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A unanimous California Supreme Court asked the state Wednesday to defend a death judgment won by a deputy attorney general who allegedly wooed a juror with booze and cash in an effort to buy her vote. The court’s order to show cause came in the habeas corpus case of Curtis Floyd Price, sentenced on July 10, 1986, for the 1983 murders of Richard Barnes and Elizabeth Hickey. Barnes was found shot to death on Feb. 13 in his home in Temple City, about 15 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Hickey was found dead six days later at her home in Eureka. Price was sentenced to 25-years-to-life for the Barnes killing, but received death for Hickey’s murder. Wednesday’s court order asks the director of the Department of Corrections to respond by Jan. 16. In the habeas petition, Price’s lawyers — Greenbrae solo practitioner Karen Sorensen and Decatur, Ga., solo Robert McGlasson II — argued that the deputy attorney general prosecuting Price tried to influence the juror’s vote while the Humboldt County trial was under way. According to a filing by Price’s lawyers, prosecutor Ronald Bass allegedly showed up at Eureka’s Waterfront bar and restaurant — where juror Zetta Southworth worked as a cook. The lawyers contend that bartender Robert McConkey was asked by Bass to deliver drinks and $30 in cash to Southworth in the kitchen, “along with a message that this was for a guilty verdict on the Price case.” Sorensen and McGlasson say the drinks were delivered, and Southworth took the cash. “One of the lead prosecutors in the case,” the two wrote, “had an inappropriate interaction with a member of the jury that was obviously designed to curry favor with her and against the defendant by giving her alcohol and money, knowing full well she was an alcoholic with criminal convictions for alcohol-related offenses. “There can be no clearer example,” they continued, “of improper and unlawful contact by a prosecutor with a juror in a criminal case.” The state denies the allegations and points out that the bartender — calling himself a chronic alcoholic — said in writing that he fabricated the entire story. In addition, he said he had been drinking at the time. “Thus, McConkey’s credibility is nil,” San Francisco-based Deputy AG David Rose wrote in court papers. “Although he perhaps told a yarn about incidents during the trial, he has twice denied the reality of those events, and, at least strongly implied, that the ‘attorney’ to whom he related the story should have been aware that it was not to be taken seriously.” Sorensen counters by arguing that the state’s claim makes no sense. “Read in context,” she wrote, “the only reasonable interpretation of Mr. McConkey’s statements � is that the incident happened, but Mr. McConkey viewed it as a joke, because in his opinion, Mr. Bass was just kidding around.” Sorensen refused to comment Wednesday, saying she doesn’t try her cases in the press. Neither Bass nor Rose could be reached. In addition to voting for the show cause order, Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar was of the opinion that a show cause order should have also been issued regarding Price’s claim of actual innocence to Barnes’ murder. Price’s direct death penalty appeal has already been affirmed. The habeas case is Price on Habeas Corpus, S069685.

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