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SAN JOSE — Santa Clara prosecutor Lane Liroff rested his death penalty case Monday against two L.A. gangsters on trial for gunning down a San Jose man, but not before defense attorneys took their final shots at the prosecution’s key witness. Defense attorneys John Vaughn and John Breidenthal hammered prosecution witness Ty Pham with questions about his prior convictions, crimes he committed in prison and his work as an informant in 15 other cases. But Vaughn and Breidenthal were barred from asking Pham about what they had described as their “smoking gun.” On Friday, Judge Alden Danner refused to allow them to introduce L.A. County sheriff’s reports that indicated Pham had masterminded a ransom plot in jail and then snitched about it to police before it happened. Pham testified last week that he heard defendants Pov Touch and Van Hang Heang confess to the 1998 killing of 64-year-old Dong Dinh, whose son was testifying against Asian Boyz gang members on trial in L.A. In Monday’s questioning, Breidenthal tried to plant the idea that Pham, whose Three Strikes sentence means he isn’t eligible for parole until 2026, may have blown his chances for a sentence reduction when he stole $400 from another inmate and tried to escape from prison. According to Pham, Liroff has only agreed to write a letter to the parole board, move him to a different prison and safeguard him and his family. Early on, though, Pham had insisted he would only help prosecutors in exchange for the removal of his third strike conviction. “You lost your opportunity to have your strike struck because of your criminal conduct,” Breidenthal said to Pham. Pham admitted to stealing the cash, but repeatedly denied attempting to escape and insisted there was never a deal for the third strike. Breidenthal also showed a videotape of two L.A. sheriff’s deputies interviewing Pham nearly a year before the 1998 murder. Pham had testified earlier that the sheriff’s gang unit transferred him from prison to jail so he could provide information on gang activity. On the tape, Pham talked about a series of crimes and gang members. At one point, a sheriff’s deputy off camera interrupted, “This is all over the board.” The off-screen deputy explained that they were seeking concrete information on a crime in the works. “What we need you to do is tie it up. That way we can say, ‘Yep, Ty told us it would happen and it happened,’ so we can tell a judge. It carries a lot of weight.” “Do you recall what the deputies instructed you to do?” asked Breidenthal after showing the jury the video. “Yes,” said Pham. “You weren’t able to do that, were you?” Breidenthal asked. “That’s why you got desperate. That’s why you tried to escape.” “That’s not me,” Pham said. Because of a ruling Danner made Friday, Breidenthal and Vaughn couldn’t present evidence that they say shows that Pham tried to follow the deputy’s suggestion and report a crime in the planning stages. Outside the jury’s presence Friday, Breidenthal and Vaughn argued that sheriff’s reports showed that Pham orchestrated a kidnapping and ransom plot and then informed on the other participants. The defense lawyers say Pham wasn’t prosecuted for that and other crimes committed in custody. “Ty Pham is the one who created the whole kidnap and ransom incident to curry favor with law enforcement to strike a third strike,” Breidenthal argued Friday, adding that he believed Pham wasn’t prosecuted for those crimes in exchange for his testimony in this case. “Ty Pham understands the game,” Breidenthal said. “The jury has a right to know this is the type of conduct Ty Pham engages in to get benefits.” “This is the first time in my professional career as a criminal defense attorney that I have set out to prove a crime,” said Vaughn during Friday’s arguments. “And the shocking thing is, I did.” But Danner excluded the kidnap and ransom evidence, saying it would be too time-consuming and confusing. Vaughn and Breidenthal will start calling defense witnesses Thursday.

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