|Appeals court allows key evidence in Nasmeh murder trial|
|APPEALS PANEL RULES FIBERS CAN BE USED IN TRIAL OF NASMEH|
|By Connie Skipitares|
San Jose Mercury News
|Article Launched:05/24/2007 02:26:16 AM PDT|
The 6th District Court of Appeal on Wednesday sided with Santa Clara County prosecutors in their fight to use key evidence obtained with a search warrant in the case against murder suspect Maurice Nasmeh, accused of killing Jeanine Harms.
Harms, 42, disappeared from her Los Gatos duplex July 27, 2001, after a date with Nasmeh, a 43-year-old Campbell architect. Her body has never been found.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office had challenged a Superior Court ruling in February 2006, which barred fiber evidence found in the cargo area of Nasmeh's vehicle from being used at trial. Without that evidence, the case against Nasmeh could fall apart.
In her ruling, Superior Court Judge Linda Condron said Los Gatos police went beyond the scope of their search warrant in seizing Nasmeh's Jeep Grand Cherokee and keeping it for more than three weeks - too long, she said.
During the search, crime lab technicians extracted fibers from the vehicle's cargo area that authorities said connected Nasmeh to the woman's disappearance and murder. The fibers match those found in a rug that Harms had in her home. Authorities believe that the rug was used in disposing her body.
Prosecutors have argued that police had the right to impound Nasmeh's vehicle because they had probable cause to believe that it contained evidence of a crime and was used to dispose of Harms' body.
The appellate court on Wednesday agreed, saying the delay did not render the search unreasonable. "The police clearly had cause to believe that Nasmeh's vehicle contained evidence related to Harms' disappearance," the decision said.
News of the decision pleased Harms' family, who live in Campbell. "This is the best news ever," said Harms' mother, Georgette Sanchez. "I'm so pleased. Immediately I said, `I guess we're going to trial'."
Defense attorney Dan Jensen of San Jose said he's glad to have the appellate decision behind him. "Maybe we can get on with this and get this trial over with," he said.
He added that he has never placed much importance on the fiber evidence. "It's much ado about nothing."
Jensen said he has not decided if he'll appeal to the California Supreme Court. As of late Wednesday he had not read the entire opinion, nor had he informed Nasmeh of the decision. "It's up to my client about an appeal. That's his decision."
Jensen has 10 days to appeal.
Amy Haddix, the state deputy attorney general who argued the appellate case on behalf of Santa Clara County prosecutors, applauded Wednesday's decision. "We think the court reached the right conclusion," she said.
Defense attorney Courtney Shevelson, who represented Nasmeh at the February appellate hearing, argued that police should have limited their search only to items that had been listed in their warrant, which did not include a search for fibers.
Harms met Nasmeh for a first date at a Campbell bar early on the evening of July 27, 2001. The two ended up at her Los Gatos duplex. Nasmeh was apparently the last person to see her alive.
Nasmeh, who has pleaded not guilty, has been held in Santa Clara County Jail without bail since his December 2004 arrest.
Contact Connie Skipitares at email@example.com or (408) 920-5647.