Ruling on murder case looms
A Nevada County Superior Court Judge will review statements from accused killer Lauren Hayes before he rules on her attorney’s motion to dismiss the murder charge against her.
In day two of an extended hearing addressing the public defender’s push to dismiss allegations against Hayes, Nevada County Superior Court Judge John Darlington was presented with a thick pile of Hayes’ transcribed statements from interviews with sheriff’s investigators in the days following the Sept. 5, 2003, murder of Lawrence Leffingwell.
The statements include her account of what happened at the murder scene, Anderson said, and her explanation for her involvement.
Some testimony, Anderson said, was recorded with deputies present a year after the murder.
Leffingwell was found shot in the back of the neck and laying partially inside his Cadillac at Edward’s Crossing near the Yuba River in Nevada City.
Hayes admitted to being present during the shooting but pleaded innocent Sept. 24, 2003. She implicated Cedar Ridge resident Joshua Everton as the shooter, but investigators say the evidence points to Hayes as the killer.
In Thursday’s hearing, Anderson accused sheriff’s and California Department of Justice investigators of “wanton disregard” in their processing of the crime scene and preservation of evidence that could have exonerated his client.
He said investigators contaminated or ignored potentially exculpatory evidence including possible footprints or tire marks at the scene, failed to process items from Leffingwell’s Cadillac including a pay stub and a jacket, and left Leffingwell’s car exposed to the elements without a driver’s side window for several months.
“Any lack of effort resulting in the denial of evidence is denial of due process,” he said. “If a defendant is denied a valid defense, there’s no justice in the system.”
Assistant District Attorney Ron Wolfson said Anderson’s claims were based purely on speculation.
“We need to look at the law and not what could have been,” Wolfson said.
He referred to testimony by Department of Justice criminologists that it is not possible or reasonable to collect and preserve everything at a crime scene, but instead, investigators take what they think they’ll need for the investigation.
“Everything can’t be collected in every investigation,” Wolfson said. “There was no showing made that any evidence that would have been gathered would have been exculpatory or inculpatory.”
The hearing is scheduled to resume at 1:30 p.m. today in Nevada County Superior Court.
To contact staff writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4236.
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