Judge weighs release of docs in cold case murders
SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (AP) – A judge is considering whether to make public a document that summarizes in detail the evidence prosecutors have against a man charged with four cold-case murders in Northern California.
Marin County Superior Court Judge Andrew Sweet said Wednesday he would issue his decision in writing after a coalition of media groups led by The Associated Press moved to unseal the document, known as a probable cause statement.
Joseph Naso, 77, is representing himself in what could be a capital case and said Wednesday he wanted the document to remained sealed.
He is accused of killing four women in the 1970s and 1990s who had matching initials for their first and last names: Carmen Colon, Roxene Roggasch, Pamela Parsons and Tracy Tafoya. Investigators elsewhere in the country are reviewing other cold cases for similarities.
Naso is scheduled to enter a plea Friday.
Following a warrantless arrest, prosecutors filed the probable cause statement to allow Naso to be detained while trial is pending.
Prosecutors argued the document was not a court record, partly because it could include hearsay and other statements not usually admissible in court.
Marin County Deputy District Attorney Dori Ahana said the document was filed ex parte, meaning it did not require input from the defendant or anyone else, just the judge.
“The normal rules of evidence don’t apply here,” she said.
But the media groups argued that the document was filed during an open court hearing, making it a public record.
“It’s not a secret proceeding,” said Duffy Carolan, the media coalition’s attorney. “The public should have the right of access to documents that form a basis of a court’s decision.”
“Everything about this process … suggests that everything submitted by the government, who has the burden of proof, is a court record,” she said.
Naso has received more than 5,600 pages of evidence that he is viewing on a computer in the Marin County Jail, and prosecutors say they will soon deliver more than 7,000 more pages.
The district attorney has also requested handwriting samples from Naso.