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SAN JOSE — In a few days, a death row inmate’s chances for freedom will boil down to whom Judge Kevin Murphy believes. Will it be former Alameda County prosecutor John “Jack” Quatman, who alleges he colluded with a now-deceased judge to boot Jews from the jury? Or will it be Quatman’s former co-workers, many of whom say he’s a deceitful attorney with a grudge against the DA? If Murphy — the Santa Clara County Superior Court judge appointed by the California Supreme Court to determine whether Quatman is telling the truth — is leaning one way or another, he hasn’t let it show. He has, however, promised to rule quickly. “I recognize how important this case is, and all the issues associated with it,” the normally tight-lipped judge said before Tuesday’s closing arguments, and he reiterated the point after the hearing. Quatman, a deputy district attorney in the office from 1972 to 1998, has testified that the late Alameda County Judge Stanley Golde advised him to excuse three potential jurors with Jewish-sounding last names in the case against Fred Freeman, who was later convicted and sentenced to death. Quatman said Golde told him Jews would never vote for the death penalty. With Quatman’s truthfulness the main issue, Chief Assistant Attorney General George Williamson asked the judge during his closing arguments, “Can you believe him? Has he demonstrated to you that he’s believable?” “Our position is, you can’t trust him,” Williamson told Murphy. For the past week, Williamson has called about a dozen witnesses — mostly current and former colleagues — who have portrayed the graying lawyer as a dishonest and vengeful man who felt exiled by current Alameda County DA Tom Orloff. In a court declaration filed almost two years ago, Quatman asserted that excluding Jews from capital punishment juries was a “common practice” of the DA’s office, a claim Orloff has denied. But Murphy is only charged with deciding if Golde advised Quatman to excuse Jews from the Freeman jury and whether Quatman actually did so. Murphy is expected to rule by next week. Whatever the outcome, the testimony has cast a shadow on the entire DA’s office. Last week, Assistant DA Colton Carmine testified that Quatman taught him how to plant drugs on unfriendly witnesses and taught other attorneys to keep Jews off juries — but Carmine said he never told anybody about it. Another former deputy DA testified last week that Quatman was an alcoholic who passed off cases to attorneys who had little experience. And several witnesses said the DA had no policies for reporting prosecutorial misconduct. “They’re the ones that brought that all up,” Freeman’s attorney, Gary Sowards, pointed out in his closing arguments. “There’s nothing that credibly, reliably leads this court to conclude that what Mr. Quatman said � was anything but the simple truth.” In his closing arguments, Williamson again suggested that Quatman, now in private practice in Whitefish, Mont., was getting revenge against the DA for being transferred off capital cases in 1993 for a less glamorous assignment. Several people have testified that Quatman hated Orloff, who investigated a co-worker’s complaint that led to Quatman’s transfer. Elisabeth Semel, a Boalt Hall School of Law professor and director of the school’s Death Penalty Clinic, said the testimony calls into question other cases that Quatman prosecuted as a DA. “To lay this at the feet of Judge Golde is to miss the point,” Semel said. “The question is, what were prosecutors doing?”

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