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A Santa Clara judge is expected to rule Monday on an unusual attempt by prosecutors to bounce a public defender off a death penalty case. The district attorney’s office says that Charles Gillan, a deputy public defender, erred in helping his accused cop-killer client, and his father, with paperwork in a parallel wrongful death suit filed by the victim’s family. Gillan has said that all he did was some “clerical stuff,” explaining he “helped him fill out paperwork to prevent a default judgment so he knew what his obligations were.” But prosecutors say Gillan created a conflict by representing the father, whose testimony they say is crucial in the case. And they note that Gillan’s client, Deshawn Campbell, has refused to waive the potential conflict. That has the DA’s office suspecting a set-up. “We don’t want cases lost on appeal,” says Assistant DA Karyn Sinunu. “When we saw this conflict, we were worried.” Deshawn Campbell is charged with gunning down San Jose Police Officer Jeffrey Fontana during a routine traffic stop two years ago. Prosecutors have no eyewitnesses and are relying on circumstantial evidence. They say Campbell’s father, Robert, is crucial because he loaned Deshawn his car the night of the killing and provided him access to a gun. Deputy DA Lane Liroff, who is trying the case, wants Deshawn Campbell to either waive the conflict or find himself a new lawyer. So far, he’s refused to waive the conflict, but he told an independent court-appointed lawyer he wants to keep Gillan as his attorney. The defendant, Sinunu says, is “saying basically he wants to have an appealable issue by not waiving conflict. He wants to have his cake and eat it too.” But Gillan says there’s no dispute about that part of Robert’s testimony, and says no conflict exists. In court papers, Gillan said that all he did was review some civil discovery and invoke privilege when he saw a question that infringed on his client’s rights. He also said the PD’s office is authorized to handle aspects of civil suits that relate to the defense of indigent clients. “In the Government Code, the Public Defender’s office is authorized to represent people in civil matters if there is a determination made the suit is brought just to harass,” Gillan said. “The reason for bringing this suit is the Fontanas think they are entitled to a default judgment, even if there is no money to be had. They are bringing this suit to harass Robert Campbell Sr.” Gillan also said the office looked first for a private lawyer to represent his client’s family pro bono but couldn’t find one. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Marcel Poché is expected to rule on the prosecution motion Monday.

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