7 Years Later, SJ Family Seeks Justice in Cop's Death

This is a very long awaited morning for the family of a fallen San Jose police officer.

The word long in the case of the family of Jeffrey Fontana adds up to seven years.

Opening statements began  Monday morning in the trial of a man accused of killing Fontana back in 2001.

DeShawn Campbell is charged with his murder. 

Fontana was fatally shot in October 2001 during a  routine traffic stop on Calle Almaden in south San Jose's Almaden  neighborhood.

The case has been bogged down in the courts for years, and in January the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office withdrew its  request for the death penalty following a judge's ruling that Campbell is  mentally retarded.

"I continue to believe that the death penalty is an appropriate penalty in certain cases, including this one," District Attorney Dolores Carr  said after announcing the decision last month.

Prosecutors instead will seek a sentence of life without the  possibility of parole.

An appeals court in January 2008 requested Judge Diane Northway consider reopening the hearing with new evidence after a witness gave  incorrect testimony about Campbell during the first hearing.

Northway changed her ruling Dec. 19, 2008, after hearing from a defense expert and ruled that Campbell is mentally retarded.

Because an appeal on the ruling would delay the seven-year-old case even further and would likely be fruitless, the case went to trial in  January beginning with jury selection, prosecutor Lane Liroff said.

Jury selection was completed Feb. 10, and the seven men and five women jury will hear opening statements and the beginning of evidence Monday,  District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Amy Cornell said. Four alternate  jurors, including three women and one man, will also sit in the jury box.

Opening statements are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in Department 38 of Santa Clara County Superior Court, 190 W. Hedding St., in San Jose.

The Fonatana family walked into the Hall of  Justice, surrounded by the top brass of the San Jose Police Department, including Chief Rob Davis.

The Fontanas told NBC Bay Area's Damian Trujillo they'll withold commenting on the case until after the trial.

The family of Deshawn Campbell also refused to comment.

But prosecutor Lane Liroff said, "It's hard. I've never had a case where I had to wait 7 years to get in front of the jury".

About the Fontanas, Liroff said, "It's tough for them. I don't think it'll ever get any better. It's very hard to lose your son, and lose him under the circumstances, for a very trivial, senslesss purpose."

The first witness was scheduled to testify Monday afteroon, in a trial that's expected to last until late April or mid May.

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