SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Murder charges against a South Bay man and his brother in a 1989 cold case in which the man’s wife was found strangled and wrapped in a quilt have been dismissed over an affair betweeen the lead prosecutor and a lab technician who was one of the main prosecution witnesses.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office Tuesday dismissed charges against David Zimmer, 66, and Robert Zimmer, 70, in the strangulation death of David’s estranged wife Cathy Zimmer, whose body was found wrapped in a quilt in her car parked at San Jose International Airport on March 10, 1989.
The brothers were set free Tuesday following dismissal of the charges filed charges earlier this year.
Deputy District Attorney Ted Kajani and DNA lab technician Amanda Cardenas were reassigned to other duties after Kajani came forward to acknowledge their secret relationship in August.
Kajani had alleged that DNA found on the victim’s clothing was linked to her husband’s brother, Robert Zimmer. He also alleged that David and Cathy Zimmer were having marital problems at the time and that David Zimmer stood to benefit from a life insurance policy he took out on his estranged wife.
Assistant District Attorney Marc Buller said in a statement that “prosecutors will now reassess the case” and that murder charges could be filed again in the future.
Buller also said the office reevaluated its case against the Zimmers not only because of the affair but also because Kajani “failed to provide evidence to the defense in a proper manner.” It was revealed last week that the DA’s office had failed to turn over nearly 10,000 pages of evidence to the defense as required by law.
District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement “We offer our deepest apologies to the family of the victim, but based on the totality of the circumstances, we simply cannot proceed without taking the time to reexamine and reevaluate the case to ensure we have not violated the rights of the accused, or compromised the integrity of the criminal justice system.”
David Zimmer’s attorney Michael Cardoza said the case was fabricated from the start. “He was an innocent man that was arrested because of an overzealous young district attorney that looked at evidence and interpreted it in the wrong way,” said Cardoza.
Legal analyst Steve Clark told KPIX 5 it was rare for such a high-profile murder case to implode in this manner. “This is something that is very much an embarrassment,” said Clark. “But it’s also a tragedy for people who may have been in jail wrongfully, but also for a victim’s family looking for answers.”
The district attorney’s office refused to discuss any discplinary actions against Kajani or Cardenas. Both are still employed by the county.