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Dismissal bid in John Mark Karr child porn case

By James Lanaras, Bay City News Service

September 25, 2006

SANTA ROSA (BCN) - The attorney for John Mark Karr will ask a Sonoma County Superior Court judge Wednesday to dismiss five misdemeanor child pornography charges because the county Sheriff's Department cannot find Karr's computer on which the images allegedly were found five years ago.

The prosecution, however, said 1,600 additional pornographic images exist and it is still able to try the misdemeanor case.

Karr's attorney Robert Amparan said in Sonoma County Superior Court this afternoon that the defense's computer expert is not able to examine the computer to determine if it contains evidence in Karr's favor.

"We still don't have any piece of relevant information,'' Amparan told Judge Cerena Wong at a settlement conference during which Karr formally rejected an offer to plead guilty to two of the five charges and not serve any additional jail time. Wong ordered the computer evidence be made available for an examination on Tuesday.

The judge, visibly irritated, also ordered Sheriff's Department investigators to be questioned in court Wednesday about the computer believed to have been lost or disposed of when the Sheriff's Department moved into its new building in 2002. Wong hinted it might be in the interest of justice to dismiss the case because the situation regarding the evidence had "dramatically changed.''

Wong said she learned about the missing computer in an article in The Santa Rosa Press Democrat and she criticized the defense and prosecution for making "startling and surprising comments" regarding the missing evidence to the media and not informing the court directly.

Prosecutors and Sheriff's Department officials said last week they have printouts of the five images that allegedly were on the computer and a detailed report of the hard drive's contents.

Sonoma County Chief Deputy District Attorney Joan Risse said she did not learn from the Sheriff's Department that the computer's central processing unit and some floppy discs were missing until Aug. 30. She said a zip drive was found on that date and on Sept. 5, she learned the zip drive contained 1,600 pornographic images.

Risse declined to state after the hearing whether additional charges would be filed against Karr.

The judge also said statements about the evidence against Karr made to her in chambers on Aug. 29 by sheriff's Sgt. Robert Giordano were "very disconcerting.''

Based on that hearing, Wong denied a media request to unseal documents regarding a search warrant of Karr's home and a warrant for his arrest. Wong said she might contact The Press Democrat to see if the newspaper is interested in renewing its bid to unseal the documents.

"I made orders based on statements that are no longer valid,'' Wong said.

What had not changed, the judge said, was her decision to keep Karr, the discredited suspect in the 1996 JonBenet Ramsey murder, in the Sonoma County Jail under $200,000 bail. The trial is scheduled to start Oct. 2.

Karr, 41, waived his right to be present at the court hearing on Wednesday and again on Friday for a trial readiness conference. Wong said he must be present during the trial.

Karr failed to show up for a December 2001 court appearance on the five pornography charges and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

He was returned to Sonoma County from Boulder, Colo. on Sept. 12 after the prosecution dropped the murder charge because Karr's DNA was not found at the Ramsey residence or on the 6-year-old beauty pageant queen who was beaten and strangled.

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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