The penalty phase of convicted serial killer Joseph Naso's Marin County Superior Court trial ended this morning with a testy exchange between Naso and Judge Andrew Sweet after the jury left for a lunch break.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday, but Naso, who is representing himself, told Sweet he intends to call two female witnesses on Tuesday after the prosecution finishes its case.
The prosecution is expected to wrap up its case on Friday. Sweet told Naso he has to have his witnesses available on Friday because closing arguments had already been set for Monday. "I'm extremely reluctant to have any delays in this case," Sweet said.
That prompted Naso to accuse the judge of preventing him from defending himself. "Why am I not allowed to defend myself? You're pushing me and squeezing me. My witnesses can't come on Friday," Naso said. Sweet replied, "I may not let you call them."
He told Naso it is unusual for a convicted defendant to call witnesses during the penalty phase of a trial who had already testified during the main trial that the defendant had harmed them. Naso was convicted last month of the first-degree strangulation murders of four prostitutes between 1977 and 1994 in Marin, Contra Costa and Yuba counties.
The victims were Roxene Roggasch, 18, of Oakland; 22-year-old East Bay resident Carmen Colon; and Yuba County residents Pamela Parsons, 38, and Tracy Tafoya, 31.
Sweet asked Naso whether he was calling the two witnesses to mitigate the prosecution's testimony against him or simply to confront the witnesses.
"I'm concerned about the purpose of you calling them in this case," the judge said. Naso said the purpose was mitigation. "Why are you in a hurry to get rid of me?" Naso asked. Sweet said he would consider a motion to continue the trial to accommodate Naso's two witnesses if good cause is shown. Naso pointed his finger at the judge as he said, "I changed my mind this weekend. I'm going to have mitigation witnesses."
"Don't point at me," Sweet replied before ending the morning session. Prosecutors Rosemary Slote and Dori Ahana are presenting evidence they claim links Naso to the murder of Sharieea Patton, 56, of San Francisco, whose body was found along a San Francisco Bay shoreline in Tiburon on Jan. 14, 1981.
Naso was not charged with her murder, but the prosecution is hoping that the testimony will help convince the jury to recommend the death penalty.
Prosecutors are trying to establish that Patton lived in an apartment at 839 Leavenworth St. at the time of her death. Charles Gaetani, the owner of the apartment building in 1980, testified this morning that Naso lived and worked as a resident apartment manager at the complex at the time Patton was killed.
Evidence that Patton lived there includes her application for employment at St. Francis Hospital in San Francisco and a receipt from a cleaner in the area, both of which list her as living at that address on Leavenworth Street. Patton's daughter, Rusel Heckert, 63, testified today about a gray rabbit-fur coat her mother owned.
The prosecution intends to introduce into evidence a photo of a half-naked woman wearing a similar coat that was found in Naso's home. Heckert testified she believes that coat was her mother's. "I'm positive that was my mom's fur coat," she told Ahana.
She said she and her mother had bought matching Joseph Magnin fur coats for $100 each, and that she had given hers away to a thrift store after her mother died.
Naso questioned how she could know that the coat in the photo was her mother's since the photo didn't show the label. Heckert did not look at Naso once this morning when she answered his questions about her mother.
He asked about Patton's habits and social life. Heckert testified that her mother was a hard worker and was always busy, and didn't go to bars or socialize much. "She had no interest in men," Heckert said.
Patton had worked for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office before moving up to Kings Beach in the Tahoe area, where she lived with Heckert. After Heckert got married and moved out, Patton moved out in late 1980, Heckert testified.
She ended up in San Francisco, and applied for a job at St. Francis Hospital on Jan. 6, 1981, prosecutors said.
After her body turned up in the Bay a little more than a week later, Heckert's husband got a call from a family friend who had seen the story on the news and recognized Patton, Heckert testified. Heckert traveled to Marin County the next day to identify her mother's body, she said.