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It looked like an open and shut case. When three government meat inspectors were murdered at the Santos Linguisa Factory four years ago, owner Stuart Alexander was caught on videotape firing the gun. Yet, more than a year after the trial’s opening, People v. Alexander has proved to be like sausage itself: You’d be surprised how much goes into it. On Monday the prosecution began winding down its case against Alexander, the self-proclaimed “Sausage King.” Since defense attorneys do not dispute that their client killed two USDA officials and one state worker, the case revolves around whether Alexander deserves the death penalty. Prosecutors have argued that he planned to have a violent showdown with meat inspectors when they arrived in June 2000. The defense plans to focus on convincing the jury that the slayings resulted from an unexpected burst of rage. While the videotape appears to make the case straightforward, the involvement of federal workers as victims has provided some unexpected twists and has stretched the trial. The U.S. attorney’s office paired up with the Alameda County district attorney to jointly prosecute the case. John “Jack” Laettner, the head of the U.S. attorney’s Oakland office, is on the prosecution team, along with Deputy District Attorney Paul Hora. Laettner, who was deputized by the Alameda County DA for the Alexander case, has played an active role. He made the prosecution’s opening statement, he makes his own objections, and he questions witnesses. From the prosecution’s point of view, the case is exactly what it seems. Prosecutors have argued that Stuart Alexander was a bully who resented government intrusions into the way his nearly 80-year-old company produced its sausage. On the day he opened fire on Jean Hillery, Tom Quadros and Bill Shaline, the inspectors were poised to seize illegally produced meat. The case is “not at all complicated,” Hora said. Defense attorneys say the feds’ involvement has made the trial longer and more expensive. The prosecution team has pooled its financial resources to pad the witness list with pricy experts, they say. “The feds are the ones that are doing the bankrolling and financing of the case,” said Assistant Public Defender Michael Ogul, who is trying the case with Deputy Public Defender Jason Clay. Experts who would not normally testify in county cases are on the prosecution witness list, Ogul said. Instead of using the DA’s in-house video expert, the prosecution brought in an FBI expert to analyze the videotape. The prosecution is also expected to call Park Dietz, a psychiatrist who testified in the trial of convicted murderer Cary Stayner. According to Dietz’s firm Web site, his company has either testified or provided consultant services for a string of high-profile criminal cases, including the Jeffrey Dahmer case, the Columbine High School massacre and the JonBenet Ramsey case. Deitz’s $650 hourly fee would normally be out of the DA’s reach, Ogul said. Hora countered that Alexander sealed his own fate when he decided to murder federal and state inspectors. “By his own actions, he involved two different agencies,” Hora said. Hora also defended the prosecution’s use of experts. While the DA has an in-house expert for video, “We don’t usually get triple murders on video,” he said. It’s unclear if Deitz, who might be used as a rebuttal witness, will be called to testify, Hora added. With the defense yet to make its case, People v. Alexander,139527, has already consumed 14 months. That’s nearly as long as the Riders police misconduct case, the county’s longest criminal trial. While attorneys disagree about why the case has taken more than a year to litigate, both sides agree that the early stages of the case slowed it down. The parties spent months going through pretrial motions before the jury was impaneled. Jury selection took more than two months because the case called for Hovey voir dire, requiring individual questioning of each prospective juror. The prosecution has been calling witnesses for 10 weeks. On Monday, the defense tried to knock out one of the factors in the case that would make Alexander eligible for the death penalty. While the law triggers the death penalty for crimes against state and federally “appointed” officials, meat inspectors aren’t part of that group, Ogul argued. The law was intended for officials directly appointed by the governor or president, he argued. Also on Monday, Hora countered that the law covers the slain meat inspectors. The rule was meant to protect workers who were killed for simply trying to do their jobs. “There is nothing farfetched in the concept whatsoever,” he said. Judge Vernon Nakahara said he would issue a ruling on the question later. Even if Nakahara ruled in favor of the defense, Alexander would still be eligible for the death penalty because his crime involves multiple victims, Laettner said outside of court. After the state case is over, Alexander may face trial in federal court. U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan and officials with the Department of Justice will decide whether to pursue the case, Laettner said. “Right now, we are in state court, and we are vigorously pursuing the death penalty in state court,” Laettner said. During the trial, the defense has tried to show that state inspectors antagonized Alexander �� who has a history of mental problems �� and failed to wait for police assistance during the surprise inspection. If Alexander planned to kill the inspectors, it would not make sense for the factory owner to leave a video camera running, Ogul has said. The defense is scheduled to call its first witness Monday. Defense attorneys would not say whether Alexander would testify.

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