7.11.2008

Motion to dismiss Douglas-Zanotti charges is inching forward

Motion to dismiss Douglas-Zanotti charges is inching forward

A Humboldt County Superior Court on Thursday set a timeline to consider a defense motion to dismiss involuntary manslaughter charges against former Eureka Police Chief David Douglas and Lt. Tony Zanotti.

The two police commanders were indicted by a criminal grand jury in December 2007 for their decision-making roles in the April 14, 2006 police shooting death of Cheri Lyn Moore. The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges in April.
Douglas and Zanotti's defense team filed two separate motions seeking to dismiss the charges on June 18, arguing that District Attorney Paul Gallegos improperly represented the law to the jury and that he failed to present evidence that would have backed up Douglas and Zanotti's decisions that day.

”In this case, the preceding resulted in a travesty of justice -- a due process violation -- that must be corrected by the court,” one of the motions states.

Prior to Thursday's hearing on the motions, Gallegos and the defense agreed to a timeline for the motions to be heard. They set a July 21 deadline for Gallegos to submit an opposition to the defense motion and a July 31 deadline for the defense to respond.

Oral arguments are scheduled to be heard before Judge John Feeney on a yet-to-be-determined date in August.

Many law enforcement and legal experts have called the indictments handed up to Douglas and Zanotti unprecedented, as they charged the incident's decision makers and not the officers who fired the fatal gunshots.

Moore, who had a history of mental illness and was reportedly distraught over the anniversary of her son's death, brandished a flare gun at officers, threw items out of the window of her second-story apartment and threatened to burn the building down during the more than two-hour standoff.

Officers have said they believed Moore put the flare gun down when the decision was made to storm her apartment, but SWAT team members said Moore pointed the weapon at them when they entered. She was shot nine times.

In making his case to the grand jury, Gallegos argued that Douglas and Zanotti should have obtained a Ramey warrant before the SWAT team entered Moore's apartment and that the commanders acted with criminal negligence by failing to “adequately supervise” police, SWAT team members and the negotiating team during the standoff.

The defense motions filed last month argue that Gallegos knew of expert witnesses who felt the standoff was handled correctly, but didn't call them to testify before the jury, and that Gallegos failed to properly instruct the grand jury on the law.

”There were numerous serious errors and omissions in the prosecutor's instructions to the grand jury in this case; together and separately, they permitted the grand jury to indict on a legally improper basis and on less than probable cause,” one of the motions states.

Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Article Launched: 07/11/2008 01:27:11