Trial of ‘Golden State Killer’ could last 10 years and cost $20M

A Sacramento judge has ruled that alleged Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo, 73, cannot afford a private defense attorney and will continue to be represented by a public defender. At a hearing on Thursday, December 6th, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Sweet declared that DeAngelo is indigent after reviewing his financial assets, which include several automobiles, a motorcycle and a home in Citrus Heights, the Sacramento suburb where he’s accused of raping several victims.

“It will take an extraordinary amount of resources to litigate the charges in this case,” Sweet said. “He’s not going to have the sufficient means or ability.”

In total, DeAngelo, a former police officer, is facing 13 murder charges and 13 rape-related charges for crimes committed in the 1970s and 1980s across six California counties. Because of the statute of limitations for sexual assault, the rape-related charges have been filed as kidnappings to commit robberies using a gun and knife; those 13 cases are just a fraction of the 50 rapes investigators have long believed were committed by one assailant, who for many years was known as the East Area Rapist (EAR). In 2001, new DNA technology linked the EAR to 12 murders in Southern California between 1979 and 1986. After evading investigators for more than 40 years, DeAngelo was arrested in late April thanks to new familial DNA technology and the use of public genealogy databases that linked him to DNA from the crime scenes. A 13th murder charge was added in August, after “ballistics evidence” allegedly linked DeAngelo to a 1975 murder in Visalia, which is now believed to be DeAngelo’s first kill.

Prosecutors from Contra Costa, Tulare, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Orange counties have agreed to a joint trial effort to be held in Sacramento and led by the city’s District Attorney’s Office. The case — from early motions to the trial itself — is expected to be among the largest in California’s history, lasting as long as 10 years and costing state taxpayers $20 million. However, Sweet warned DeAngelo, who was locked inside a courtroom cage and appeared to have lost weight, that he could be on the hook to pay back the costs at the trial’s conclusion.

The $20 million estimate includes the salaries for the deputy district attorneys who will be trying the case — which taxpayers pay for anyway — as well as DeAngelo’s defense team. Sacramento County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi told local NBC affiliate KCRA that the six counties involved in the case have worked out an “informal agreement” to share some of the financial burdens, including “the cost of their own employees coming to Sacramento and doing the case,” as well as “witness costs, travel fees and those sort of things.” In addition, a new state assembly bill, AB-132, was introduced this week that, if passed, would appropriate state funds “to pay the extraordinary costs for the multijurisdictional prosecution and defense.”

“I’m aware of no other scenario in California where six different counties agreed to prosecute cases in one county,” Grippi said. “There’s 36,000 pages of discovery …. over 2,000 photographs and 200 audio- and videotapes. And, that’s just the first phase of discovery.”

DeAngelo’s public defender, Diane Howard, who has represented him since his arrest, had no comment following the hearing. Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert has not decided whether she will seek the death penalty, nor has DeAngelo entered a plea in the case. The parties are due back in court on April 10th.

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