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What seemed to be the last hurdle keeping a Santa Clara County prosecutor from taking a six-year-old cop killing case to trial is turning out to be a monster. Two months after a judge rejected (.pdf) defendant DeShawn Campbell’s claim that he is mentally retarded � and cleared the way for his long-awaited death penalty trial to begin � the defense has discovered that a prosecution witness in the mental retardation hearing made a major mistake: He thought he was testifying about somebody else, another boy named Deshawn. The witness, 66-year-old retired high school teacher Donald Connors, had testified in April that he mentored Campbell, now 28, 10 years ago. According to Connors’ testimony, Campbell’s intelligence was normal: He completed his schoolwork, didn’t appear socially awkward and was intensely committed to producing a rap record. Connors had also testified that Campbell had put together a rap CD by working at a recording studio in exchange for recording time. On Oct. 24, when questioned by a defense investigator at his home, Connors revealed for the first time that he had given false testimony. “When I took the witness stand … I looked over at the defendant and realized it was the wrong young man,” Connors wrote in his declaration. “I did not know this young man and I was never his mentor and he was never my mentee.” Although Connors never revealed his thoughts prior to the follow-up interview, he wrote in a declaration that he had been “troubled” by his error ever since he appeared in court, “but was not sure how to fix this injustice.” He had also read a San Jose Mercury News article that seemed to show that Superior Court Judge Diane Northway had given significant weight to his testimony. On Oct. 25, Campbell’s lawyer, Edward Sousa, filed a motion (.pdf) asking Northway to reopen the case and allow him to present the new evidence. Sousa also asked the judge to sanction Deputy District Attorney Lane Liroff by requesting him to disclose to the defense all of the prosecution’s interviews related to Campbell’s claim of mental retardation. “It’s important and critical to get to the bottom of how and why either false or perjured testimony was presented by the prosecution,” Sousa said Thursday. On Thursday afternoon, however, Northway denied (.pdf) the motion, saying the matters were essentially out of her hands now that Campbell has appealed the retardation issue. The Sixth District Court of Appeal agreed in September to review Northway’s ruling. “This court is without jurisdiction to reopen, or grant a new trial, on the matter,” Northway wrote. Liroff, who was unaware of Connors’ mistake until last week, agrees his revelation is serious and has begun to investigate Connors’ claims. “This is becoming an embarrassment for the sole reason that the system hasn’t been able to deal with this,” Liroff said. Still, Liroff blasted Sousa on Thursday for his latest motion. “What he wants to do is to delay this case because he knows it’s likely that I’m going to retire at the end of next year,” said Liroff, who has previously told The Recorder that he plans to run for judge in June. Sousa called those comments “preposterous.” “This case is not about Lane Liroff. It’s about DeShawn Campbell,” he said. “And as long as the prosecution persists in seeking the death penalty on a man with an IQ of 63 � there are going to be delays in the case.” Sousa stressed that four experts testified that Campbell was mentally retarded. Liroff downplayed the legal arguments of the motion, saying that in order for the defense to obtain a new mental retardation trial on the basis of new evidence, the new evidence would have to undermine the entire structure of the case. In Judge Northway’s August ruling on retardation, she called the defense’s single standardized test for examining Campbell’s adaptive behavior deficits “insufficient and unreliable.” Northway’s August ruling also referred to Connors’ testimony. From Liroff’s perspective, that testimony was “just one small piece in a mosaic.” “You take the piece out, you can still see what the mosaic reads,” he said. “It wasn’t a linchpin.” So far, the mental retardation issue has delayed this case three times. In 2005, the Sixth District issued a stay in order to allow the defense to investigate Campbell’s claim. In 2006, the California Supreme Court issued a stay to address whether or not Liroff could have Campbell psychologically examined. Liroff decided against the examination. And in September, the Sixth District issued a stay to review Sousa’s writ petition.

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