General Crime

Murder Charges Dismissed Following Prosecutors Alleged Affair with DNA Analyst

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The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office has dismissed charges in the 1989 murder of Cathy Zimmer against her ex-husband and his brother, citing an affair by a prosecutor with a lab technician, prosecutors said today. The district attorney’s office filed charges earlier this year against David Zimmer, 66, and Robert Zimmer, 70, in the strangulation death of Cathy Zimmer, whose body was found wrapped in a quilt in her car parked at San Jose International Airport on March 10, 1989.

Prosecutors assigned a new prosecutor to the case last month after learning about a sexual affair between Deputy District Attorney Ted Kajani and Amanda Cardenas, the DNA analyst and courtroom witness for the murder case who worked at the county’s Laboratory of Criminalistics. In a statement this morning, Assistant District Attorney Marc Buller indicated that murder charges could be filed again in the future, stating that “prosecutors will now reassess the case” and that such felony cases “that have not gone before a jury may be dismissed and re-filed.”

Buller stated that the office reevaluated its case against the Zimmers because of the affair but also because Kajani “failed to provide evidence to the defense in a proper manner.” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement that his office made the decision because it has “an absolute and ethical duty to enforce the laws in a just and objective manner and without regard to sympathy, bias or prejudice for or against any particular party.”

“We offer our deepest apologies to the family of the victim, but based on the totality of the circumstances, we simply cannot proceed without taking the time to reexamine and reevaluate the case to ensure we have not violated the rights of the accused, or compromised the integrity of the criminal justice system,” Rosen said.

David Zimmer, Cathy Zimmer’s ex-husband, has been released from Santa Clara County Main Jail and the district attorney’s office has asked for his brother David Zimmer to be released as well, according to Buller.

Kajani had used Cardenas to test DNA samples allegedly found on the zipper and button of Cathy Zimmer’s pants that had been retained by authorities since her murder and Cardenas said that Robert Zimmer’s DNA was located there. The prosecutor used her as an expert witness in DNA during a preliminary hearing in the case in May and later before a grand jury that heard the case, according to the district attorney’s office.

In his case against David Zimmer, Kajani alleged that his motive was to collect insurance money from Cathy’s death, to make extra funds by selling their San Jose home and because he was having an intimate relationship with another woman at the time of his estranged wife’s death. David Zimmer’s attorney Michael Cardoza, after learning of Kajani’s affair with Cardenas last month, criticized the prosecutor, saying that because Kajani was also having an affair, he “hoisted himself on his own petard.” Buller, Kajani, Cardoza and Robert Zimmer’s lawyer Steve Defilippis could not immediately be reached for comment.

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