Conflict of interest denied in crime-lab scandal case

An independent judge has denied claims of bias made by prosecutors about another judge who lambasted District Attorney Kamala Harris’ office in the wake of the crime-lab scandal.

In May, Judge Anne-Christine Massullo slammed the District At-torney’s Office for failing to provide information about lab technician Deborah Madden’s criminal past to defense attorneys, which is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Harris had placed the blame with the Police Department, which held Madden’s personnel records but failed to provide a history of disciplinary actions to prosecutors.

Massullo, however, said prosecutors were just as much to blame because they work closely with police and that “by at least Nov. 19, 2009, individuals at the highest levels of the District Attorney’s Office knew that Madden was not a dependable witness at trial and that there were serious concerns regarding the crime lab.”

Prosecutors countered with court filings claiming Massullo’s husband was a defense attorney and had appeared on a panel to talk about the so-called Brady issues, creating a conflict of interest that should disqualify Massullo from ruling on the case. Under Brady policy, a witness must disclose any past criminal history.

Monterey County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wills was brought in to rule on the motion and denied it in a decision filed Wednesday.

The District Attorney’s Office said the motion was only a way to get clarification about a possible conflict of interest, according to spokeswoman Erica Derryck.

“Judge Massullo invited us to file this challenge after refusing to respond to direct queries in open court for information about an appearance of conflict,” Derryck said.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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