State agents conduct search in probe of Morales
Department of Corrections photo
By Julia Cheever, Bay City News Service
November 18, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - A spokesman for California Attorney
General Bill Lockyer said Friday state agents searched a San Francisco
apartment on Thursday in a probe of a defense investigator suspected
of forging documents in four death penalty cases.
Spokesman Nathan Barankin said state Justice Department agents
executed a search warrant signed by a Sacramento County Superior
Court judge for a search of an apartment believed to be a residence
of investigator Kathleen Culhane, 39.
Culhane's attorney, Stuart Hanlon, was not immediately available
Allegations that Culhane fabricated documents first surfaced
in February when San Joaquin County prosecutors accused Culhane
of submitting false declarations from five former jurors in the
case of inmate Michael Morales, who was scheduled to be executed
for the 1981 murder of a 17-year-old Lodi girl.
Morales's execution was postponed indefinitely on Feb. 21, the
day he was to be put to death, because of an unrelated appeal
in which he is challenging the state's lethal injection procedures.
An affidavit filed by Justice Department Special Agent John Porbanic
in support of the search warrant alleges that Culhane submitted
a total of 23 false declarations, or sworn statements, in four
death penalty cases, including Morales's, between 2003 and 2006.
The affidavit says defense attorneys have withdrawn the declarations
in the four cases, all of which are still on appeal.
The search warrant indicates that state attorneys are gathering
evidence for a possible criminal prosecution.
But Barankin said no charges have been filed and no arrests have
been made. He said, "Our investigation remains ongoing."
The affidavit says the warrant request was filed in Sacramento
County Superior Court because the Morales declarations were submitted
to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Sacramento in a bid for clemency
and any future criminal charges would be filed there.
It says that felony crimes that could be charged in the case
are forgery, offering false documents and perjury.
The allegedly fabricated declarations in the four cases were
from former jurors, investigators, court interpreters and other
parties, in addition to an allegedly false declaration from Culhane
herself in which she denied she had forged a statement from a
The affidavit says that all the parties other than Culhane have
denied signing the statements.
Culhane worked as an investigator for the San Francisco-based
Habeas Corpus Resource Center, which represents indigent Death
Row inmates in their appeals, from 2001 to 2005.
The affidavit alleges that Culhane appears to have "engaged
in a continuing enterprise of defrauding her employers and the
courts when employed to obtain declarations."
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.