A jury Friday rejected the case of a criminalist who alleged she suffered a backlash when she came forward and said a retired LAPD cold-case detective ignored evidence that linked another detective to the 1986 killing of a romantic rival.
The Los Angeles Superior Court panel deliberated for about a day before finding in favor of the city of Los Angeles and against 50-year-old Jennifer Francis.
A glum Francis walked out of the courtroom shortly after the verdict was read. Her attorney, John Taylor, declined to comment on the verdict.
Lawyer Reginald Roberts Jr., on behalf of the city, said he did not have permission from the city to make any immediate remarks.
In his final argument to the jury Thursday, Taylor said his client was a whistleblower who suffered a backlash for coming forward.
“They crushed this woman. They took her hope, her work,” Taylor said.
But Roberts said Francis’ case did mot make it across the first required legal threshold because she never proved any violation of any state or federal law. A male juror said outside the courtroom that the panel agreed with Roberts’ position that no law was broken.
Roberts also said Francis was only one of many people who worked together to help bring about the arrest and conviction of LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus.
“The only one who committed a crime in this case is in prison,” Robert said.
Francis sued the city in October 2013, alleging retired Detective Cliff Shepard, formerly of the Robbery-Homicide Division’s cold-case unit, ignored the results of DNA tests that Francis performed as a criminalist in the LAPD’s Scientific Investigation Division. Those results gained importance years later when another detective determined that Lazarus killed nurse Sherri Rasmussen in a jealous rage.
Francis alleges that Shepard knew Lazarus had ties to the victim and 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 the nurse’s slaying.
Rasmussen was found beaten and shot on Feb. 24, 1986, in the Van Nuys townhouse she shared with her husband. Rasmussen had married John Ruetten, Lazarus’ one-time love interest, three months before her death.
Lazarus, a former theft investigator, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced in May 2012 to 27 years to life in prison.
In his testimony, Shepard denied he wanted to protect Lazarus from prosecution and said he never heard of the woman until her June 2009 arrest.
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