In 1984, 25-year-old babysitter Linda Faye Rodgers was found half-naked and strangled to death in a Santa Ana home.
A few months later, officials arrested Kenneth Clair on charges of burglary, murder and torture in the case.
In 1987, an Orange County jury convicted him of first-degree murder and sentenced him to death. Clair's attorneys would eventually argue, however, that the prosecutors unethically interjected race into the trail.(Clair is black and Rodgers was white.)
By 1992, as the case still meandered its way through the system, the state's Supreme Court rejected the racial prejudice claims and upheld the death sentence. Then in 2005, Clair asked for a new attorney, but a federal judge denied it. In an OCRegister story from 2008, prosecutors revealed that DNA recovered from the crime scene wasn't a match to Clair.
Today, the case is in front of the Supreme Court. Clair wants to fire his attorney, according to a KPCC story, because he claims that he hired a private investigator who found new evidence in the case, but that his lawyer “didn't try to obtain it, analyze it or present it to the court.”
Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola, told KPCC that the law is somewhat murky about whether someone awaiting the death penalty can fire their lawyer.
In a piece about Clair's case yesterday, the New York Times opines: “The court should not use this narrow case to limit the ability of defendants to get the representation they need.”