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The Evidence In The Vaults Below The Courthouse And More Local News

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On today's San Diego News Matters podcast: San Diego Superior Court stores about 30,000 exhibits, and 2/5 of them are from murder cases. All evidence has to be stored until a case's appeals process is complete. Plus: the shooting at a Poway synagogue has raised questions about law enforcement's preparedness to counter violent white supremacy, the city of Imperial Beach passed one of the most sweeping plastics bans in the state of California and more San Diego and California news and analysis.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Good morning. It's May 3rd I'm Deb Welsh and you're listening to San Diego news matters. Fire season this year in California is expected to be more active than average experts with the national inner agency fire center. Say the state's wet winter is to blame and if it seems like the annual forecast is always for a bad fire season, capitol public radio is rental. White says, you're right.

Speaker 2: 00:24 Each may, the predictions start rolling in California needs to brace for another tougher than average fire year fire center meteorologist Brian Henry says there's good reason for that. He says, what's good for one terrain is bad for another and vice versa. It seems like you can't really have one without the other, so I'm fortunate. I don't think there is an ideal set up. This year is a good example. When the higher elevations get a healthy snowpack, that's beneficial for the Sierra forest during fire season, but it also means lots of rain at the lower elevations, which leads to more fires for the state's grassy areas and drier years. The grasses aren't so much the problem, but forests are more stressed and vulnerable to burning. Henry says, it's a catch 22 without any good outcomes unless it turns wet. In the summertime, which we all know in California is extremely rare. However, Henry says this year does hold some promise, a temperatures the summer, maybe closer to average, then above average. Then we've become accustomed to. He also says we could get that wet summer. He mentioned at least wetter than California is used to in Sacramento. I'm Randall White,

Speaker 1: 01:30 imperial beach official. Say they're tough. New City Ordinance was approved because the community wants to stop the proliferation of plastic KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson as details.

Speaker 3: 01:42 Imperial Beach officials bolstered a city rule that already banned most styrofoam. State law limits the use of single use plastic bags, but city officials added a limit on all plastic bags at city functions and a new ordinance banning plastic utensils and straws. Ib mayor surge to Deena says most businesses already observed the new rules, but he wanted the city to do more.

Speaker 4: 02:06 We're seeing plastic everywhere. It's all over our freeways. It's over. Our roadways is on our beach. If on Arch Bay front, people have become litterbugs and it's driving us crazy literally, and it's costing us a bunch of money to clean up

Speaker 3: 02:18 the ordinance. Doesn't officially take affect until November. Eric Anderson Kpbs News,

Speaker 1: 02:23 the rabbi wounded in the Poway synagogue shooting was at the White House. Thursday. KPBS report, Matt Hoffman says, president Trump also honor those who rushed in to stop the shooter. President Trump

Speaker 3: 02:35 welcome members of the Hibachi synagogue to a celebration of the national day of prayer at the White House this morning. We are privileged to be in the presence of heroes who raced after the murder and helped disrupt the attack at the Poway synagogue. One woman was killed in three others, wounded by a gunman at the synagogue on Saturday. Rabbi east row. Al Goldstein was shot, lost a finger.

Speaker 2: 03:00 During the attack, the rabbi thanked the president for offering his support and honoring the woman who was killed. Mr President, when you called me, I was not home weeping. You were the first person who began my healing. The president says we need to protect communities of faith. Matt Hoffman, tape, PBS news, the shooting. If the Havato Poway synagogue last weekend is raising questions about law enforcement's ability to stop violent white supremacists. Kpbs Metro reporter Andrew Bowen says authorities have had more success with other kinds of terrorism. On Monday, authorities announced they had foiled plans for a bombing near La. The suspect allegedly said he was motivated by Jihad and wanted vengeance for attacks on Muslims. His plans were thwarted after our authorities monitored his extremist postings online and connected him with an undercover FBI informant. So why we're authorities unable to prevent the Poway shooting. The suspect apparently also participated in extremist online forums. Anti allegedly set fire to a mosque in Escondido five weeks before the synagogue shooting. Still he Aveda detection

Speaker 5: 04:07 and we've read in reporting that homeland security is deemphasize domestic terrorists, white supremacists at the expense of American lives and I think we have to get to the bottom of that.

Speaker 2: 04:16 Congressman Scott Peters, who's district includes Poway says the federal government needs a better accounting of the different kinds of extremist violence to make sure it's deploying its resources effectively.

Speaker 5: 04:27 I think we have under attended to domestic terrorism, which this is

Speaker 2: 04:31 Brian Levin is director of the Center for the study of violence and extremism at Csu San Bernardino. He says the government has focused on fighting large organized a terrorist groups, but the trend in extremist violence is toward individual actors radicalized by fragmented Communities Online. Okay.

Speaker 5: 04:48 Definitely the ceilings are acting out in your home region, so a lot of this is in a, both a geographic but also investigative area does the feds don't have as well covered as local authorities.

Speaker 2: 05:04 11 supports a bill in the Senate that would require the departments of Justice and Homeland Security and the FBI to report annually on domestic terrorist activities and focus their resources on the biggest threats. Andrew Bowen Kpbs News, the case of a Soviet agent known as the granny spy as become the inspiration for a new film called Red Joan that opens today. KPBS film critic Beth like a Mondo has this review, the real case of British civil servant and KGB Intelligence Source Melita Norwood has been transformed into the film. Read Joan featuring Judi Dench and directed by Trevor Nunn. The film opens with the Elderly Joan Stanley being arrested. I don't want a lawyer. I haven't done anything wrong. Mr. Stanley, you're being charged with treason. Dench provides the film with its best moments. The film serves up an interesting commentary about how societies underestimation

Speaker 1: 05:58 of what a woman could be capable of, led to Joan passing secret documents to the Soviets for decades without being detected. But the films fictional character ultimately proves to be less interesting and complex than her real life counterpart. Beth like Amando k PBS News, California Congressman Eric Swalwell qualified this week for the Democratic presidential primary debates. Capitol public radio is politifact reporter Chris Nichols as this profile of the under the radar candidate for president,

Speaker 6: 06:29 the 38 year old Swalwell isn't the biggest name in the 2020 race. He's not even the best known California and running, but this millennial father of two young children has taken one of the strongest stances on gun control among the 20 Democrats in the field.

Speaker 7: 06:44 I talked to kids who sit in their classroom a frame, there'll be the next victim of gun violence and they seen Washington and doing nothing about it after the moments of silence and they see lawmakers who love their guns more than I love our kids.

Speaker 6: 06:56 That was Swalwell on the late show with Stephen Colbert where he announced his run for the White House earlier this month. He's called for a national ban on military style assault weapons and he said more must be done to take guns away from domestic abusers. Swalwell supports Medicare for all is open about the nearly $100,000 he owes in student loans and has plans to ease the debt burden for others

Speaker 7: 07:21 and on student loan debt. For the 40 million of us who have it, I would bring the interest rate to zero and allow employers to contribute tax free to their employees. Do long debt.

Speaker 6: 07:30 We'll fact check Swalwell statements during his 2020 run as we have and will continue to do so. For Senator Harris in Sacramento, I'm Chris Nichols.

Speaker 1: 07:41 Last week we told you about the city of San Diego's archives where documents are stored dating back to the 18 hundreds today we bring you a tour of a different kind of storage place where thousands and thousands of pieces of evidence are stored from all of the county's criminal cases. KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trigger Story as the story as you enter the San Diego superior courts, evidence storage vaults. The sound that greets you is rushing water like a spa or a relaxing fountain except this water runs through a pipe overhead labeled sanitary waste. Uh, it's funny too, you have to work on Rhode Island. Bill next has run evidence storage for 30 years. He's worked down in the basement of the old court house and now the new one. Cataloguing and storing every piece of evidence that's used in the courtrooms above. Okay. Well when new exhibits or brought in, they're brought into this open area here. Nick's points to a counter stacked with Manila envelopes. This is what a new case on look like if it's just paper. Next is the librarian sort of, he has a card catalog system that tells you where exactly each piece of evidence is and who's looked at it and that's very important. If goes missing,

Speaker 8: 08:56 he'll know who to blame. So basically the envelope is the, is the brain of the case basically. So the exhibit list is in there. Any paper documents is usually stored in there and they're filed here. But in other ways nicks is nothing like a librarian. This is all hand guns here. The smaller boxes we keep, and again they're separated by case number. All the red dots that you see, those are all murder cases. For one thing. A lot of what he's storing our guns and then like sometimes we'll get items like this where it's stored in plexiglass. Nick's pulls out a giant assault rifle in a plexiglass case that's almost as tall as he is. He also points out other murder weapons, miscellaneous weapons. These are just items that for one reason or another were used to harm somebody. The items include a few shovels, rakes, a mop and some hockey sticks.

Speaker 8: 09:50 When I first started working here, I was 20 years old and I'll be honest with Ya, I was a little, it messes with your mortality a little bit cause you see so much death around you, pictures of it and it's like wow. Yeah, it'll, it can. But then it wears off and you really don't see it after a while. I hate to admit it, but Nick's also has a few ghost stories from the old court house on Broadway. Yeah. It was a little spooky over there. We had what was called a default over there and uh, we started nothing but murder death penalty's over there. That's it. That's all it was there. And there was a lot of ugly things in there and I had a cart. It fact it's in there, a green card that is very heavy. I had it resting inside and it rolled on its own out that door over that threshold and enter this room. And there's no way he did that without a show. There's just no way it could happen. The oldest evidence next keeps is from a murder case back in the 1970s, the person absconded and they're still, there's a warrant out for him. So it, and whenever there's a warrant out, no matter what, we can't get rid of the case. And that's another way. Nix is not like a library. And his purpose is not to hold on to all evidence forever, just as long as it might be needed in court.

Speaker 9: 10:59 We're responsible for maintaining and managing the exhibits all the way through, uh, the appellate process.

Speaker 8: 11:08 Michael [inaudible] is the executive officer for the San Diego Superior Court.

Speaker 9: 11:12 I think there's always a concern that years and years later, somebody may have be exonerated if they were wrongly convicted. And of course the evidence could be important in that. And so again, we wait till a case was fully completed and then we even wait longer than that. And we don't do it the exact minute that we can get rid of things.

Speaker 8: 11:30 Death penalty cases are kept until the person is executed or dies naturally. Murder cases are also kept a long time because there can be lengthy appeals. San Diego Superior Court stores, about 30,000 exhibits and two fifths of them are from murder cases. They also notify all parties in the case before anything is destroyed in case want to reclaim evidence or ask that it be kept longer. But this can create a demand on space in the storage vaults. You've got to keep some things going out the back door because you have constantly have things coming in the front door to help free up space. They've been able to get rid of many of the giant foam boards people use to hold up in court, storing the images electronically instead. And a lot of evidence is now stored as photographs on DVDs. But the evidence room supervisor, Nick says that wasn't true in the past.

Speaker 8: 12:24 He's stored some very large items. We had a, uh, two bank robbers that we had to, they admitted all of their tools as evidence. They were huge drills and saws, uh, that their purpose was to, to be magnetized to the face of the door and um, for reuse. And they were ungodly heavy. We had buckets of ship chain all with this one case. It was, it was incredible. We've had a mock room that was made up of board, but it was when it was put together, it was a huge room. Um, car fenders, car doors, uh, arm chairs, full size television sets, big screens. There really was no, there was no need. They could bring anything if we were lucky. We didn't get anything bigger cause they, they would have the last part of the evidence storage process is destruction or reuse. So like the sheriff's office would get um, Narara handguns. The DEA gets our narcotics and our ammunition scales taken as evidence in drug cases used to be sold at auction. Then the bad people were buying them back. So now we we stock pile and then we donate them to local schools. Yes. Really much better purpose I think. Claire Traeger, sir. Key PBS news.

Speaker 1: 13:49 If you have an archive space, you think we should visit. Email us@investigationsatkpbs.org around the state. There are about 134,000 public college students over the age of 50 today as part of our grain California series. Vanessa Rancano takes us to Fresno to meet a senior who's hitting the books in 1974 wait, Hedrick with 20 years old and he just started school at Fresno state. It only costs around $150 a year back then. And Wade's parents covered it, but he was more interested in fraternity life and his business major. I was totally unmotivated. I didn't enjoy what I was taking. I just took it because my dad said it was a good major. I hated it. We'd want it to get to work and start making money. I always thought I was going to end up selling something and then someone said, you should sell cards. You'd be really good at it. So when we'd got a job at a Chevrolet dealership, just a couple blocks from campus, it was a matter of weeks before he dropped out of school.

Speaker 1: 14:51 42 years later, we'd still works at that dealership. The warranty is three 36 bumper to bumper. And then he sold some 4,000 cars over the years and has a big diamond studded ring from General Motors to prove it. So you're all set and keys are in it. He says dropping out and didn't hurt his career. He owned a house and a car. By the time he was 24 he married his college girlfriend, had kids and watch them grow up and become successful, but something always bugged him. She, my brother graduated, my wife did, two of my kids have and like I didn't, I didn't finish college. I'm the only one of my family that didn't and it really bothered me for a long time. He treaded having to fill out forms that asked about his level of education. So at 66 years old we'd is back at Fresno state.

Speaker 1: 15:39 That's the student union. It was here when I was here before. Here's the bookstore. It's hardly costing anything. Thanks to a special California State University program. Few people have ever heard of it gives Californian 60 and over a chance to go to some CSU use and get a degree without paying tuition or most other fees. Wait doesn't get to sign up for classes until regular students have, but he only pays $7 a semester. This time around. He's taking school seriously. I'm not a little kid anymore. He's majoring in communications and he's learning about all kinds of stuff. I wrote a paper on Asians in Hollywood now, their representative favorably, he watched a birth of a nation and learned about Gmos. Holland was very antisemitic. I would've never thought that he seen three different versions of Jesus Christ superstar learned about how global warming is not oaks.

Speaker 1: 16:31 I've just, my eyes have been opened up to people that don't look like me, especially like me. It doesn't mean they're not good. I've just, my whole attitude about stuff's changed. I thought you went to college to get a better job. You go to college to become a better person. I didn't get the personal growth part on campus. Wade gets mistaken for a professor. He jokes he could be most students, grandfather. It was scary to be back at first, but he's embraced student life. He's not doing this because he wants another career. I will be shelf satisfied that I finished and stuck it out. Accomplished it. Smart Guy. He's planning a killer graduation party built around the diploma. He expects to get in 2020 and I'm going to have my degree and on the table it's going to be like a shrine. He already knows where he's going to hang it in Fresno. I'm Vanessa. Thanks for listening to KPV Essa, San Diego News matters podcast. For more local stories, go to k pbs.org.

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San Diego News Matters

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.