo office and several prosecutors in the Fairfield office knew for months about the Hogan situation and the months-long secret investigation. None of them told any defense attorneys what was going on.

That changed in September 2013 when defense attorneys in the Genelle Conway-Allen murder case were given a copy of an email Hogan sent a prosecutor seven months earlier, claiming the 13-year-old girl’s strangulation death may have been accidental and during consensual sex.

The hearing has been attended by several defense attorneys who have pending cases in which Hogan conducted the autopsies. Many of those attorneys are expected to be in court Friday when Healy will rule on a request by defense attorneys to throw out a murder charge against Daniels for what they have labeled “outrageous government conduct.”

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 | 26 comments

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  • DebbieMarch 13, 2014 - 12:21 am

    This is appalling! and an embarrassment. The ramifications are frightening, seems our communities trusted officials have lost sight of their professional obligations, so stop sitting on your thumbs and get to work! Solano County Depends on You!

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  • DebbieMarch 13, 2014 - 12:25 am

    Also, Dr. Susan Hogan, Thank You for Retiring!

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  • boomMarch 13, 2014 - 12:58 am

    This whole county is a shame. Sheriff's office in shambles, DA's office looking totally incompetent and they run for re-election almost unopposed-I'm not even sure the people who are filling out these ballots even read them. Sad, this county is in such a prime location to be the center of everything yet we'll forever be seen as backwater buffoons in Sacramento where local yokels like Skip and Co would've been chewed and spat back 2 decades ago. On a side note: with all this drama lately about Toler not being able to be Sheriff, Why does Ferrara get to be the Coroner? Does he have any formal medical training? Plain and simple the Sheriff and Coroner's office needs to be split. Supervisor's, you guys wanna step up and do your job, all $150k plus of our job? Split the coroner's office and end the possibility of this happening again!

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  • Bill of RightsMarch 13, 2014 - 4:15 am

    So du Bain implements a "Gold Standard" Brady policy. Was this the Brady policy that all the Solano County Chief's of Police and police associations argued with him not to implement? And it is this same policy that has caught him in the crosshairs of one of the biggest legal controversies known to this District Attorneys office? What is going on in the District Attorneys office? I am tired of hearing about all these side programs of his. Convict criminals! Send them to prison! Wake up du Bain! Du Bain is not the choice for Solano County. Elect Abrams for Solano County DA! A proven trial attorney, who is aggressive, tough on crime and smart.

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  • RobertMarch 13, 2014 - 7:00 am

    Yeah! As long as people are afforded their due process at a fair trial when ALL the evidence is laid out and NOT selective bits and pieces.

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  • my2centsMarch 13, 2014 - 6:17 am

    I am sick of this opportunistic political campaigning for Abrams thinly veiled as concern about our county justice system every time I read any article about this story. It's disgusting yellow journalism.

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  • Tired of it allMarch 13, 2014 - 8:35 am

    I totally agreed that attempting to gain popularity and votes because a situtation like this is going on is opportunistic at best....and lets remember, she comes from the same office where all of this corruption is going on!! Check your facts people! Clean house already!!

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  • I know All of the characters well!March 13, 2014 - 1:29 pm

    My2cents, THAT'S EXACTLY what this is! You nailed it! Opportunistic. Which would explain what Abrams filed to run for DA at 5:00 when the doors were closing. I'll be curious to see how ethical her campaign will be. My educated guess is she has ALREADY stepped into campaign fraud and violated FPPC regulations yet she wants to restore trust. Yeah, right!

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  • The MisterMarch 13, 2014 - 7:17 am

    Sounds like the "gold standard" of corruption. With all the high-priced and high-powered suits involved, they can't blame this on "I didn't know". Thus, it's corruption. I say this corruption goes further than you think... I say other offices besides the DA, the Sheriff, and County Council are corrupt; for instance, I believe the Registrar's Office is corrupt too. I personally know of one case and have heard from a good source of another. It is so past time to prune this corruption from our government. A good first step is to bring in a sheriff who, like all of us in Solano County, has been victimized by the corrupt incumbents. I'm voting for Tom Toler. I'll write it in if I have to. I suggest you do the same.

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  • TaylorMarch 13, 2014 - 9:05 am

    When else in your adolescent or adult life has the excuse "I didn't know" actually work? If I get a speeding ticket and say to the officer or judge "I didn't know" they would tell me that I should have known and slap me with the fine for he ticket. That feble excuse won't get 24 Frazine Rd Modesto Ca you out of the ticket. Nor does the excuse work when my twelve year old tries to get out of her homework. All the people involved in this is PAID by us, the tax payers, to know and they still have the nerve to use he excuse "I didn't know". I know if I didn't know how to effectively do my job I would get fired. Come on everybody. It's time to hand all these crooks there walking papers. Time for some honesty. I choose to write in Toler!

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  • CD BrooksMarch 13, 2014 - 9:36 am

    Taylor, did I miss something? "I didn't know" the idea behind showing that address? You're in very little danger of getting a traffic citation here so can't use that excuse! :)

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  • TaylorMarch 13, 2014 - 9:41 am

    Sorry CD my IPhone seems to have inserted comments of it's own...address has nothing to do with my comment :)

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  • Rich GiddensMarch 13, 2014 - 7:59 am

    ''Brady'' is not just a State Law. It was the case of Brady v Maryland that ended up in the US Supreme Court. Another trick the DA's office likes to pull is presenting exculpatory evidence at trial and mischarecterizing it as inculpatory. Yet another illegal maneuver is jury rigging by working with the Jury Commissioner to stack a jury with people who would be predisposed to be biased or family members of the authorities. Based on what we see, the DA and the Sheriff are criminals----they suborned perjury by coaching witness testimony, withheld exculpatory ''Brady'' evidence and altered previously determined investigative findings without any evedentiary or legally sufficient reason to do so. Obstruction of justice, witness tampering, civil rights violations are just some of the charges involved in the case against the Sheriff and the DA. I believe California should be given a chance to clean the Solano County corruption mess up before the Feds have to step in to investigate and prosecute. You've got to remember---all these authorities are pals and engage in what critics call ''the blue code of silence''. I also believe there is no separation of powers and all of this extends into the Judge's chambers too! The Judges, DA and the cops all adore each other and they quite often meet in a ex parte manner to discuss and predetermine case outcomes illegally without any participation of defense counsel.

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  • NOonduBainMarch 13, 2014 - 9:33 am

    #1- Nobody ever believes in the conspiacy theory. Well folks, it exists. #2- Nice of duBain to accept the roll of the top dog for the county, then shift blame to county counsel for not telling him what to do. Shouldn't he already know #3- duBain has yet to address the concerns. He keeps sending out sacraficial lambs to address the media. He still has not commented #4- The gold standard. What does that mean. He said he implemented this when he took office 4 years ago. If this was the gold standard then, whats going to change. #5- Abrams hasn't been accused of anything. duBain has been found to have covered this whole thing up with seceret meetings. What would have happened if that one email never surfaced. #6- What else is he hiding????

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  • TaylorMarch 13, 2014 - 9:51 am

    I agree Noondubain...scary to think what else they are hiding from the public. I'm a big believer of karma and no matter how much money DuBain has it can't stop karma from slapping you in the face. All the possible people wrongfully convicted by him and his office makes me sick. I truly hope that all the truth comes out and ALL broken laws are enforced and charged to DuBain and his posse. Does anyone know if DuBain will be made to testify in this and if not how come?

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  • boomMarch 13, 2014 - 10:20 am

    He probably wouldn't testify, because that would mean he was on trial and he would most likely take the fifth. I could see him being deposed, but again, he would have counsel present and I don't think he would tell on himself. We're just going to have to vote him out.

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  • TaylorMarch 13, 2014 - 3:56 pm

    People who chose to work in government should not have the right to plead the 5th when in comes to work related matters. You are a employee of the public, essentially, and pleading the 5th just spells COVER UP! Vote DuBain out!

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  • George Guynn, JrMarch 13, 2014 - 4:50 pm

    I am glad that Judge Healy is shining the light on this case and look forward to hearing more details. Those that work for the public and make mistakes should not be allowed to run up a big bill on the taxpayers dime, when they should be held personally accountable! This case is just another reason that we need Mr. Toler for Sheriff!!!!!!

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  • General Fadi BasemMarch 13, 2014 - 4:51 pm

    I wish to apologize to "Please" for my reply made on the article titled "Records detail coroner's controversy timeline" from March 5 2014. It appears I was in error. I wrongly thought that responsibility under the Brady law resided in the agency pursuing a criminal prosecution. I suggested that since the County Council's office was not pursuing such a prosecution, that the responsibility for any Brady disclosure resided in the District Attorney's office. Little did I know that the DA office made some agreement with local law enforcement related agencys and was thus relieved of their responsibilities under the law. So "Please" accept my apology for my error. And I also must make an announcement. I have recently signed an agreement with Charles Manson. We agreed that any responsibility for further murders, assaults with a deadly weapon, bank robberys, sexual assaults and traffic infractions committed by General Fadi Basem will be solely attributed to Charles Manson, and not to General Fadi Basem. Sounds good to me .

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  • PleaseMarch 13, 2014 - 5:04 pm

    Are you suggesting Brady policies are necessary, Fadi? I think you were missing my point. It sounds like you're having a bad day and feel the need to be snarky. My point was that I don't believe the whole thing was corruption as much as it might have been an error in trusting the word of the sheriff and county counsel. So, while you hide behind your computer and fictitious name, I would suggest you think about being a good person not a desperate-to-put-someone-else's thoughts and contributions down. So grow up, please :-).

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  • General Fadi BasemMarch 13, 2014 - 5:23 pm

    "So "Please" accept my apology for my error." I apologized for my comment. If you don't accept say so. Any snarkness misinterpretation existing today is solely within your cranium. Perhaps we need to sign an agreement? (And do you REALLY park your carkass on the comments to jump when poked? Are you related to the other MegaCommenters on here? )

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  • PleaseMarch 13, 2014 - 5:47 pm

    Wow. You're really immature and mean spirited. I happened to get off work and read today's article and your comment. It appears you couldn't wait to poke. I'm sorry you're having a bad day and you have an ugly nature. I do hope you grow up. Incidentally, are you part of the defense attorneys pouncing on these articles so that you can offer your defense to get your client/murderer off? If so, I can see why you have a desperate need to disparage others. It takes a lot out of a soul to represent criminals. So please accept that I sincerely wish you to grow as a person. Oh, and it's spelled "carcass".

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  • General Fadi BasemMarch 13, 2014 - 6:13 pm

    Have a good evening.

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  • Sally Elizabeth TanterMarch 14, 2014 - 6:46 am

    Don't like that his article says Hogan was fired. In order to admit Hogan was terminated for mis-orderly conduct or tampering with her autopsy result to favor one person verdict she'd have to admit that someone above her giving orders bribed/asked/told/forced her to do so. Meaning at one of these meeting where any of the people present (including our sheriff/ or Dubain) is responsible for such a request. Nothing dismisses tampering with any persons trial or potential verdict, however someone is going down with her. In a previous article posted it was said Hogan's superiors offered her two letters and she chose the one that labeled her leave a "resignation". Now why would her superiors issue her a choice if they knew she was "alone" is making such unprofessional choices as a medical examiner that they were completely "unknowledgeable" about? Hmmm maybe because they new if she has to fight to defend her name in this case any further dirty info about who asked her to do such things may surface... And someone doesn't want that. Just food for thought?

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  • LeonardMarch 14, 2014 - 8:55 am

    Sally, I spent twenty plus years at the Sheriff's Office and as you have seen for yourself in recent news articles, it's evident what has been going on. The difference this time, is that somehow "The Cat Escaped" out of the bag and the public is not buying into their usual tactic of diverting the issues with their well oiled Public Relations Machine.... I should know, I used to be one of their Public Information Officers. Their policy is, "Public Perception", it's all that matters when you are trying to get elected.

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  • Nisi quod verum estMarch 16, 2014 - 5:37 am

    There is so much finger pointing going on. Come on now, the crooks responsible for this bullsh$$T are sitting at home fat dumb and happy while you guys are on this site defending their positions. Wake up people we are all one, no matter how you slice it this whole thing stinks. Put aside your personal feelings or self serving reasons and really look at what is going on. These guys get paid big bucks to "Protect Us", when one of these crooks decide to target you because they don't like you and charge you with a crime that you did not commit, it will come down to your word vs theirs............Really, really think about it! and by the way, I am not on anyone's corner, I am just tired of the corruption and nothing getting done about.

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