Ryan Seeks Death for Gang Defendant

The little-used federal death penalty is now officially on its way back to Northern California. The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday announced its intent to seek the execution of Edgar Diaz, a defendant in one of the San Francisco U.S. attorney’s several large gang prosecutions accused of committing three murders, and of being a leader of the Down Below Gang.

“Of course it’s a surprise to me,” said Tony Tamburello, one of Diaz’s lawyers who had made a presentation to DOJ officials in Washington in an attempt to dissuade them from seeking death. “So far, we’ve seen no evidence at all showing that he was responsible for the murders.”

Diaz is the first of the nine death-eligible gang defendants in the gang cases to be authorized for a capital prosecution, and becomes the second defendant currently facing death in the Northern District of California after Anh The Duong, an alleged bank robber with several state capital convictions awaiting trial on federal charges. There has not been a federal capital trial in the Northern District in more than four decades.

The decision to seek death is made by a panel of Justice Department officials based in D.C. It’s not clear whether San Francisco U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan’s office wanted to seek execution or just a life sentence against Diaz. Philip Kearney, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting Diaz, did not return a call by the end of the day Friday, and Luke Macaulay, an office spokesman, said the office’s recommendation is “part of a deliberative process that’s internal,” and therefore not publicly disclosed.

Tamburello said Friday that the process of arguing against a death prosecution to the D.C. panel was frustrating because he has seen little of the evidence against his client, and names of several witnesses in the case are redacted from court filings. “What’s frustrating is we have not received the discovery to do make a full and complete presentation to the capital case review committee in Washington,” he said, adding that once that discovery material is provided he plans to ask for the chance to give another presentation.

Justin Scheck





One Response to “Ryan Seeks Death for Gang Defendant”

  1. Jim Boland Says:

    Thi is the case that I am working on. We also have Anh The Duong, but are not working quite as agressively on that one at the moment.

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