Defense attorneys will begin presenting their cases today in the trial of two men accused in the financially motivated killing of a Palm Springs retiree.
San Francisco attorney David Replogle, 61, and Miguel Bustamante, 27, of Daly City, face first-degree murder and theft charges in the Dec. 5, 2008, slaying of 74-year-old Clifford Lambert. The men could face life in prison without parole if convicted.
Bustmante’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Joe Forth, chose to withhold his opening statement until the prosecution rested. He will give his opening statement this morning.
Replogle is expected to take the witness stand in his own defense sometime in the next few weeks.
Also charged in the killing and awaiting trial are Daniel Garcia, 27, and Kaushal Niroula, a 28-year-old self-professed con man from San Francisco.
A fifth man, Craig McCarthy, entered into a plea deal in September and took the witness stand during Replogle’s and Bustamante’s trial, which began nearly two months ago.
At the outset of the trial, Deputy District Attorney Lisa DiMaria told jurors that Replogle, Niroula and Garcia hatched a plan in November 2008 to kill Lambert, create forged power-of-attorney documents, and steal his wealth.
She said Lambert was lonely, liked to meet people over the Internet and had an interest in younger men — making him vulnerable to the scam. The prosecutor alleged that Niroula let Bustamante and McCarthy into Lambert’s home on Dec. 5, 2008, and Bustamante stabbed the retiree to death.
Following Lambert’s death, Replogle allegedly created false power-of-attorney documents that allowed the co-defendants to empty the victim’s bank accounts and try to complete a quick sale of his million-dollar Palm Springs home for less than $300,000. A judge later halted the sale.
Replogle’s attorney, John Patrick Dolan, who already gave his opening, has said that his client only created the documents because Niroula threatened Replogle.