Judge Refuses to Dismiss Charges in Dally Slaying


A Superior Court judge refused Friday to dismiss criminal charges against accused killers Michael Dally and Diana Haun, finding no evidence exists to support claims that prosecutors coerced the grand jury while seeking indictments.

Judge Frederick A. Jones’ ruling ended a contentious dispute over the validity of the indictments obtained against the couple last year.

Dally, a 37-year-old Ventura resident, and Haun, a 36-year-old Port Hueneme woman, are charged with murder, conspiracy and kidnapping.


They also face two special circumstances alleging the May 1996 killing of Dally’s wife, Sherri, was committed for financial gain and occurred while the pair were lying in wait to abduct her.

The special circumstances make the pair eligible for the death penalty.

Defense attorneys had asked the judge to dismiss all charges against Dally and some against Haun on grounds that prosecutors improperly influenced the grand jury while trying to secure indictments in November and April.

During a two-day hearing, they called grand juror DeShay Ford to testify about the panel’s actions.

Ford said grand jury foreman George Billinger called for an informal vote to indict Dally after Ventura County Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury allegedly made an ultimatum: He was unwilling to take the case to the panel unless assured of an indictment.

Bradbury and Billinger, however, both testified to the contrary. So did four other members of the grand jury who either recalled the vote differently or forgot it was ever taken.

In his ruling, Jones said Ford’s recollection was flawed.

“The court does not believe that Mr. Ford willfully testified falsely,” Jones said in a brief written decision.


Instead, Jones said he is “of the opinion and conclusion that [Ford] did not then comprehend or does not now correctly recollect the comments of the foreperson or their purpose.”

Billinger testified the vote was to determine whether enough grand jurors were available to hear additional testimony in the case--not to commit to an indictment.

Although evidence was presented against each of them, Haun was the only one indicted in August. The grand jury later indicted Dally and reindicted Haun.

The judge’s ruling comes just days before jury selection is scheduled to begin in Haun’s murder trial. Dally’s trial will start after Haun’s trial concludes.