An arraignment for the man arrested and charged with murdering five people in a San Francisco home last week was postponed until Thursday.
Questions about a potential conflict of interest arose in court Wednesday and must be worked out before 35-year-old Binh Thai Luc, who is facing charges of five counts or murder, burglary and robbery, can be arraigned. When Luc was arrested police also picked up his brother Brian Luc, who is currently on probation for other charges.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi insisted that his office take on Binh Thai Luc's high profile case. But prosecutors argued Wednesday that since his brother, Brian Luc, was represented by a public defender not long ago, he is still considered a client of the public defender's office. The District Attorney's office said it is a conflict of interest for Adachi to dump Brian Luc's smaller probation violation case in order to represent his brother.
The prosecutor said to Judge Lucy Kelly McCabe that there's a chance Brian might end up as a witness in the case against Binh Thai Luc. The DA's office said it isn't sure how the public defender "will use conflicts or secrets of their former client" Brian.
The judge said she was surprised by Adachi's argument that his office no longer represented Brian Luc now that he was on probation. She pointed out that it will be the public defender's name that appears on the inevitable documents that may soon be filed to revoke Brian Luc's probation, which, to her, indicates that the public defender is still overseeing his case. Both sides will turn in a list of prior cases that they think will back their arguments to the judge and she plans to announce her decision before the arraignment begins tomorrow at 10:30 am.
Steven Olmo, an attorney at the public defender's office, said he has spent several hours meeting with Binh Thai Luc so far.
"He's a hard-working man," Olmo said. "He works in construction trades. The family and friends that we talked to are shocked that he's in this position."
Both brothers were denied bail.
The district attorney filed documents today listing the official charges for Binh Thai Luc.
According to the charges, prosecutors believe the murders took place during the commission of a robbery and a burglary. That suggests Binh Thai Luc may have broken into the house on Howth Street, robbed the people inside and then committed the murders with a "blunt instrument."
In a press conference earlier this week, SFPD Chief Greg Suhr described it as an "edged weapon," a striking contrast from when the bodies were found on Friday and police said they believed the victims may have been shot.
Luc's charges were the same in connection to each victim except one. The documents state that Luc allegedly killed Yuan Ji Lei "while lying in wait." A source at the Superior Court says that may mean prosecutors believe Luc killed the other victims, waited in the home for Lei to return and then murdered him as well.