An Indio judge declared a mistrial today amid jury selection for two men representing themselves in the murder of a Palm Springs retiree allegedly killed for his money.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge David Downing ordered a new trial on the fifth day of jury selection in the trial of Daniel Garcia, 27, and Kaushal Niroula, 28, because of their claims that they are not prepared for trial.
“It’s been in evidence since day one that I’ve needed more time,” Garcia told the judge.
Garcia and Niroula, who are representing themselves, face a first-degree murder charge in the Dec. 5, 2008, death of Clifford Lambert.
Also charged in the killing are Miguel Bustamante, 27, and San Francisco attorney David Replogle, 60.
All four also face sentence-enhancing allegations of committing a murder for financial gain and murder during a robbery and a burglary, making them eligible for life in prison without parole if convicted.
Niroula said thought about his decision for several hours before asking for a mistrial this afternoon.
Both are due in court Jan. 14 for a readiness conference.
Trial for Bustamante and Replogle is moving forward, with opening statements set for early October.
Garcia asked for a new trial Tuesday after Deputy District Attorney Lisa DiMaria withdrew her objection to having the defendants tried separately.
Garcia filed a writ with the state appellate court earlier this month, asking for more time to prepare for trial. Niroula planned to do the same on Friday.
The prosecution alleges that Niroula let Bustamante and a fifth co-defendant, Craig McCarthy, into Lambert’s home on Dec. 5, 2008, and Bustamante stabbed the retiree to death.
McCarthy, a former Marine, pleaded guilty to a voluntary manslaughter charge last week. He is expected to testify against his co-defendants as part of his plea deal.
The three allegedly loaded Lambert’s body into the trunk of his Mercedes-Benz and buried him in the hills in Fontana.
Lambert was reported missing two days later by a friend. Detectives went to his home at 317 Camino Norte and found the mailbox full and his silver 2004 Mercedes missing.
Following Lambert’s death, Replogle allegedly created a false power of attorney document that allowed the co-defendants to empty the victim’s bank accounts.
They also allegedly tried to complete a quick sale of his $1 million home for less than $300,000. A judge later halted the sale.
Bustamante was apprehended by police while emptying Lambert’s home, and he implicated the other men in Lambert’s murder, according to the prosecution. Garcia was caught with Lambert’s debit card, which was used to withdraw money from one of the retiree’s accounts for a two-week period after the murder. He has claimed Lambert gave him the cards.