FAIRFIELD — Another pending murder case has been affected by the growing controversy involving the doctor with the Solano County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office who conducted the autopsy on the victim.
Sheriff’s officials have repeatedly said Dr. Susan Hogan retired in December 2013. She has said she was abruptly fired for no reason. Prosecutors earlier this week confirmed a months-long look at Hogan’s work turned up problems with some of her autopsies. A growing number of defense attorneys now want to know if their clients may be wrongly accused because of sloppy or negligent autopsies.
James A. Young, 19, was in court briefly Wednesday morning. He faces murder and robbery charges for his alleged role with four other teens in the June 2011 robbery and assault on the owner of the Travis Dairy, 70-year-old Ho Kim, who suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after being doused with pepper spray and beaten.
Young watched his defense attorney, Jessica Agnich, press prosecutors for information about Hogan and the circumstances that led to her abrupt departure from her job. Also in court were lawyers for Hogan and the county who have been in court several times in recent weeks, providing judges with more than 1,000 pages of documents about Hogan to review behind closed doors.
The judge overseeing Young’s case, Donna Stashyn, reviewed the Hogan documents last week in another pending murder case and passed on a thick sheath of copies of some of those documents to another defense attorney. Stashyn is also presiding over a double-murder case in which the jury trial was recently delayed at the last-minute when Hogan refused to testify about her autopsies.
Stashyn repeatedly told prosecutors at Wednesday’s meeting that even though she had reviewed the Hogan documents and shared many of them with other defense attorneys, the ultimate responsibility of sharing any information that might somehow exonerate the accused, as required by law, was the responsibility of the District Attorney’s Office. Stashyn urged prosecutors to meet with Sheriff’s Office officials to ensure that all the relevant information about Hogan’s work was on the table.
Hogan, during a December 2012 probable cause in the Travis Dairy case, said Kim, who had a history of heart problems, had “literally been scared to death.” Hogan’s expert conclusion about the cause of death was different from what she had previously described at prior court hearings. After her testimony, Stashyn put the hearing on hold and urged prosecutors to consider plea deals in the murder case. Four of the five suspects took plea deals at their next court appearance.
The defendants, James E. Williamson, 16, Osis “O Money” Smith, Dezmon “Young D” Frazier, both 18, and Chelsea Johnson, 19, pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and burglary charges for their actions in the June 2011 theft that netted them $60 and several packs of Newport cigarettes.
Agnich and Young are scheduled to be back in court March 7 when Stashyn will review whether all the relevant Hogan documents have been turned over by prosecutors.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.