Posted on Tue, Feb. 27, 2007

Appellate court takes up evidence issue in Harms murder case

Mercury News

Justices of the 6th District Court of Appeal in San Jose heard arguments this morning on whether key evidence in the Jeanine Harms murder case can be admitted at the trial of Maurice Xavier Nasmeh, the 43-year-old Campbell architect charged with killing her in 2001.

Arguments focused on whether police violated their search protocol by seizing Nasmeh's Jeep Grand Cherokee and keeping it too long to search it following Harms' disappearance. The search turned up fiber evidence that authorities said linked Nasmeh to Harms and led to his December, 2004 arrest.

Harms, a 42-year-old Fujitsu employee who lived in Los Gatos, disappeared in July 2001 after a date with Nasmeh, whom she had met for the first time earlier that evening. Police believe he was the last person to see her alive. Her body has never been found.

Amy Haddix, a state deputy attorney general representing the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office, argued that Los Gatos police officers' search and seizure of Nasmeh's car was not unreasonable because they had probable cause to believe it contained evidence of a crime.

Attorney Courtney Shevelson, representing Nasmeh, said police should have limited their search only to items that had been listed in their warrant, which did not include a search for fibers.

The case landed in the 6th District Court of Appeal after the DA's office challenged a Superior Court ruling that police had violated the warrant by keeping Nasmeh's car for more than three weeks. Subsequently, Superior Court Judge Linda Condron barred the crucial fiber evidence found in the car from being used at a future trial.

Condron's ruling threatened to collapse the prosecution's case against Nasmeh.

Nasmeh's attorney, Daniel Jensen of San Jose, filed the original motion to suppress that evidence that went before Condron.

The appellate court is expected to issue a ruling within 90 days.

Nasmeh has been held in Santa Clara County Jail without bail since his December 2004 arrest.

Contact Connie Skipitares at or (408) 920-5647.

2007 and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.