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David Alan Westerfield - California Death Row
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Thread: David Alan Westerfield - California Death Row

  1. #1
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    Oct 2010

    David Alan Westerfield - California Death Row

    Danielle van Dam, 7

    Summary of Offense:

    Westerfield was convicted in San Diego County of first-degree murder for the kidnapping and slaying of seven-year-old Danielle van Dam of Sabre Springs on February 2, 2002. Judge William Mudd sentenced Westerfield to death on January 3, 2003.

  2. #2
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Prosecutor who put David Westerfield on death row is retiring

    Jeff Dusek, the lead prosecutor in one of San Diego County’s highest-profile murder cases, didn’t see himself as a trial attorney when he embarked on a career in law.

    Although he knew he had a competitive streak, he had no background — or interest, initially — in speaking in front of groups of people. He figured he would end up an office attorney, perhaps working on business contracts.

    “I was not involved in any public speaking throughout my education,” said Dusek, who is retiring after 34 years as a prosecutor in San Diego County. “I was the guy who sat in the back of the classroom and hoped they didn’t call on me.”

    But in 2002, he was called on to prosecute David Westerfield, who kidnapped and murdered 7-year-old Danielle van Dam of Sabre Springs. The case gripped the public’s attention locally and nationally. The trial was broadcast live on television.

    He had obviously mastered public speaking.

    A courtroom appearance in North County just over a week ago was likely Dusek’s last. It was a sentencing in a cold-case murder from 2001.

    “It’s time,” he said, when asked why he’s leaving the only law-related job he’s ever held. “It’s time to turn it over to some of the young folks.”

    Dusek, 61, was hired by the District Attorney’s Office in March 1977. Before that he attended college at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and law school at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Va. He also played two years of minor league baseball as a pitcher in the White Sox organization.

    “It was fun while it lasted,” he said of his baseball career. “I knew I didn’t have world-class talent, but I’m glad I got the chance to go as far as my talent would let me.”

    Dusek grew up in San Clemente and always knew he would return to California after law school. Married, with a child on the way, he spent mornings mowing greens at a North County golf course while he studied for the bar exam, and later went door to door at downtown law offices pushing his resum.

    Becoming a prosecutor proved to be a good fit. Colleagues described him as a meticulous legal mind and a dogged competitor, whose tall frame and booming voice endeared him to juries.

    ‘Go-to’ lawyer

    “He was my go-to trial lawyer,” said former District Attorney Paul Pfingst, who ran the office during the Westerfield trial. “Jeff brings with him a dashing figure and a personal credibility that is very persuasive with jurors.”

    Pfingst, now a defense attorney, went toe-to-toe with Dusek in the case of a Jamul man charged in a fatal shooting in 2006. The defendant, Joseph “Bob” Orlosky, was acquitted of murder and attempted murder in 2008 and of manslaughter and other charges in 2009.

    Pfingst won that battle, but it didn’t come easily.

    “That was the hardest, most physically demanding trial I have ever been in,” he said.

    Pfingst said he’s handled countless trials, as a prosecutor and as a defense lawyer, but none could begin to approach the fight he experienced in the courtroom with Dusek, whom he described as a relentless opponent who always tried to be on offense.

    “In the end, it was like two boxers leaning on each other,” Pfingst said.

    Dusek is retiring as a chief deputy district attorney. In recent years, he has headed the cold-case homicide unit under District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

    But his most public courtroom battle involved Westerfield, who was sentenced to the death penalty and is awaiting execution.

    At the time of the trial, he said, he didn’t feel the intensity of public interest in that case until it was over and a gag order barring him from discussing it publicly was lifted.

    “I certainly did not fully understand how many people were watching and paying attention to this case,” Dusek said.

    Unexpected attention

    But there were clues. He described a moment at the beach with his family when a woman snapped his photo from a distance. Later that day, a child walked up to him on the sand and asked, “Is your name Jeff?”

    When the trial was over, Dusek said, people approached him nearly everywhere — on the street, in stores, on the golf course — to share their thoughts about the case. Even defendants in other cases have offered congratulations.

    “Everyone wanted to talk about it,” he said.

    George “Woody” Clarke, a prosecutor on the Westerfield case who is now a Superior Court judge, said Dusek approached all of his cases the same way, regardless of whether they attracted media attention.

    “I think Jeff truly does represent a person who is unaffected by it,” Clarke said.

    Looking back, Dusek, said he couldn’t have found a better job.

    “I wanted to come to work every single morning,” he said. “I did not anticipate the weekends. Each case was different. Each case was exciting. I just loved the work.”

    Retirement, however, may be a more daunting prospect.

    Dusek, who has two adult daughters and one grandson, said he has no specific plan going forward and doesn’t quite know what to expect.

    “It’s scary,” he said. “You can only play so much golf.”

    Cases Jeff Dusek prosecuted

    • Alejandro Avalos Fernandez pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and rape in the 2001 slaying of Gladys Conrad, an 84-year-old retired psychiatrist who was killed in her Carlsbad retirement community. Fernandez was sentenced to 34 years to life in prison on Jan. 7.

    • Jonathan Scott French was convicted in May of first-degree murder in the July 2009 death of Jennifer Stark, 43, his on-again, off-again girlfriend. Stark was a popular court reporter who worked at the Vista courthouse. French was sentenced to 26 years to life in prison.

    • Frank White, a San Diego police officer, was acquitted of a felony charge of grossly negligent discharge of a firearm and a misdemeanor count of exhibiting a firearm, stemming from a 2008 road-rage incident involving a mother and her young son. Police described the mother, Rachel Silva, as the aggressor in the incident. She was shot twice in her right arm. Her then-8-year-old son was shot in the left leg.

    • Joseph “Bob” Orlosky was acquitted in March 2009 of manslaughter, shooting into an occupied vehicle and two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter, for shooting at three men he thought were stealing copper from his ranch in Jamul. It was his second trial for the shootings. A year earlier, he had been acquitted of the most serious charges of murder and attempted murder.

    • Peter Jacob Johnson was found guilty in December 2006 of killing Robert James Spencer, 19, whose body was found Sept. 17, 1978, in the trunk of a car in Serra Mesa. He had been shot once in the back of the head. Johnson was sentenced to life in prison with parole.

    • Stanley Ray Clayton pleaded guilty in 2005 to fatally stabbing in 1987 William H. Thompson, publisher of what was then San Diego’s only black newspaper. Clayton was sentenced in August 2005 to life in prison without parole.

    • David Andrew Boysen, charged with murder in the beating and shooting deaths of his parents, Robert and Elsie Boysen in their Oceanside home Easter Sunday, April 6, 1980. A Vista judge dismissed the charges in 2005, saying the lengthy delay in filing the case and an incomplete investigation by Oceanside police violated David Boysen’s right to a fair trial. The decision was upheld on appeal.

    George Williams Jr. was convicted in September 2004 of kidnapping, raping and murdering 14-year-old Rickieann Blake of Chula Vista in 1986. Her body was found near Interstate 5 in Barrio Logan on April 11, 1986, the day after she was taken from her home. Williams was sentenced to the death penalty. He remains on death row.

    • David Westerfield was convicted in April 2002 of kidnapping and murdering 7-year-old Danielle van Dam. She was reported missing from her Sabre Springs home Feb. 2. Her body was found Feb. 27 along an East County roadside. Westerfield was sentenced to die for his crimes. He was sent to death row at San Quentin state prison, where he awaits execution.


  3. #3
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Nearly 30 Reasons for Appeal: Attorneys

    The man convicted of killing a Sabre Springs girl nearly ten years ago is now asking for an appeal to overturn his death penalty conviction.

    NBC San Diego obtained documents that show attorneys for David Westerfield believe errors were made in his murder case.

    Westerfield was convicted in August 2003 for the kidnap and murder of Danielle Van Dam.

    Just when you think youve got a lot of it behind you, something happens and it brings it all up again, Brenda Van Dam told NBCSanDiego on Tuesday.

    She said the pain of losing her daughter is still just as deep as it was the day her body was found.

    You know the holidays are hard anyway and I just kind of really have been down in the dumps lately, said Van Dam.

    In the appeal, attorneys for Westerfield offer nearly thirty reasons for the conviction to be overturned, including questions about evidence and testimony.

    Van Dam family attorney Spencer Busby called the appeal a legal process that will not lead to the overturning of the death penalty conviction.

    "The DNA evidence was overwhelming," Busby said about the trial.

    He also said Westerfield's defense attorney did an excellent job of trying to disprove the state's case.

    The state supreme court will ultimately decide the fate of the appeal.

    Westerfield is currently on "death row" at San Quentin State Prison.


  4. #4
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Van Dam case shook nation 10 years ago 10 years ago, case of girl snatched from her room shook nation

    Ten years ago on the morning of Feb. 2, a Saturday, Brenda van Dam went upstairs to her 7-year-old daughter’s bedroom to wake her.

    But Danielle, who would be graduating from high school this year if she were alive, wasn’t in her bed.

    “It still hurts so much,” van Dam said Wednesday.

    The kidnapping and murder of Danielle in 2002, and the subsequent arrest and death-penalty trial of a 50-year-old neighbor that unfolded within just a few months, shocked and riveted the San Diego area like very few cases ever have.

    Brenda van Dam doesn’t want her daughter to ever be forgotten, but she also doesn’t want to see the name of that neighbor, David Westerfield, in print or even uttered.

    “She was the victim. Her family was the victim. We are all victims,” she said.

    “To this day,” said former District Attorney Paul Pfingst, under whose office Danielle’s murderer was prosecuted, “I think it’s one of those cases that strikes at the core of a civilized society. … A society where people can’t go to sleep and trust that their children will not be kidnapped out of their bed is a society without rule of law.”

    Within a day of Danielle’s disappearance, the family’s upper-middle class Sabre Springs neighborhood of well-kept, two-story homes teemed with detectives and the news media. Police identified a suspect within days but didn’t have enough evidence to arrest him. Westerfield, a design engineer and inventor, lived alone just two doors down.

    He would eventually be charged with Danielle’s murder, even before volunteer searchers found the little girl’s remains alongside a semirural road in East County almost a month later.

    Former Deputy District Attorney Jeff Dusek, the lead prosecutor, said only Westerfield knows exactly what happened in the dark hours before Danielle disappeared. “Hopefully, he will share that with us before he takes his last breath.”

    Dusek said he thinks Westerfield sneaked into the van Dams’ home through a side garage door while her father, Damon, and two brothers slept. “I’m convinced he was still inside the house when Brenda and her friends got home” from a night out at a Poway pub.

    Westerfield’s lawyers decided the best defense was to not grant any continuances in hopes of beating forensic evidence into the courtroom, and within a few months, Westerfield’s murder trial began. Never before or since has a death penalty case gone to trial so quickly. It usually takes years. It was nationally televised on what was then called Court TV, and an entire downtown city block next to the courthouse was blocked off for months to accommodate huge satellite TV news trucks from all over the nation.

    Today, Brenda van Dam has few kind things to say about the media, some of which pestered the couple about their personal lives.

    “Going through that gave me a whole new perspective on the media. I was naive. I thought that everything on the news was fact,” she said. “I quickly realized that it’s not. They’re just there to make a buck. That’s their job. That’s what they do. I don’t think they had my family priorities in mind. They raked us over the coals when they should have been raking an evil monster over the coals.”

    The search for Danielle was conducted all over the county by thousands of people. It was volunteer searchers, average citizens, who found her.

    The trial largely focused on forensic evidence. A trace of blood on a jacket. Fingerprints on a cabinet in Westerfield’s RV. A single orange fiber caught in a tiny choker necklace found on Danielle’s body.

    DNA and fingerprint evidence eventually convinced the jury of Westerfield’s guilt. Judge William Mudd sentenced him to death in January 2003. Westerfield now sits on San Quentin’s death row, one of 700 condemned inmates. His case is being appealed, as all death cases must be.

    The van Dams don’t seek publicity. ”Every time it does come up, it’s just so painful,” Brenda van Dam said. “I’ve raised two amazing boys. They don’t want people to feel sorry for them and pity them. … I don’t want (Danielle) to be forgotten,” she said. “That’s something I pray will never happen. She was such a wonderful person and such a unique individual.”

    10 years later

    • The van Dams live in Poway just a short drive from their old home in Sabre Springs. Their oldest son is in college. He played in the Poway High School band at the memorial service for Chelsea King, a classmate murdered in 2010. “It really affected him strongly,” his mother said. Their other son is a sophomore at Poway High.

    • Judge Wiliam Mudd, who received reams of fan mail during and after the trial, died in 2009.

    • Lead prosecutor Jeff Dusek, who still has a box full of thank-you cards sent from around the country, retired the same year.

    • Lead defense attorney Steven Feldman is still a practicing attorney.

    • A bridge in El Cajon along Interstate 8 a few miles away from where Danielle’s remains were found is dedicated to Danielle.


  5. #5
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Westerfield Death Penalty Appeal

    Attorneys for David Westerfield have filed an appeal of his death penalty conviction, according to a 450-page legal brief filed in California Supreme Court.

    In 2002, Westerfield was convicted of kidnapping and killing his 7-year-old neighbor, Danielle Van Dam.

    The trial was covered live and transmitted all over the world. In the appeal, Westerfield's lawyers claim that the media was creating a "lynch mob mentality" and that the jury was "under siege."

    David Steinberg, a professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, reviewed the brief for 10News and agreed.

    "This trial was conducted under a microscope," he said.

    However, Steinberg said he does not buy into that as a very persuasive argument.

    "Trial publicity is not your best argument for reversing a conviction," said Steinberg. "Your best bet typically is that there's some evidence introduced that should not have been."

    Westerfield's attorneys argued that search warrants were illegally obtained. They also argued that trial judge William Mudd abused his discretion many times by not granting motions for a mistrial, not sequestering the jury, keeping some jurors despite defense protests and not excluding child pornography charges in a capital murder case.

    In the appeal, 28 reasons were listed for reversal, including the argument that the California death penalty is unconstitutional.

    There are more than 700 inmates on death row and 13 have been executed in the past two decades. No one was executed for the 25 years leading up to 1992 because it was judged unconstitutional during that time.

    Death penalty appeals are usually successful. There is a 70 percent success rate for these appeals, but Steinberg believes the Westerfield team has a real uphill battle.

    "I would be very surprised if there is a reversal either of his guilt or on the death penalty," he said.


  6. #6
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    It took the California Supreme Court almost 5 years to appoint an attorney to Westerfield, and another 4 (after 19 extensions) to file the direct appeal.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Member Jeffects's Avatar
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    Nov 2011
    Southern California
    I remember this case well. Why even bother? This animal will die of old age on death row. Law abiding citizens in California have a better chance of being killed by a criminal than the condemned on death row do of being executed.

  8. #8
    Jeffects you are so right you took the words right out of my mouth. Appeals? why why why they were convicted

  9. #9
    Senior Member Member Jeffects's Avatar
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    Nov 2011
    Southern California
    Westerfield was a real piece of garbage! It was big news here in Southern California. They even tried to blame the parents and drag them through the mud. I find it hard to believe that at some point in his fifties he "suddenly" committed such a horrific crime. The press said he made regular jaunts to Tijuana in his murder mobile (motor home). I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were several missing children south of the border over the years.
    Last edited by Jeffects; 06-19-2012 at 08:26 PM. Reason: Am I drunk already?

  10. #10
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Case update

    Case: S112691, Supreme Court of California

    Date (YYYY-MM-DD): 2012-10-09
    Event Description: Respondent's brief filed
    (84,867 words; 267 pp.)
    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

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