SF Sheriff’s Trial On Hold; Appeals Court To Decide On Key Evidence

(UPDATE: The trial judge opted to resume jury selection on Wednesday despite Tuesday afternoon’s stay issued by an appeals court. The District Attorney’s Office said the judge’s action puts him at odds with the three-judge appeals panel, but the trial judge said he doesn’t interperate the higher court ruling the same as the lawyers in the case do.)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — A state appeals court put jury selection in the domestic violence trial of San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi on hold Tuesday as it considered whether his wife’s conversation with her neighbor constituted “attorney-client privilege,” CBS 5 reported.

The statements made by Eliana Lopez to neighbor Ivory Madison, who happens to be a law school graduate but has never passed the bar exam or practiced law, is a key piece of evidence in the prosecution’s case against Mirkarimi. Video shot by Madison clearly shows bruises on Lopez’s arm.

Late Tuesday afternoon, a three-judge appeals panel ordered a stay in the case — postponing jury selection until the merits of the privilege issue are resolved by the court.

Paula Canny, Lopez’s attorney, said she wants the video and all evidence related to the neighbor thrown out because Lopez believed she was speaking in confidence to an attorney when she showed the bruises and tearfully blamed her husband.

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“On Madison’s web site she posted ‘jurisdoctor – trained as an attorney.’ And any reasonable person would think that that’s what the person is – an attorney,” Canny maintained. “In Venezuela, where my client is from, to become an attorney you go to law school.”

The trial judge has already said that since Lopez is not the one on trial, he doesn’t believe that she can claim attorney-client privilege.

Rory Little, CBS 5’s legal analyst, said the appellate judges will have to consider one main factor to arrive at a determination as to whether the statements made to the neighbor are admissible during the trial.

“Even if she thought she was an attorney, did she approach the attorney for legal advice? You have to be approaching them for legal advice,” Little explained. “If she’s just saying I want to talk to a friend, I want my neighbor to videotape me to preserve some evidence, that’s not an attorney-client privilege.”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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