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Pasadena police chief vows investigation into cause of mistrial

February 07, 2013

Pasadena Police Chief Phil Sanchez on Thursday said he will initiate an investigation into the police conduct that resulted in the declaration of a mistrial in a murder case.

Sanchez noted that L.A. Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler’s finding earlier in the day that the two officers involved in the murder investigation committed “egregious errors” was not a determination that they intentionally violated due process rights.

Still, he said, “that does not relieve my responsibility for looking at the performance of the officers and whether they performed poorly or didn’t follow established rules or polices. I will investigate those allegations.”

In granting the defense's motion for a mistrial, Fidler said he was doing so "not because what the prosecution did or didn't do, but because what the police did or didn't do."

The investigation will be the second probe involving actions by Pasadena police Officer Kevin Okamoto, who was also accused of hiding evidence in a separate case last year. 

The first investigation is being conducted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Internal Affairs Bureau and remains open, Sanchez said.

Sanchez relied on sheriff’s investigators “because of the sensitivity of the investigation and not wanting stakeholders to be concerned about influencing it.”

In the current case, defense attorney Andrew Stein claims Okamoto and Det. William Broghamer failed to provide attorneys with evidence that favored his client Jerrell Sanford, who is accused of being the getaway driver in a fatal 2007 drive-by shooting of Shawn Baptiste in Pasadena.

Okamoto and Broghamer failed to disclose an interview with a woman who initially said someone else, not Sanford, was involved.

Last year, defense attorney Michael Kraut accused Okamoto of concealing witness statements that favored his client, Edward Damas, who was accused of battery in a 2009 fight outside a restaurant in Old Pasadena.

Sanchez said Okamoto was placed on paid administrative leave pending a resolution of those claims but returned to work last month after a judge’s ruling in the battery case. That judge found that while Okamoto’s performance “was not stellar, it did not amount to discovery or due process rights violations,” Sanchez said.

Damas ended up pleading to a misdemeanor charge.

[Updated 5:10 p.m.: Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck said Thursday that due to Fidler’s ruling, Okamoto will be placed back on paid administrative leave and Broghamer will be temporarily reassigned to other duties.]

Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said Thursday that prosecutors had not yet decided whether to start over on a new trial or drop the case.

-- Joe Piasecki and Kristen Lepore, Times Community News

Follow Joe Piasecki on Twitter: @joepiasecki

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