Judge will make important ruling in murder trial
A year after the crime and less than two months before the Nov. 12 trial date, forensic results remain unfinished and prosecutors remain undecided whether to file death penalty charges in the case of Lisa Platz.
Platz faces life in prison without parole or the death penalty if she is convicted of first degree murder in the death of her daughter, Rebbeca Aramburo, at a South Lake Tahoe campground on Sept. 21, 2001.
Platz and attorneys met at El Dorado County Superior Court on Thursday to hear an Aug. 9 motion filed by the defense.
The defense motion requested information believed to be held by the prosecution.
Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe appeared to be on the defensive when Judge Jerald Lasarow sided with the defense in that all information should be shared.
“We believe in full disclosure,” Uthe said. “It’s part of our view, part of our job.”
Uthe was substituting for District Attorney Gary Lacy, who was attending a budget meeting with the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors.
For his part, Uthe assured Lasarow that all information belonging to the prosecution is being shared.
“As of right now, this is a death penalty case,” Lasarow said. “The Supreme Court will look at it and (without) proper disclosure that could go to her, can cause a reversal.
“This is an example of somebody not being the captain of their ship.”
Platz’s attorney, Richard Meyer, head public defender for the county, filed the August motion with a list of several requests.
They included field notes and audio transcriptions from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The FBI handled negotiations during a nine-hour standoff when Platz and James Csucsai were found inside a tent with Platz’s 9-year-old daughter, Rebbeca, at Campground by the Lake on Sept. 21.
Authorities rushed the blood splashed tent only to find Rebbeca dead with her throat cut and the two adults suffering from alleged self-inflicted knife wounds.
It is not known if either Platz or Csucsai was the one to cut Rebbeca’s throat.
Csucsai committed suicide in April when he reportedly hung himself in his El Dorado County jail cell with a bedspread. Platz now faces first degree murder with special circumstances and kidnapping with use of a weapon.
Platz appeared in court in her usual black shirt and khaki pants. Her face was pale and she did not speak much. Her brown hair, highlighted at the end, was arranged in a ponytail.
The death penalty decision falls on Lacy’s shoulders. It is believed that he will make his decision after the completion of DNA and blood test results from the Department of Justice in Sacramento.
Meyer also filed requests to obtain e-mails sent by Csucsai to his brother and sister before Sept. 21, 2001. FBI officials in Seattle reportedly had a warrant by a grand jury to search Csucsai’s e-mail accounts.
Meyer said in Thursday’s court proceeding he had about 350 pages of FBI reports.
Uthe told the judge he does not have the power to demand information from federal authorities. All he can submit are polite requests, Uthe said.
Also requested by the defense were copies of Csucsai’s suicide notes, written in pencil, and criminal history of potential witnesses.
But the key information Meyer is still waiting to get his hands on are the forensic results, given to the Department of Justice in January and reportedly due in about two weeks.
Meyer will send the evidence — clothes from the three involved with DNA and blood splatter — to his experts for analysis after the Department of Justice results are released. He expects the test to take six weeks and finish the first week of November, a week before trial.
So far, DNA results have been completed on four knives.
“I don’t know how well Nov. 12 is looking,” Meyer told Lasarow.
Lasarow issued a meet and conference order for Lacy and Meyer to develop a jury questionnaire.
The two attorneys are scheduled to meet today at 1:30 p.m. in civil court to hear a motion filed by the defense to lower the kidnapping with special circumstances charge. If the motion is successful, the kidnapping would become a child stealing charge, Uthe said.
Uthe expects the side the ruling does not favor will file an appeal.
“The ruling is going to be one of the most significant events of this case,” Uthe said.
On 8 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, a hearing will be held to rule on the discovery motions and get the status of the forensic results.
— Contact William Ferchland at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A flash flood watch has been issued for the Lake Tahoe Basin.