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United States of America v. Stepney

246 F. Supp. 2d 1069 (2003)

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United States of America v. Stepney

United States District Court for the Northern District of California

246 F. Supp. 2d 1069 (2003)

Facts

The government charged nearly 30 people, including Douglas Stepney (defendants) in crimes a San Francisco street gang perpetrated over several years. The number of defendants, variety of crimes, and varying degrees of culpability made the case unusually complex. The attorneys sought to enter joint-defense agreements (JDAs) to share investigations and work product and develop cohesive defenses. Initially the court ordered JDAs submitted in writing for review, but none were. A year later, multiple defendants had pled guilty and cooperated with the government. One was murdered, and another received threats, intimidating other defendants. An attorney moved to withdraw from representing a defendant who had entered a JDA with another defendant who might be cooperating with the prosecution. The attorney believed the JDA created a duty of loyalty that would prevent effectively cross-examining the cooperating defendant. The court denied the motion, ruled JDAs do not create duties of loyalty, and ordered future JDAs to be in writing, signed by all participants and their attorneys, and fully describe the privileges shared. Defense counsel submitted a proposed JDA stating each attorney who signed would owe each defendant who signed a duty of loyalty.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Patel, C.J.)

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