We reported earlier this week ("Dial Eme For Murder," April 15) that the Orange County district attorney's office (OCDA) won a 2007 death penalty case after hiding a key piece of evidence that would have undermined the government's trial position. Prosecutor Dan Wagner argued defendant Anthony R. Navarro, a Mexican Mafia associate and a prolific FBI informant, ordered three gang soldiers to carry out an October 2002 hit near Knott's Berry Farm. Navarro said he couldn't have commanded the soldiers because the gang wanted him dead for being a snitch, an assertion Wagner mocked as a "ridiculous" lie.
R. Scott Moxley DA Rackaukas addresses reporters in March
The prosecutor wasn't just wrong; law enforcement possessed evidence proving the error. Nearly two months before successfully asking jurors to impose death, government agents recovered the Mexican Mafia's secret "hard candy" list, which recorded the names of individuals the gang wanted murdered on sight, including Navarro, a.k.a. "Droopy." In a flagrant violation of ethics, officials hid that document from the defense, Judge Francisco P. Briseno and a jury of seven men and four woman. The 48-year-old defendant now lives on San Quentin State Prison's death row hoping the state Supreme Court will someday overturn his conviction.
But the Weekly has learned Wagner's prosecution of Navarro, his only death penalty victory before taking over the OCDA's homicide unit, cheated the defense of a second piece of critical exculpatory evidence: a letter written by Armando Macias, one of the gang soldiers that killed victim David Montemayor and months later used shanks in a murder attempt on Navarro inside a Fullerton courthouse holding cell.More »