CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

French Judge Aids in San Francisco Homicide Investigation

A French judge has arrived in San Francisco to oversee an unusual probe into the death of a French citizen whose stabbing has puzzled police investigators for more than a year.

Police have said they are handling the June 2, 2007, death of 36-year-old Hugues de la Plaza as a possible homicide, although they have also angered his acquaintances by suggesting he killed himself. The chief medical examiner's office has been unable to determine what caused the 36-year-old sound engineer's death.

De la Plaza's body was found inside his locked apartment on Linden Street in Hayes Valley. Police first said he may have stabbed himself after ingesting drugs, but no bloody knife was recovered and no drugs were found in his system.

Investigators said a surveillance video that provided partial coverage of the apartment showed de la Plaza returning home from a nightclub early the morning he died, but no one else entering. They theorized that he might have washed a knife after stabbing himself, something friends dismissed as preposterous.

No note was found, but de la Plaza had written on a notepad, among other things: "Learn as if you were to live forever," and, "Live as if you were to die tomorrow."

Friends of de la Plaza, led by his ex-girlfriend Melissa Nix, mounted a campaign and worked with de la Plaza's family in France to persuade San Francisco police to conclude the case was indeed a homicide.

The government in Paris soon offered assistance and has had a French investigator working in San Francisco for several months.

As part of France's involvement, a number of witnesses in the case have been subpoenaed under the authority of the U.S. District Court to appear June 17 before French Judge Brigitte Jolivet to give "testimony of potential violations of French law, including murder." San Francisco police will be involved in the questioning at the Hall of Justice.

The French judge is more an independent investigator than a final arbiter of facts.

Continue reading article here. [Brooks Holland]

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