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SAN JOSE — In an effort to bolster the credibility of a jailhouse informant about to take the stand in a death penalty case, a Santa Clara County prosecutor put his boss on the stand Thursday to say that the snitch won’t benefit from any secret deal. Assistant DA Karyn Sinunu testified that Ty Pham, a Three Strikes convict, won’t be getting anything beyond a letter to the parole board in exchange for his testimony against Pov Touch and Van Hang Heang. The two Los Angeles gangsters are accused of traveling to San Jose to kill a 64-year-old man whose son was testifying at trial against fellow Asian Boyz members. “Can a deputy DA like myself,” asked Lane Liroff, who is prosecuting the case, “cut any deal he wants with anyone he wants?” “He or she can’t without approval of an assistant DA,” answered Sinunu, who oversees all homicide prosecutions. “If I cut a secret deal, could I be fired?” Liroff asked. “Yes,” Sinunu said. Lawyers for the two defendants are working to impeach Pham by painting him as a repeat offender who is trying to win himself a sentence reduction with his testimony. In court papers and in their opening statements, Deputy Public Defender John Vaughn and Alternate PD John Breidenthal pointed to statements in which Pham said he expected his third strike would be overturned in exchange for his cooperation. Pham’s testimony may be key because prosecutors have no eyewitnesses or murder weapon to tie Heang and Touch to the killing. Pham told the grand jury that the two men confessed to the murder in jailhouse conversations with him. Sinunu testified Thursday that the DA’s office had told Pham it would do what it could to physically protect him and his family, and would provide a letter to parole authorities outlining his cooperation, but that was it. In answer to Liroff’s questions, she said she didn’t think it “legally possibly to bring someone back to sentence them after 120 days.” During cross-examination, Vaughn asked: “Isn’t it possible for the Board of Prison Terms to write a letter to a sentencing judge?” “I am not familiar with that procedure,” Sinunu said. “Convictions can be overturned. That’s happened in California, right?” asked Vaughn, adding, “Isn’t that why the L.A. district attorney no longer uses jailhouse snitches?” Liroff, visibly agitated, jumped from his chair to object. “May I approach?” he asked as he moved toward the bench. “No, you may not,” Judge Alden Danner snapped, sustaining the objection and, at the insistence of Liroff, instructing the jury to ignore the question. Vaughn continued, “Would you be shocked if I told you I had a tape of an L.A. deputy DA saying he was working with Liroff to overturn the conviction?” Liroff objected, and Sinunu never answered the question. Breidenthal pressed ahead when it was his turn. “Are you aware of any agreements the L.A. DA had with Mr. Pham in this case for his continued cooperation in this case?” “I have never heard of a district attorney giving a favor for cooperation in another DA’s case,” Sinunu answered. “I am not aware of that. It’s not sensical.” Later, Breidenthal asked Sinunu, “Are you aware of any criminal conduct by Pham since your office undertook this prosecution?” “It’s a yes or no question,” Liroff chimed in, before Sinunu could answer. “Could counsel be admonished not to tell his boss what to say?” Breidenthal snapped back. Danner then warned the attorneys to cut the commentary. “Let’s do it in a question-and-answer format,” he told them. “That’s a lot more helpful.” Pham is expected to testify early next week. Meanwhile, two of the prosecution’s corroborating witnesses did Liroff’s case few favors this week. The two witnesses had told the grand jury that they met Touch and Heang when the pair were in town to scout out the San Jose killing. When one was called to the stand earlier in the week, he told jurors he couldn’t remember what had happened. The second witness, Patricio Danceo, waffled in testifying Thursday that he had picked up two men in town from L.A. and had driven them by the victim’s house. At one point, he said that when he told police that story, he was lying. He also said he couldn’t identify Heang and Touch. On cross, Danceo said he had lied to the police and prosecution out of fear. Liroff tried through his redirect to show the jury Danceo was more likely changing his story because he feared the defendants. “Are you lying to please me?” he asked in a soft voice. “Yes,” Danceo said. “Why would you like to please me?” Liroff asked. “Because I am scared right now,” Danceo said. A few minutes later, Liroff asked: “Are you worried that your words could convict two gang members?” “No,” Danceo said.

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