A MODERN HERO
How One Person Managed To Thwart And Delay The Death Penalty For Years Thru Her Lies
Private eye gets five years for fake documents in death row cases
By DON THOMPSON Associated Press Writer
08/16/2007 06:41:59 PM PDT
SACRAMENTO—Death penalty investigator Kathleen Culhane said she recognized from the start that she was breaking the law when she systematically faked more than two dozen documents in an attempt to derail fast-approaching executions.
Her goal was to buy the condemned inmates more time. And in that she succeeded, prosecutors said, forcing attorneys to retrace her steps to make sure she didn’t do more to undermine the state’s legal system.
Culhane, 40, smiled slightly Thursday as she was led away in handcuffs to begin serving a five-year prison term for two counts of forgery and single counts of perjury and filing false documents. Her attorney said she is likely to actually serve about two years and eight months.
Under a plea agreement, the former San Francisco-based investigator avoided a possible 19 years in prison on 45 counts. She originally was charged with filing false documents under the names of 11 jurors, two witnesses, two court interpreters and one police officer.
“I definitely knew the seriousness of what I was doing and what was at stake,” Culhane told the Associated Press in a courthouse interview moments before she was sentenced. “For many years I worked legally and really strived to uphold truth in our justice system. But I think part of the truth of this is we have a very dysfunctional defense system in terms of the death penalty,”
She said she grew frustrated that most death penalty appeals ultimately were rejected and the inmates executed.
“I think it got to the point where although I knew these acts were wrong, I believed they were necessary in order to try to prevent, or delay, executions,” she said.