An Indio judge declared a mistrial today amid jury selection for one of four men charged with the financially motivated murder of a Palm Springs retiree.
“It’s been in evidence since day one that I’ve needed more time,” 27- year-old Daniel Garcia, who is representing himself, told Riverside County Superior Court Judge David Downing on the fifth day of jury selection.
Garcia faces a first-degree murder charge in the Dec. 5, 2008, death of Clifford Lambert, as does Kaushal Niroula, 28, Miguel Bustamante, 27, and San Francisco attorney David Replogle, 60.
A second man charged with the financially motivated murder of a Palm Springs retiree has been granted a mistrial.
Judge David Downing took the actions on the fifth day of jury selection because of claims by Daniel Garcia and Kaushal Niroula that they did not have sufficient time to prepare for trial. Both men are representing themselves.
The men also face sentence-enhancing allegations of committing a murder for financial gain and during a robbery and a burglary, making them eligible for life in prison without parole if convicted.
Niroula, who is also representing himself and had repeatedly asked for a delay, asked the judge for time to think about whether he also wants to seek a mistrial
Garcia asked for a new trial after Deputy District Attorney Lisa DiMaria removed her objection Tuesday to allowing the defendants to be tried separately.
Garcia filed a writ with the state appellate court earlier this month asking for more time to prepare for trial, and Niroula planned to do the same this 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.