Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Judge Orders Release of Surveillance Photographs : Crime: Authorities say the pictures, entered as evidence in a murder case, show an attack outside a Lancaster bank.
A judge ordered the release Friday of four bank surveillance camera photos entered as evidence in a murder case that authorities say show a killer following and then attacking his victim outside a Lancaster bank earlier this year.
The photos were submitted by prosecutors at the mid-May preliminary hearing for Christopher A. Mann, the 19-year-old Palmdale man accused of fatally shooting a bank automated teller customer on March 5. The judge originally had allowed the photos to be viewed by the public but not reproduced.
However, Lancaster Superior Court Judge Haig Kehiayan agreed Friday to permit the photos to be copied in response to a request from the Los Angeles Times. The newspaper argued the photos are court records and thus generally presumed to be public and available for copying.
The district attorney’s office took no position on the newspaper’s request. Deputy Public Defender Earl Siddall, representing Mann and co-defendant Wesley D. Harper, argued unsuccessfully that publication of the photos would prejudice his client’s right to a fair trial.
The first photo of a man walking toward the Lancaster Boulevard Bank of America, appearing to be holding a gun, had been widely reproduced before Mann’s arrest. Sheriff’s deputies released it to the media, seeking public information about the killer of Hans C. Herzog, 44, of Lancaster.
The other three have never before been published. The second photo shows the gunman following Herzog to his car. The third shows the gunman standing in a shooting position behind Herzog. The fourth picture appears to show the gunman pulling Herzog out of the car after the shooting.
Attorney Glen Smith, representing The Times, cited a 1986 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found “a strong presumption” in favor of the public’s right to copy court records. Smith argued Siddall had not presented any factual basis for his fair trial claim.
In May, a detective testified at Mann’s preliminary hearing that Mann admitted to the shooting but claimed his gun discharged accidentally during the attempted robbery. Prosecutors are still considering whether to seek the death penalty when the case goes to trial.