A judge ruled Wednesday that former police Chief Charlie Beck will have to sit for a deposition in a lawsuit brought by a criminalist who alleges the Los Angeles Police Department deliberately overlooked evidence that linked an LAPD detective to the 1986 murder of her former boyfriend’s wife.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Holly Fujie denied a motion by attorneys for the city to quash a subpoena served on Beck by lawyers representing plaintiff Jennifer Francis. She said Beck likely has relevant information to tell and that it is not important that he is now retired.
Francis sued the city for whistleblower retaliation in October 2013, alleging Detective Cliff Sheppard of the Robbery-Homicide Division’s cold case unit ignored the results of DNA tests that she performed as a criminalist in the LAPD’s Scientific Investigation Division. Those results gained importance years later when another detective determined that then-LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus killed a romantic rival.
Francis alleges that Sheppard knew Lazarus had ties to the victim, Sherri Rasmussen, but did not want to consider her a suspect. Francis also claims she was told by supervisors beginning in 2005 to ignore possible evidence implicating Lazarus in Rasmussen’s slaying.
Beck was the LAPD’s chief of detectives at the time of Rasmussen’s death and made statements to the media about the case, plaintiff’s attorney John Taylor said. Lawyers for the city argued, however that Beck knows nothing about the dispute and that the plaintiff’s lawyers had not shown there were “less intrusive” ways of obtaining the same information.
Rasmussen was found beaten and shot in February 1986 in the Van Nuys townhouse the nurse shared with her husband. Lazarus was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced in May 2012 to 27 years to life in prison.