Appeal planned for Platz’s murder conviction
The appeal process for convicted murderer Lisa Platz is finally rolling a year after she last appeared in a South Lake Tahoe courtroom.
Bruce Cohen is fighting Platz’s sentence of life without the possibility of parole for the murder of her 9-year-old daughter. His opening brief is due Aug. 9 to the state court of appeals in Sacramento.
“I am working on it,” Cohen said by telephone in Berkeley. “Right now I’m just sorting out the facts. It’s a very compelling case. I think it has some very strong issues.”
Cohen said he is also juggling four cases where people were sentenced to the death penalty.
In March 2003, an El Dorado County Superior Court jury found Platz guilty of the Sept. 21, 2001, first-degree murder of her daughter, Rebbeca Aramburo.
The defense, led by Public Defender Rick Meyer, tried to place the blame on Platz’s boyfriend, Rick Csucsai, who hanged himself in jail before his case was tried. The couple, wanted for taking Rebbeca from her stepmother in Washington state, were found in a tent at a South Lake Tahoe campground.
When authorities stormed the tent they found Rebbeca dead from knife slashes to the throat.
Like Meyer, Cohen said he will focus on Platz and Csucsai taking Rebbeca in Washington. Meyer argued unsuccessfully to a judge and jury to lower the kidnapping charge to a parental abduction.
According to the felony murder rule, a person can be charged with murder if a death occurs, even accidentally, during another serious crime like kidnapping.
If Cohen can persuade the appeals court that parental abduction is a more adequate charge, then the felony murder rule would not apply. He also will try to switch the case from under Washington law to California law.
Both Platz and Csucsai were armed when they took Rebbeca from the child’s stepmother. According to testimony, Rebbeca looked at her stepmother before running to and hugging Platz.
Cohen said he has met with Platz twice in prison for about five hours each visit. The most recent visit was about a month ago, he said. Platz is serving her sentence at Calipatria State Prison.
“I think she’s a great person,” Cohen said. “She’s doing as well as somebody can do under the circumstances.”
Meyer speaks to Cohen “from time to time” and said he is following his former client’s appeal process.
“I’m looking forward to having the conviction affirmed on appeal,” said Tony Sears, a deputy district attorney who assisted District Attorney Gary Lacy in the case.
– E-mail William Ferchland at email@example.com.