An appellate panel in Santa Ana on Thursday reversed the murder convictions of a 29-year-old man involved in the killings of the father and sister of a friend’s ex-girlfriend in Anaheim Hills.

Vitaliy Krasnoperov was sentenced two years ago to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his part in the killings, in which co- defendants Iftekhar Murtaza and Charles Anthony Murphy Jr., 30, also were convicted.

Murtaza is awaiting sentencing following a jury’s death penalty recommendation and Murphy was sentenced to life without parole on Jan. 17 last year.

Krasnoperov will go on trial a third time of the May 21, 2007 killings of Jayprakash Dhanak and his 20-year-old daughter, Karishma Dhanak, and the attempted murder of Leela Dhanak, Jayprakash’s wife.

Krasnoperov’s first trial ended with a hung jury in May 2011, but he was convicted in December of 2011 and sentenced to life without parole in November 2012.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal justices ruled that Assistant District Attorney Howard Gundy improperly used information gleaned from Krasnoperov in a proffer about attempts to hire a hit man to kill the Dhanaks.

The proffer, which is when a defendant speaks freely about a crime without the threat of the evidence being used against them, was part of efforts to make a plea deal with Krasnoperov to testify against the co-defendants that later fell apart.

“Defendant provided material information which unquestionably advanced the investigation,” the justices said in the ruling “Specifically as relevant here, defendant said he sought a hit man for Murtaza through (Jose) Velasco. Velasco told defendant he knew a guy who was willing to do it, because he was going to jail for a long time and needed money.”

Gundy did not know about Velasco until the proffer. Velasco, who testified for the prosecution, was evasive in his testimony about what he knew about the hit man in the first trial, but during the second trial he started to fear he might run into legal trouble if he were more forthcoming, so prosecutors let him testify under immunity, according to the appellate ruling.

The justices ruled that Velasco’s more detailed testimony in the second trial created a conflict between the defense of Krasnoperov and Murphy, which should have led Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals to grant a motion to sever the two defendants and order new trials.

The justices, however, rejected Krasnoperov’s assertion that there was insufficient evidence to convict him.

“We reject defendant’s insufficient evidence contention. However, we agree the prosecution’s use of defendant’s proffer statement during the second trial breached the proffer agreement and violated defendant’s due process rights,” the justices said. “It also produced an irreconcilable conflict between defendant’s right to limit the testimony of witness Jose Velasco, and codefendent Charles Murphy’s unlimited right to cross-examine Velasco. Under these peculiar circumstances severance was required.”

City News Service

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.