Oct. 25th 1979
Herald Examiner staff writer
Last Aug. 30, 225 prospective jurors were brought to Department 101 of Los Angeles Superior Court, the pool from which 12 jurors and four alternates were to have been selected to hear the Angelo Marino Mafia murder trial.
But yesterday, after almost eight weeks of jury selection, court clerk Jeanette Marks drew the name of Soccoro Salsido — the last one remaining from that pool — and still no jury has been named to hear the case.
A new pool of 75 prospective jurors was to be brought into Judge Kathleen Parker's courtroom today, and the monotonous and costly process of jury selection was to resume. Attorneys on both sides said they are still weeks away from impaneling a jury.
Both prosecution and defense attorneys insisted in interviews yesterday that it is not taking an unusually long time to pick a jury, and that they are experiencing no special problems. But court observers said the length of time and the number of prospective jurors dismissed is highly unusual. They said it may eventually rival the current record in Los Angeles County, the second Charles Manson trial, which eliminated 514 prospective jurors over 41 days of jury selection in 1971.
"It's dragging on and on and on," said Ray Arce, director of jury services for the county.
"By the time they're through, it will have taken as long, if not longer, than the Manson jury."
Jury selection has already exceeded the time it took in such other major cases as the trial of Sirhan Sirhan (15 days) and Leslie Van Houten (20 days).
According to estimates by the county clerk's office, the pretrial motions in the case, which lasted from February through the end of August, resulted in court costs in excess of $70,000. Each of the 27 days of jury selection so far is estimated to cost more than $3,200.
The case originated in San Jose Superior Court and was transferred to Los Angeles because of pretrial publicity. So Santa Clara County taxpayers, rather than those in Los Angeles County, will have to foot the expensive bill.
Marino, 55; his son, Salvatore, 31, and San Jose real estate salesman Joseph Piazza, 43, are charged with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and kidnapping in connection with the October 1977 murder of Peter Catelli and the attempted murder of his father, Orlando Catelli. A fourth defendant, Andrew DiDomenico, 32, is accused of conspiracy, kidnapping and being an accessory to murder.
The indictment charges that Peter Catelli was murdered because he had attempted to extort $100,000 from Angelo Marino, the owner of a cheese factory, who is believed to be a leader of the San Jose Mafia family.
The jury selection process is dragging o partly because of the many charges an defendants. And since both prosecutors and defense attorneys are from northern California, the case is being conducted only four days a week to allow the attorneys to return home and conduct other business on Friday:
But one of the major issues of contention in the selection process appears to be the racial makeup of the jury. Yesterday attorney Barry Tarlow, who represents Angelo Marino, asked the judge twice to declare a mistrial because, he claimed, the prosecutor were systematically removing blacks, Hispanics and "young people" from the jury.
By the close of court yesterday, the prosecution had dismissed 14 blacks and three Hispanics. Tarlow told the judge that prosecutor David Davies "is deliberately using his challenges for keeping black individuals from this jury."
Attorneys generally consider jurors who are members of minority groups and young jurors to be more sympathetic to defendants accused of violent crimes.
Tarlow's motions for a mistrial were dismissed, and Davies later, in an interview accused defense attorneys of systematically removing whites. He said that 18 of the 24 jurors dismissed by the defense are whites.