A Superior Court judge Wednesday upheld an unusual grand jury indictment of two men who had already gained two dismissals of murder charges in a 1980 triple slaying in Westminster.
But Judge Ronald Owen acknowledged that the issue would ultimately be decided by an appellate court.
Thomas Maniscalco, 40, of Westminster and Daniel Duffy, 41, of Long Beach were arrested in March, 1984, and charged with murdering three people associated with a rival motorcycle gang.
For tactical reasons, the district attorney's office dismissed its complaint against the two and replaced it with a grand jury indictment. But the indictment was accompanied by a transcript so riddled with errors that the district attorney's office replaced that indictment with a second indictment.
Normally, after two dismissals, the district attorney's office is barred from further prosecution.
Prosecutors argued that a change by the Legislature last year permits an exception to the two-dismissal rule. Defense attorneys argued that the new legislation allows an extra dismissal when a complaint is replaced by a grand jury indictment, but not when an indictment replaces an indictment.
Owen ruled Wednesday that "It seems to me that under the totality of circumstances, I can't believe the Legislature intended" a dismissal in the case.
Maniscalco's attorney, Joanne Harrold, informed the court that she planned to appeal to the 4th District Court of Appeal immediately. Deputy Public Defender Richard Schwartzberg, whose office represents Duffy, was clearly disappointed.
'Go by What the Law Says'
"We should go by what the law says, not what the Legislature intended for it to say," Schwartzberg declared. "The Legislature never intends for a case to be dismissed against defendants in a triple murder. We'll concede that."
But Deputy Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas, who is prosecuting Maniscalco and Duffy, said Owen was within his right to interpret the Legislature's meaning.
"Any time there is any ambiguity in the Legislature's language, the courts always rely on what they think the Legislature's intent was," Rackauckas said.
Maniscalco, a founding member of the Hessians motorcycle gang, and Duffy, one of his associates, are charged with the execution-style slayings of Richard Rizzone, 36, Rene Arlene Miley, 19, and Thomas Bernard Monahan, 28. The three were shot to death in Rizzone's home in Westminster on May 31, 1980.
A third suspect, Phillip Warren, 26, was killed by police in Oklahoma two years ago in a separate incident.
Prosecutors replaced the complaint with the grand jury indictment a few weeks after Maniscalco and Duffy's arrest, contending that they needed to use grand jury powers to force testimony from some uncooperative witnesses.
Rackauckas acknowledged that there are serious problems with the transcript from those proceedings but added that he believes the defense attorneys are using technicalities to delay the case.