Starr accused of sending fake clemency pleas

/ Source: The Associated Press

Lawyers for a death row inmate, including former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr, sent fake letters from jurors asking California’s governor to spare the man’s life, prosecutors said Friday.

The jurors denied they thought Michael Morales deserved clemency because some of the testimony at his trial may have been fabricated, said Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

“We showed each person the declaration on their behalf and they all said they didn’t say that,” Barankin said.

San Joaquin County prosecutor Charles Schultz also said the letters sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week were “untrue” and “pure fiction.”

Starr was not immediately available for comment, said a spokeswoman for the Pepperdine School of Law, where Starr is the dean.

Morales’ other clemency attorney, David Senior from Los Angeles, said he stood by the validity of the six sworn statements he and Starr sent to the governor. He suggested that the jurors might have gotten cold feet when they were contacted by prosecutors in the last two days.

“When the D.A. and A.G. show up with badges and guns and say whatever, they can intimidate a lot of people and that’s their game,” Senior said.

On Friday, the San Joaquin District Attorney’s office sent Schwarzenegger a new batch of sworn statements from five of those jurors saying they not only still supported capital punishment for Morales, but had never spoken with the defense investigator who claimed to have secured their signatures.

Kathleen Culhane, the San Francisco private investigator who Starr and Senior said had interviewed the jurors, declined to comment.

None of the five jurors involved in the legal tug-of-war, whose names were blacked out of the competing clemency documents to protect their privacy, could immediately be reached for comment.

Morales is scheduled to be executed Feb. 21 for the rape and murder of a 17-year-old girl in San Joaquin County 25 years ago.

Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson declined to address the dispute, saying only that the governor, when deciding on clemency, will consider “all the information that is provided to him when making the decision.”