Siskiyou County - Articles
Charges against Pippin stand in double homicide
YREKA - A motion to dismiss all charges against Mount Shasta double homicide suspect Gabriel Pippin failed Friday, but not before witnesses exposed a plan to record conversations of inmates inside the Siskiyou County Jail that backfired when a confidential conversation between Pippin and his lawyer was caught on tape.
Pippin has been held in the Siskiyou County Jail without bail since his arrest in June 2002 on charges of murdering Sasha Marino and Jimmy Jackson at the Mount Shasta home of Marino's grandparents. Pippin is the father of Marino's child and reportedly became jealous earlier in the day when he saw Marino with Jackson at a softball game.
Testimony at a preliminary hearing revealed Pippin allegedly followed the couple back to the home of Marino's grandparents and gunned them down in the front yard. Jackson was pronounced dead at the scene and Marino died shortly after her arrival at a Mount Shasta hospital with multiple gunshot wounds.
Pippin's lawyer, Aaron Williams of Redding, filed a motion to dismiss all charges against Pippin when it was learned that a conversation between Pippin and Yreka lawyer William Cushman was taped in one of the visiting rooms at the jail. Cushman is representing Pippin in a wrongful death case brought by Marino's family and is not involved in Pippin's criminal defense.
William's motion claimed that recording confidential communications between a lawyer and an inmate is a violation of Pippin's constitutional rights, which warranted a dismissal of the criminal charges against him.
Assistant District Attorney Tim Pappas, who is prosecuting Pippin, contends that the California Supreme Court has ruled that inmates in a correctional facility have no right to privacy and may be recorded without their consent at any place in the facility. However, to record an inmate in a conversation with his lawyer is a felony.
Testimony at last week's hearing indicated Deputy District Attorney Joe Allison and Deputy District Attorney Christine Chenevert met with detectives almost daily in early November 2003 to implement a plan to record visitors to seven people charged with the 2000 murder of K.C. Halliday. There is no connection with the Halliday murder suspects and Pippin. Allison and Chenevert are the attorneys prosecuting that Halliday case.
A State Department of Justice technician and a technician with the sheriff's office completed the setup of a taping system inside one of the visiting rooms at the jail just one day prior to the arrest of all seven suspects in the Halliday case.
Sheriff's Lt. John Villani, the administrative lieutenant at the jail, testified that a memo was sent to sergeants inside the jail, informing them of which suspects were the target of the taping with outside visitors. However, Villani said to keep those inmates from becoming suspicious at being singled out as the only people being taped, the memo said all high-risk suspects would be subject to taping, which included Pippin.
Villani said he thought the jail's only involvement was to facilitate detectives and prosecutors in the taping of the inmates and jail personnel would not be involved in any way with the actual taping. However, as it turned out, jail personnel were required to turn the recording equipment on at the beginning of visiting hours and turn it off at the end, according to the testimony of the technician who installed the equipment.
Two days after the arrest of Terra Stanley, one of the seven people charged in the Halliday homicide case, Cushman came to the jail to see her. When his visit with Stanley was over, he asked to see Pippin. A jail employee testified that he knew Cushman was a lawyer and was not comfortable about taking Pippin into a visiting room that was bugged, so he contacted Detective Daryl Lemos, who was in the building reviewing conversations that had already been recorded in the Halliday case. When the employee asked Lemos what to do, Lemos testified he told the employee he was not familiar with the equipment and, "not to touch the system. If it was running, to leave it running," and to call the technician who installed it.
Lemos admitted he knew taping an inmate and his attorney was a felony, but said it was not his job to tell the jail employee what to do. "It is your job as a peace officer to see that the law is not broken," Pippin's lawyer countered. When faced with the choice of breaking the machine or breaking the law, Williams said Lemos chose to tell the jail employee, "don't mess with the system" and the conversation between Cushman and Pippin was recorded.
The jail employee reported to Jail Commander Julie Hutchens what had happened the following morning and a meeting was called with detectives, jail administration and Deputy D.A. Chenevert to figure out what to do. Lt. Villani suggested sealing the tape "as is" in an envelope to make sure the conversation was not listened to, but Villani said Chenevert insisted on segregating out the portion of the tape that was confidential from the rest of the recording so that detectives could continue to work the Halliday homicide case, and "everyone went that way," Villani said.
The portion of the tape with Cushman speaking with Stanley and Pippin was segregated out and placed on a CD and given to Pappas, who turned it over to the court. The master tape was placed in a sealed envelope and logged into evidence at the sheriff's department where it remains. Pappas then notified Pippin's lawyer of what happened and Williams filed a motion to dismiss.
"We know it was the D.A.'s office that requested the taping," Williams told the judge Friday, "and we know the taping was intentional." Williams accused Deputy D.A. Chenevert of being the one who insisted on making the edited version of the tape and giving it to Pappas. Chenevert was also accused of questioning the people doing the editing about the contents of the tape. Witnesses testified that aside from small snippets of the conversation that were overheard during copying, the tape has never been listened to by anyone.
"We have an intentional taping, intentional listening, intentional broadcasting its contents, and then handing it over to the D.A.," Williams said.
Since Pippin is charged in a double homicide case, Williams acknowledged it would be difficult to convince a judge to dismiss the charges against him, "but we have presented everything we need to meet that burden," Williams said.
Pappas argued that a taping that started off innocently enough had turned into a big problem when a conversation between an attorney and his client was caught on tape. But in spite of that, Pappas said the appropriate remedy was not a dismissal. Pappas suggested the appropriate thing to do would be for the trial judge to exclude any evidence gathered after Nov. 9, the date of the taping, unless the prosecution could show that information had come from a source other than the tape.
Judge John Letton agreed with Pappas and denied Williams' request for a dismissal of the charges against Pippin. "These were intentional tapings, there is no doubt about it," the judge said. "There may have been direction that was clear to those giving it, but it is clear to me there was a whole lot of hub-bub going on at that time and the jail staff was left on their own. A little bit of common sense and respect for constitutional principles might have prevented this whole catastrophe," the judge said.
After denying Williams' request for a dismissal, Judge Letton decided
both sides should have a say in what should happen next. Williams initially
declined the offer, saying the only remedy he was interested in was a dismissal,
but after a brief session in the judge's chambers he changed his mind on
that. Both attorneys will be returning to court in August when the judge
will provide guidelines on how the trial will be handled, in light of the
taping incident at the jail.