Sacto 9-1-1
October 2, 2012
Hirschfield defense still can't mention Yolo County prosecution

Seven more witnesses testified about the chain of custody on key evidence in the Richard Joseph HIrschfield murder trial, but the real action in court today took place outside the presence of the jury.

Hirschfield's defense team once again asked to be allowed to present evidence to the Sacramento Superior Court jury that four other people had been charged with the killings of UC Davis students John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves some 32 years ago.

And again, Judge Michael W. Sweet precluded Hirschfield's lawyers from making mention of the Yolo County prosecution. Before the trial began, Sweet denied much of the defense effort to present evidence of third-party culpability in the Dec. 20, 1980, slayings of the 18-year-old college sweethearts.

Yes, the judge said, the defense could put on evidence that investigators looked into other suspects -- David Hunt, his wife Suellen Hunt and former prison buddies Richard Thompson and Douglas Lanier. But the judge said that any reference to Yolo prosecutors having charged the four, in a case that crumbled when DNA testing excluded the members of the so-called "Hunt Group," would only confuse the Hirschfield jury.

Hirschfield, 63, is accused of slashing and bludgeoning Riggins and Gonsalves to death during the course of a sexual assault on the young woman. He faces the death penalty if he is convicted.

Two of the seven witnesses called to the stand today were former Davis police detective Fred P. Turner and one-time Yolo County district attorney's investigator John Haynes. Their testimony today was restricted to their handling of evidence that ultimately produced a DNA profile that prosecutors say matched Hirschfield's, most importantly, a blanket found in Riggins' van that contained four semen stains.

Turner and Haynes were proponents of the theory that led to the Yolo County prosecution of the Hunt Group. Sweet ordered them both back to court Oct. 15, when they will be called as defense witnesses when HIrshfield's lawyers put on their case.

Earlier in the trial, Deputy District Attorney Dawn Bladet sought to have an arrest warrant issued on Turner when he did not respond to a subpoena to appear as a witness in the trial. Sweet issued the warrant Sept. 6, but stayed it pending Turner's court appearance. Bladet asked today that the warrant be recalled.

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