Ex-NFL Linebacker Eric Naposki Files Federal Appeal of Newport Beach Murder Conviction

Naposki (left) with his contemplative attorney, Gary Pohlson, during 2011 trialEXPAND
Naposki (left) with his contemplative attorney, Gary Pohlson, during 2011 trial
Press pool photograph

Having earned an MVP football player status with the Barcelona Dragons in the 1990s and linebacker stints with the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, Eric Naposki understands you play until there's no time left on the game clock. 

Naposki, who was convicted in 2011 for a 1994 special circumstances murder of an ultra-weathy Newport Beach businessman and inventor, has previously filed losing complaints with the California Court of Appeal as well as the state's Supreme Court. 

But the 49-year-old High Desert State Prison resident tossed his latest Hail Mary pass earlier this month to federal judges, whom he hopes will see the injustice of a conviction that means he will never emerge from custody alive. 

In this latest appeal, Naposki insists he is "wrongfully incarcerated and restrained of his liberty."

He blasted Orange County homicide prosecutors for waiting 16 years to file charges—a delay he says resulted in the lose of critical alibi evidence, and Superior Court Judge William Froeberg for allegedly making faulty rulings, issuing misleading jury instructions and allowing a biased juror, who called the defendant "creepy," to remain on the panel. 

In the months following the murder of William McLaughlin, whose financial net worth topped $55 million, authorities targeted Naposki and his girlfriend Nanette Packard, a brazen thief who also lived with and dated the victim. Naposki defense attorney Julian Bailey told deputy DA Debbie Lloyd, who ran the initial investigation, he reviewed Pacific Bell phone records for the date of the killing. The documents showed his client dialed an 8:52 p.m. call from a Denny's pay phone on the Tustin/Santa Ana border off the 55 freeway, according to Bailey.

In Naposki's view, that evidence makes it physically impossible for him to have made the call, driven nearly 13 miles through nine stop lights and "heavy traffic," entered McLaughlin's Balboa Cove residence near Pacific Coast Highway, fired six hollow-tip bullets into the victim as he stood in his kitchen, and escaped without detection all in about 16 minutes.

Lloyd declined to file charges after receiving Bailey's letter, but prosecutor Matt Murphy took over  the cold-case in 2008 and decided he could win convictions against both Naposki and Packard. 

Packard shopped for a luxury Irvine residence with Naposki after McLaughlin's murder
Packard shopped for a luxury Irvine residence with Naposki after McLaughlin's murder
Press pool photograph

At Naposki's 2011 trial, Bailey—who is now a judge—recalled seeing the phone record and regretted not making a copy for his files because the phone company had routinely destroyed the evidence years earlier. 

"The inability to show a jury this evidence can extremely prejudice a defendant and cause a false conviction," Naposki's appeal states. "The alibi that Mr. Naposki presented to the DA and investigators in 1995 was an 'iron clad alibi,' it was up for challenge and available for deniability. The prosecution's challenge of this alibi 17 years later was far easier, no phone records to deal with, witnesses with faded memories and no corroborating hard copies to show a jury gave them a huge advantage . . . The prejudice caused by this delay is great—so great as to rob the defendants of his right to a fair trial and due process of law."

But it's unlikely federal judges reviewing the case will second-guess the jury's verdict which came after the panel considered the defense version of events against Murphy's successful argument that Naposki had plenty of time to commit the murder and then go to work as a nightclub bouncer less than a football field away from the crime scene. 

One of the damning pieces of evidence Murphy used was Naposki's adamant denial of ever owning a Beretta 92F with 9mm ammunition before police publicly released information about the killer's weapon.

A jury also convicted Packard of murder and a judge gave her a life in prison sentence. Now 50 years old, she is housed at the California Women's Facility at Chowchilla, the state's largest prison for female felons. Before and after the killing, Packard stole substantial funds from McLaughlin's bank accounts.

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