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Judge to Replace Murder Defense Team Because of Conflict

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A Ventura County Superior Court judge will appoint new attorneys for a Canoga Park man charged with murdering an 8-year-old Northridge boy. The change is being made because the public defenders have represented one of the prosecution’s key witnesses.

Judge Steven Z. Perren’s decision will set back the trial of Gregory Scott Smith, 21, for several months, just as it neared the end of a monthlong jury selection, one attorney said Saturday.

The conflict of interest involved Tracy Ray Prell, 26, of Simi Valley, an informant serving a two-year jail sentence for misdemeanor battery and obstructing a peace officer.

Deputy Public Defender Duane Dammeyer said his office has previously represented Prell.

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“We knew we would not be in a position to cross-examine that witness because he was our client.”

Smith is accused of the kidnap and murder of Paul Bailly, who disappeared March 23 after his mother dropped him off at a day-care program at Darby Avenue School in Canoga Park. Paul’s body was found several hours later in a field in the Santa Susana Knolls area in Simi Valley. Prosecutors have alleged that Smith abducted Paul, gagged him with duct tape, strangled him and then set fire to his body.

“It’s kind of a letdown to be taken off the case,” said Dammeyer, adding that lawyers were within days of selecting a jury. “But legally there was no other way.”

Dammeyer said he and Deputy Public Defender Richard Holly will turn their work over to the new attorneys.

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