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Suspect in sensational Palm Springs killing is found dead in jail

Kaushal Niroula
An undated photo of Kaushal Niroula provided by his family.

A person set to be retried in a sensational 2008 killing was found dead Tuesday in an apparent homicide in a Riverside jail, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Kaushal Niroula, 41, was discovered unresponsive around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday while being held at the Cois M. Byrd Detention Center, reporting deputy Sgt. Richard Carroll said. Niroula had injuries after an “altercation” with 61-year-old Rodney Sanchez, who was also being held at the jail, according to the department.

Sanchez has been charged with murder in Niroula’s death, Carroll said in a news release.

It was this year’s 12th death of a Riverside County jail inmate.

Niroula was convicted in 2012 of premeditated murder and sentenced to life in prison for helping to plan and being present for the stabbing of wealthy art dealer Clifford Lambert, 74, in his 5,000-square-foot Palm Springs home. Niroula’s conviction was overturned in 2018, and a new trial was ordered due to biased and homophobic comments during the first trial made by the judge, David Downing.

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“Niroula’s first trial in Riverside County was overturned due to findings of judicial bias. In preparing for Niroula’s second trial, Niroula was working to expose other governmental misconduct related to Niroula’s prosecution, and expressed on the record Niroula’s growing concern for Niroula’s safety while in custody in Riverside County,” said Niroula’s attorney Shaun Sullivan. “I await an opportunity to scrutinize the circumstances of Niroula’s passing.”

Downing was caught on recordings taken during the trial making comments about Niroula’s HIV-positive status. The judge said he would not touch envelopes containing motions filed by Niroula, who was self-represented at the trial, because Niroula had licked them.

“Oh, gross, and he is HIV positive. God knows where his tongue has been,” Downing is heard telling his clerk in one recording.

Downing also said in the recordings that he planned to make a ruling in favor of prosecutors not to sever Niroula’s trial from co-defendant Daniel Garcia because, if tried together, the two might implicate each other.

“It’s every prosecutor’s dream,” Downing says, according to the recordings. “He’ll take the stand and say, ‘It wasn’t me. It was him.’ The other one will take the stand and say, ‘It wasn’t me, it was him.’ Then the jury convicts them both. That’s great. That’s why I won’t sever anything. Screw that.”

Downing declined to comment about the recordings to the Desert Sun in 2018 but said that the defendants received the “fairest trial ever — and then some.”

In the first retrial in the case stemming from Downing’s comments, 73-year-old former attorney David Replogle was convicted of first-degree murder, three counts of burglary, two counts of grand theft and one count each of identity theft, attempted unlawful receipt of stolen goods, forgery and a special circumstance allegation of killing for financial gain in the killing.

A date had not been set for Niroula’s retrial, but Niroula was due back in court on Friday.


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