Starr issues statement on alleged forgeries in
By Julia Cheever, Bay City News Service
February 14, 2006
Law school dean and former independent counsel Kenneth Starr,
who is seeking clemency for a condemned inmate, said today he
is treating allegations of forged documents "with utmost
seriousness," but said the central issue is the prisoner's
plea for mercy.
Starr, dean of Pepperdine University Law School in Malibu, last
month joined lawyers seeking clemency from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
for Michael Morales, who is scheduled to be executed on Feb. 21
for the murder of a 17-year-old Lodi girl in 1981.
On Monday, in the wake of prosecutors' allegations of forgery,
the defense attorneys announced they are withdrawing five purported
jury declarations and other documents prepared by defense investigator
The allegedly forged documents included purported statements
from five trial jurors supposedly supporting clemency and from
one witness supposedly recanting her testimony.
Starr said, "It would be profoundly unjust for the wrongdoing
- if there was wrongdoing - on the part of a single investigator
much less jeopardize, the plea for mercy." Starr said, "We
are taking the allegations of falsity with utmost seriousness
and will continue to do so."
Starr said defense attorneys are investigating the allegations
but said they urge the governor to continue to focus on what Starr
called a "compelling case for clemency."
Starr said that when he joined the clemency team, "I became
convinced - and still am - that Michael Morales, having accepted
responsibility for his crime that tragically took the life of
Terri Winchell, deserves a life sentence without parole in order
to achieve justice."
The clemency attorneys also contend that Morales was unjustly
given a death sentence in his 1983 trial on the basis of allegedly
false testimony by a jailhouse informant who was a key prosecution
Starr's statement was his first comment on the forgery allegations.
He was out of town on Friday when San Joaquin County prosecutors
charged that the jury declarations were forged and on Monday when
the defense attorneys announced they were withdrawing the disputed
documents from the clemency petition and from an appeal in the
state Supreme Court.
Starr, 59, formerly served as a federal appeals court judge,
as U.S. solicitor general and as the independent counsel whose
investigation led to the impeachment of former President Bill
Prosecutors have argued in papers submitted to the governor and
the state high court that Morales deserves the death penalty because
his murder and rape of Winchell were brutal and because the defense
claims have been repeatedly rejected by state and federal courts.
Prosecutors and state attorneys also contend the alleged forgeries
undercut the credibility of the defense attorneys.
Supervising Deputy California Attorney General Keith Borjon told
the state Supreme Court in a brief on Sunday, "With just
one week to go before the execution, this court has no way of
knowing how many of the other declarations and exhibits are forgeries.
"There can be no defense of inadvertence or mistake, and
the calculated intent to deceive is unmistakable," Borjon
charged in the brief.
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