An older millionaire. A sexy divorcee, who lived with him. And her former NFL linebacker boyfriend.
You know what happened next. Linebacker murdered the millionaire, she ripped off the estate, and they nearly got away with it, until they didn't. It's the subject of a true crime novel, and the plot line of many made-for-television movies.
It's also the subject of an unpublished appeals court decision due to the long delay between the murder and the charging and prosecution of the case.
A Conviction, Fifteen Years in the Making
Nanette Packard, the divorcee, brought the instant appeal, arguing that the long delay violated her due process rights and prejudiced her defense by making alibi evidence for her lover, Eric Naposki, impossible to find.
There's a good reason why the opinion is unpublished: this isn't a close case.
Evidence against Naposki included eyewitnesses to his and Packard's relationship (which went to motive) and the bullets used in the murder matched the make, model, and caliber of handgun that Naposki purchased shortly before the murder (his was allegedly stolen). Copies of keys to the victim's home, which were left at the scene, matched the type of keys made by a locksmith visited by Naposki before the murder.
In other words, lots of weak circumstantial evidence.
In 2008 and 2009, that evidence was bolstered by the hard work of the cold case squad, which managed to identify a personal trainer at Naposki and Packard's gym, who testified to their relationship, and to Naposki's statement that she had money that was "offshore" and "difficult to access" but might be interested in investing in his software business at a later time. (She was the beneficiary of the victim's $1 million life insurance policy, and the trustee of his estate.)
A second witness, who called in previously, but refused to disclose her identity, was unmasked in 2009, and testified to both the defendants' personal relationship, as well as incriminating statements made by Naposki.
It was at that point that the Orange County District Attorney had enough evidence to move forward.
Alibi: Weak Either Way
In order to show a due process violation due to delay in bringing a case, a defendant has to show prejudice, and if they do, the prosecution must show justification for the delay.
The trial court refused to dismiss the indictment, noting that the delay was in good faith and due to ongoing investigation of the case.
The appeals court agreed, and found that Packard could not show prejudice. She argued, at trial, that Naposki committed the murder alone (making his alibi irrelevant). Even had she argued that he was innocent at trial, his alibi of making a payphone call in nearby Tustin shortly before the murder wouldn't have helped.
Why? Not only was the alibi weak to begin with (and it contradicted his other statements), but the police did timed drives. Even had he made the phone call at the time and place alleged, he still could have made it to the victim's home and committed the murder.
In other words, regardless of proof, it wasn't really an alibi. Besides, in the mid-1990s, during the initial investigation, the defendants knew that they were suspects. At the time, their investigator stated that he had a credit card receipt for the call. If true, they had evidence of the alibi and lost it, which is hardly the fault of the government.
- People v. Packard (Cal. Ct. of Appeal - Unpublished)
- C.A. Upholds Conviction in Death of Multimillionaire (Metropolitan News-Enterprise)
- SCOTUS Grants Cert in California Cell Phone Search Case (FindLaw's California Case Law Blog)