Under Gascón, Defense Attorneys Serve as Prosecutors

The family of an elderly couple brutally murdered by a habitual criminal in 1996, have asked a Los Angeles County judge to remove the prosecutor in a hearing where double-murderer Samuel Zamudio is seeking to overturn his conviction.  Scott Schwebke of the East Bay Times reports that Diana Teran, the deputy Gascón assigned to the case, was a defense attorney until last April 1, when she went on loan to the DAs office and is still receiving a $218,000 salary from the Public Defender’s Office.  The attorney representing the victims’ family told the court that having a defense attorney serving as a prosecutor presents an “inherent conflict of interest.”

In addition to her salary from the Public Defender’s Office, public records indicate that Teran is receiving $8,311 a month from the District Attorney’s Office.   The petition also notes that another public defender, Shelan Joseph was, until last April, the Deputy Public Defender responsible for all death penalty cases in Los Angeles.  She is now a Deputy District Attorney handling the prosecution of death penalty cases, and has also been assigned to the Zamudio case.  While still in the Public Defender’s Office, Joseph filed a amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief supporting Gascón in a lawsuit brought against him by his own deputies for prohibiting them from following state law on the charging and sentencing of criminals.  As the victim’s motion notes:  “The elected District Attorney has knowingly assigned one deputy public defender and borrowed another public defender employee and assigned them to prosecute this case.”

Gascón’s office has responded that there is nothing irregular with this arrangement.