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DSA In the News

Ruling appealed in teen murder case

Published on 6/29/2010

An appellate court’s decision to allow the prosecution access to a local murder defendant’s mental evaluation while letting the defense challenge the disclosure piecemeal left neither side happy leading to both asking the state Supreme Court to step in.

Both the Attorney General’s Office, on behalf of the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, and defense attorney Paul DeMeester filed paperwork known as a petition for review asking that the high court look at the appellate ruling.

Deputy Attorney General Jeff Lawrence did not return a call for comment on the filing.

The Supreme Court is under no obligation to review the decision but both DeMeester and prosecutor Al Giannini hope the novelty of the legal issue propels it to take up the issue.

“The Court of Appeal broke new ground and mandated a procedure that had never been used before,” said Giannini who is prosecuting the murder case of Reynaldo Maldonado, 30, and co-defendant Erick Romeo Morales, 29, for San Mateo County.

Both are charged with fatally stabbing 15-year-old Quetzlcoatl Alba, a teenage acquaintance, to death in 2001 and Maldonado has previously had his mental fitness for trial questioned.

Giannini wants Maldonado examined by doctors because a psychiatric defense is expected but DeMeester said releasing those findings in their entirety to the prosecution is a violation of his client’s right against self-incrimination.

“The analogy I draw is that the prosecution doesn’t get to interview the defendant just in case he might testify,” DeMeester said.

The decision to release the information but allow it to be challenged is splitting the baby down the middle, according to both sides.

In his petition, DeMeester asks that the results of the mental health examination be sealed from the prosecution until its case is over and the defense confirms its intent to introduce the information as part of its case.

By reviewing the decision, the state Supreme Court won’t hold up the trial. A date has yet to be set and Giannini said he does not anticipate one being picked any time in the near future. One reason for the recent delay was the joining of the two men’s cases; Morales was apprehended and extradited from the East Coast just as Maldonado was previously beginning trial. The new co-defendant and consolidation leaves Morales’ attorney needing time to get up to speed, Giannini said.

Yesterday’s request is just the latest twist in a case that is nearing a decade long. Alba was an acquaintance of Maldonado and Morales whose fatally stabbed body was stashed in a storage area of the Westlake Apartments in Daly City. Maldonado and

Morales were eyed as suspects but fled before either were arrested.

In 2007, a year after Daly City police reopened the case, Maldonado was identified by a friend who said he confessed to the killing and had a “trophy photograph” of Morales standing over the body. Authorities extradited Maldonado from Florida and two years later was being tried when Morales was apprehended.

On Oct. 12, 2009, New York state troopers pulled a car over on suspicion of driving while under the influence. The driver gave a false name but was later identified through fingerprints as Morales.  

Both Maldonado and Morales remain in custody on no-bail status.