In a shocking development for the general public, but a not-so-shocking development to seasoned defense attorneys, San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has dropped murder charges against Cyntha Sommer.
The only evidence used to convict Sommers was contaminated. Even the prosecution's chief expert at the trial suggested that it might be contaminated. But the dismissal of SOmmer's case came only after the defense attorney demanded retesting of the tissue samples. There was no arsenic in them. There never was.
The prosecutor trying the case, Laura Gunn, in an attempt to win a conviction at all costs, claimed Sommer's "motive" for killing her husband was to obtain the proceeds of his insurance policy. They put forth that after she obtained this policy, she puchased breast implants and partied. Murder for breast implants? That, plus contaminated "evidence" was the slim speclation the prosecutor used to convict an innocent woman.
I recently sent a letter to Dumanis outlining that I had learned the Sheriff's crime lab was involved in "switching" blood samples and attributing them to the wrong people, and keeping a lab witness on the public payroll who testifies falsely. Click HERE for article. And after that, San Diego attorney Mike Fremont caught a San Diego Police Department crime lab criminalist lying in the witness stand. A complaint to Dumanis yielded no action. Click HERE for article.
Shame on the San Diego District ttorney's Office.
By Dana Littlefield
April 18, 2008
Cynthia Sommer, accused of fatally poisoning her Miramar Marine husband with arsenic, spent two years and four months behind bars. Yesterday, the 34-year-old mother of four walked out of the Las Colinas jail a free woman, after prosecutors dropped the murder case against her.
Prosecutors said they now have reasonable doubt that Sgt. Todd Sommer was poisoned, based on conclusions reached by a new set of toxicology experts.
San Diego Superior Court Judge John Einhorn granted the prosecutors' motion to dismiss “without prejudice,” meaning they have the option to refile charges later.
Cynthia Sommer's defense lawyer has said he plans to request a dismissal with prejudice.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said at a news conference yesterday that her office acted appropriately, based on available evidence, when it charged Sommer with murder in March 2006 and tried her in January 2007. Sommer was arrested in Palm Beach County, Fla., in November 2005.
Prosecutors sought more forensic testing when defense attorneys raised questions about the evidence during and after the trial. Testing on other tissue samples from Todd Sommer revealed no arsenic.
Cynthia Sommer talked to her family on the phone yesterday after she was released from Las Colinas jail in Santee. Jacky Scott of Welcome Home Ministry was with her.
“Today justice was done,” Dumanis said. “This is how the system is supposed to work.
“As soon as we had the information that pointed to reasonable doubt, we brought this case this afternoon to get the matter dismissed,” she said, adding that prosecutors acted quickly “so that Sommer didn't spend any additional time in custody.”
Defense lawyer Allen Bloom was unconvinced.
“No one should say that this system worked,” he said. “This dismissal wasn't because of the prosecution's efforts; it was done because the defense demanded it.”
Todd Sommer, 23, died Feb. 18, 2002, after collapsing at the couple's home at the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. Doctors first determined he died of natural causes, but tests later revealed high levels of arsenic in his liver and kidneys.
Witnesses testified during the trial that Cynthia Sommer slept with other men, partied heavily and used some of her husband's life insurance money to buy breast implants shortly after he died.
Prosecutor Laura Gunn argued that Sommer's behavior indicated she was “celebrating” rather than mourning.
On Jan. 30, 2007, a jury convicted her of first-degree murder and allegations of murder by poison and for financial gain. She faced a life sentence.
In December, a judge granted Sommer's request for a new trial, saying her former attorney, Robert Udell, made several mistakes that might have prejudiced jurors. Udell admitted he made some errors.
Bloom said jurors never should have heard about Sommer's partying and sexual behavior. He also said early tests on Todd Sommer's tissues were flawed and likely contaminated.
According to court documents, prosecutors learned in March that several of Todd Sommer's tissue samples had been stored at San Diego Naval Medical Center in Balboa Park. They were tested this month at a lab in Quebec, which found no arsenic.
Dr. Jean-Philippe Weber, the Quebec lab's former director, prepared a report stating that the previous test results were “physiologically improbable” and that contamination was possible.
Yesterday, Bloom reaffirmed his contention that Todd Sommer died of natural causes, as doctors determined initially.
“Young people and healthy people die from sudden cardiac arrest in our country every year,” Bloom said. “Todd Sommer was sadly was one of those people. I know he didn't die because of Cynthia Sommer.
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