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Lassen County Times
Susanville, California
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November 6, 2007     Lassen County Times
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November 6, 2007
 

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Lassen County Times Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2007 11A SILVA, from page 1A release on the federal charges, he'd be 68-years-old. A murder conviction on his record makes it clear Silva is a murderer when he comes up for parole. "We believe Silva is a multi- ple murderer," Burns said after the sentencing. "We believe he was involved in murders in Lassen County, Oregon and perhaps other places, but we're the only one to sustain a murder convic- tion on him." While Burns said the plea bargain and sentence were "about what we expected," he said he wished Silva could have received the death penal- ty. "It's not a perfdct situa- tion," Burns said. "If I had a magic wand I could wave above my head and impose the justice I think is appropri- ate, he'd be dead. I think he's earned that in many ways." The district attorney said trying a 26-year-old case to trial brings unique chal- lenges. "I was in high school when this crime occurred," Burns said. "There were five people present. Two of them were murder victims, and the other three participated in the situation. Two of those are serving life in prison, and the third was used as a wit- ness to prove our case." The district attorney said he was happy with the sen- tence. He said Silva has spent all his time in prison on death row, and now that's going to change. "For the first time in his life Mr. Silva is going to have to walk the yard because he's no longer on death row," Burns said. "I get a little sat- isfaction knowing when he wakes up tomorrow morning he might have to worry about his personal safety. Prisoners on death row have more priv- ileges than other inmates. They have their own cell, they don't have to have a cell- mate, and so they don't have to worry about their day-to- day safety as much. For the first time~ in- h i~Jffe, ~he~ ~. going to have to walk the yard with all the other inmates. He's not on death row any- more." Best of all, Silva will never appear in a Lassen County courtroom again on these charges. "He waived his right to appeal," Burns Said. "This case is put to bed. We've fin- ished fussing over Benjamin Wai Silva." The judge said, "This is a final judgment. The matter is now at rest as far as the legal process is concerned." The crime Silva, Joe Shelton and Norman Thomas kidnapped Thorpe and his girlfriend, Laura Craig, college students who passed through Madeline on their way to Oregon returning from winter break, according to the district court decision authored by Judge B. Fletcher. In a trial held before Silva's, Shelton was convicted of murdering both Thorpe and Craig. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole, according to court records. He appealed and was sen- tenced to life .in prison. Former Lassen County Superior Court Judge Joseph Harvey sentenced Thomas to seven years in prison for his part in the crimes. He entered a plea to reduced charges after providing key prosecu- tion testimony against Silva and Shelton. Silva and Shelton killed Thorpe by inflictingmultiple gunshot wounds from an automatic weapon, according to Fletcher's decision. Thomas then dismembered Thorpe's body with an ax (purportedly on Silva's orders) and stuffed the remains into several trash bags, which were each buried in shallow graves. Craig was shot twice and killed by the side of a road. Thomas informed police of the murders later that month after he was found in posses- sion of a firearm in violation of his probation. Crucial evidence withheld The court found DePasquale, the prosecutor in the original case, withheld evidence. He did not tell defense attorney Tom Buckwalter about an agree- ment to delay a mental evalu- ation of Thomas, the chief witness for the prosecution, until after the original trial. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decisions said, "The prosecutor's own conduct in keeping the deal secret under- scores the deal's impor- tance." The decision also said, "Here, Thomas' attorney Rex Gay declared in his uncontro- veTted affidavit that the pros- ecutor agreed with Gay's assessment that a psychiatric evaluation of Thomas could be damaging to the state's case against Silva. " If the jury had been presented with evidence of the prosecution's own doubts as to Thomas's mental capac- ity, the jury might not have believed Thomas's account with regard to either murder. " In sum, because evi- dence of the undisclosed deal could well have undermined the credibility of a vital pros- ecution witness, 'there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been dis- closed to the defense, the result of the proceeding would have been different.'" The court concluded, "In our justice system, the prose- cuting attorney occupies a special position of public trust. Courts, citizens, and even criminal defendants must rely on these public ser- vants to be honorable advo- cates both for the community on whose behalf they litigate and for the justice system of which they are an integral part. When prosecutors betray [heir solemn obliga- tions and abuse the immense power they hold, the fairness of our entire system of jus- tice is called into doubt and public confidence in it is undermined." It said, "The reliability of the jury's verdict as to Silva's role as the triggerman in Thorpe's murder was com- promised by the Lassen County District Attorney's unscrupulous decision to keep secret the deal he made to prevent an evaluation of the competence of the state's star witness. The particular- -HAIR HUNTERS SALON FULL SERVICE SALON Full body Waxing Joico Sexy Hair Massage Therapy Manicures, Pedicures Heather Marsh - owner --~ ~L-# ,:~'~-,~':,~ . ~::'* ~:--*~'~'~-y 713 Main Street, Susanville : - "~.257-HAIR or 257-4247 Kefi,;s Choice " LAND! LAND! LAND! 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Prosecutoriai misconduct In July 2005, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Silva's murder con- viction and ordered the pros- ecution to retry or re-sen- tence him because of miscon- duct by then Lassen County District Attorney Paul DePasquale. According to the court records, DePasquale and Silva's defense attorney Tom Buckwalter, a former district attorney in Plumas and Modoc counties, made a secret deal not to tell the jury about an agreement to delay a mental evaluation of Thomas until after the original trial. Thomas was the chief wit- ness for the prosecution against Silva. "We leave Silva's convic- tions on the kidnapping, rob- bery, and firearms charges undisturbed," the decision said, but the court ordered Lassen County to "retry Silva within a reasonable time or re-sentence him based on these remaining convic- tions." COLLEGE, f,om page 1A year ago, only 20 percent of the respondents thought they had a voice. Houston said the both of the ACCJC representatives on campus Monday participated in the ACCJC visit last July that led to the college's proba- tion status. "Dr. Sherrill Amador and Dr. John Dixon had both been on the team that conducted a special visit in 2006," Houston wrote in a memo to college employees. "Both left happily surprised at the difference on campus and the work accom- plished since their' last visit. In fact, during the exit inter-. view, Dr, Amador told me that they were.not only impressed with the different campus cli- mate and the clear improve- ment in morale and mutual respect, they were also impressed we had implement- ed Our governance structure to the point that we had even evaluated it and made changes based on lessons learned." Still, Houston said the lege "had more work to do, including completing many back-logged program reviews and then using the resuIts to inform planning and budget- ing; addressing critical needs for institutional research; fully integrating planning and bUdgeting; clarifYing and educating campus con- stituents on governance; and ensuring administrative sta- bility. Nevertheless, her (Amador) overall report to ACCJC will reflect that we have made great progress." Houston expects a report from the accreditation team sometime during the next two weeks, In his memo, Houston thanked the college commu- nity for its efforts. "In the meantime, my thanks to all of you who have worked so hard this past year, in planning and implement- ing, .in committee and gover- nance work, in responding with our recently-submitted accreditation progress rePort and/or the draft self-study or simply in continuing to serve students through all, of 'this," Houston "wrote. 1.5 Minute or less wait time! 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