Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Is Paul Gallegos planning to PLEA BARGAIN the Kesser case?

"Behind a locked courtroom door?" What's up with that?

DA says plea deal a possibility in murder retrial
The retrial of two of three people convicted 15 years ago in the brutal slaying of Fortuna resident Mary Kesser may be over before it begins.

Following days of speculation within the law enforcement community, Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos confirmed late Tuesday that a plea deal is possible in the first-degree murder case of Richard Craig Kesser and Jennifer Gayle Leahy.

In response to an e-mail question about a possible negotiated settlement, Gallegos stated, “Are there proposals out there? Yes. Have we reached an agreement? No. Is it possible that we will? Yes.”

Richard Kesser and Leahy were convicted in 1992 of hiring Stephen Duane Chiara to kill Mary Kesser, Richard’s estranged wife, a charge that included special allegations of murder for financial gain and lying in wait.

Mary Kesser, 30 years old and the mother of a then-4-year-old boy, was found two nights before Thanksgiving 1991 in her N Street home stabbed 34 times in her head, chest, back, abdomen and hands, according to court documents.

Chiara was quickly arrested, and within days police followed a trail of clues back to Richard Kesser and Leahy in what investigators called a murder-for-hire plot.

Attorneys for the two argued that Chiara was hired to blow up Mary Kesser’s car, not to kill her.

All three were convicted in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole — but the case, originally tried by former Deputy DA Worth Dikeman, was overturned on appeal in September, after a higher court found that he had made “blatant race-based strikes” of three American Indians from the approximately 140-member jury pool.

Within days of the appellate ruling, Dikeman, who twice campaigned against Gallegos for DA, was fired from his position. He subsequently called the reversal the “biggest disappointment” of his career.

Jury selection for the retrial began in July, and pretrial motions continued Tuesday behind a locked courtroom door.

Gallegos stated later, “There are, like in all cases, constant discussions involving possible dispositions. … (W)e always strive to be reasonable, open-minded and receptive to appropriate pretrial dispositions. That means we always strive to listen to proposals and fairly consider them.”

Kesser’s family, who met with the DA Tuesday, declined to comment.

Why would you plea bargain a proven winnable case? And what's with the locked courtroom door? Is that common?

God, this is a great time to be a criminal in Humboldt County. Murderer, Rapist, Child Molester, Drunk Driver, Drug Dealer, whatever...
In the TS - Homicide retrial now looking to start Thursday
The retrial of a man suspected of hiring a hitman to kill his estranged wife in 1991 has been postponed a few more days.

Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos said Tuesday that the homicide retrial of Richard Craig Kesser now looks like it will start Thursday.

Last week, Gallegos said he believed the trial would start Monday.

Kesser and his girlfriend, Jennifer Gayle Leahy, allegedly hired Duane Chiara to kill Mary Kesser, reportedly for her life insurance money.

The young mother was killed in her N Street home in Fortuna.

She was stabbed multiple times with what was believed to be a machete-type of blade.

Chiara was arrested a day later when he was found hiding in a closet. A sawed-off shotgun was found nearby. The other two defendants were arrested after a month.

Retrials were granted to Kesser and Leahy by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals based on the actions of a former deputy district attorney. The court found he rejected potential jurors “on the basis of their race, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.”

It is unclear if Leahy and Kesser will be tried together.
9th Circuit Opinion - KESSER v CAMBRA No. 02-15475, D.C. No. CV-96-03452-PJH, OPINION *Decided and filed together with the companion case of Leahy v. Farmon, No. 01-17467, (pdf file) No. 01-17467, (9th Cir. 2006) (unpublished disposition).


  1. Dear Rose,

    While I am glad you took the time to post on this case, I feel that it is unfair to involve the bipartisan politics that affect our nation (right down to even teeny lil' Podunk Humboldt Co.) to disparage J. Leahy when she has spent the better part of her life imprisoned because of a case to which she may have only been allegedly and peripherally involved.

    I pray that the jury truly represents the populaion and that the judge is blessed with the wisdom of Solomon when ultimately deciding her fate. I pray that Mary Kessler's soul and the souls of her family may one day be at peace.

    it is never a "great time to be a criminal," for we must all face our Creator in due time.


    Kimberly O'Neal, M.A.

  2. Postscript:

    Please forgive my typographical errors, everyone. I ought to face the wrath of Diana Hacker, author of A Writer's Reference, and even that of Microsoft Word. I dare not try my HTML tags at this hour (5:00 a.m. Pacific)!


  3. Welcome Kimberly. I am not worried about your typos. I am worried that you portray this as partisan politics.

    It is not.

    It is about a District Attorney who, through his incompetence has wreaked havoc on the DA's Office, who cares more about his handlers agendas than about conducting the People's business. Serious cases are plea bargained off routinely (perhaps you haven't been watching), and it was predicted from the beginning that Gallegos would tank this one and blame Dikeman.

    It is indeed a great day to be a criminal in Humboldt County.

  4. There is still hope - the report says he MAY announce a deal. Hopefully it hasn't happened yet.

  5. Oh please. Paul hates this case. If he wins it, it's because Dikeman did all the work. If he loses it, it's because he's an idiot. So it's lose lose for him.He will make it go away, so he can concentrate on the Cheri Moore case.

  6. The DA's remark that there are negotiations in all cases is disturbing. First of all, in most rational courts the negotiations occur early, not on the eve of trial. There are specific occasions set up by the courts, called such things as "trial confirmation" or "trial readiness" and one aspect of these meetings is that, ostensibly, all negotiations are over after that meeting. Second, and more disturbing, many cases are not negotiable because the stakes are too high. The victim in this case was butchered for profit. Justice demands the highest penalty. The State either has a case (well, it won already) in which case it should go to a jury, or not. The defendants cannot be expected to plead for Life without parole.

    So one might ask, what could possibly be put on the table by the prosecution or the defense that makes sense? Both first and second degree murder carry life sentences. Murder for hire rarely appeals to the parole board (second degree murder is 15 to life). And what else can you call murder for hire besides murder for hire? Well, I bet PVG calls it second degree. If he calls it manslaughter, and lets the defendants out, that shouldn't surprise anyone either.

    Again, in many places, and once upon a time in Humboldt, some cases just don't get dealt. But here, according to the DA, everything is on the table all the time. That's principled.That's
    honest. Justice for all, but for you, bubbie, I can do a little better. Such a deal.
    PVG. His prices are INSANE.

  7. Good points, 8:42.

    She was stabbed how many times? She had a 4-yr old. It was Thanksgiving.

  8. ...34 times in her head, chest, back, abdomen and hands, according to court documents...

  9. I had no doubt that they would be set free, some how, some way... But never dreamt in a million years that PG would plea them out. How can he? And if he can then who is next? Where in the hell is the National media in all of this?? Kesser and Leahy are as quilty as Chiara, just as if it were thier hands plunging the knife into Mary Kesser's head. Because Mary has been dead 15 years she no longer matters? Now her death is about PG paying back favors for his election? Dear God what is happening here?

  10. There can be no excuse for pleading a case like this (MURDER) out after going through all the steps including jury selection. Even PVG wouldn't be that lazy, dumb, or stupid. Would he?

  11. When you start looking closely, nothing the man does makes any rational sense. When you start listening to what he says, and doesn't say, you are incredulous. When you really pay attention, it is completely incomprehensible that he has fooled everyone for so long.

    Or - I should say - that Salzman managed to pull the wool over everyone's eyes. But Salzman isn't there anymore, I don't think. And on his own, Paul doesn't have the talking points.

    He'll come up with a statement. Listen carefully. And ASK questions.

  12. Monty Monty Monty.

    Look at the bright side, Yougofree.com is gone !

  13. There is no bright side. Only darkness abides in PG.


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