How much time do you get for illegally helping murderers and rapists avoid their just deserts?

Only five years apparently, from the San Jose Mercury News: Private eye gets five years for fake documents in death row cases [emphasis mine throughout]:

Death penalty investigator Kathleen Culhane said she recognized from the start that she was breaking the law when she systematically faked more than two dozen documents in an attempt to derail fast-approaching executions.

Her goal was to buy the condemned inmates more time. And in that she succeeded, prosecutors said, forcing attorneys to retrace her steps to make sure she didn’t do more to undermine the state’s legal system.

Culhane, 40, smiled slightly Thursday as she was led away in handcuffs to begin serving a five-year prison term for two counts of forgery and single counts of perjury and filing false documents. Her attorney said she is likely to actually serve about two years and eight months.

Under a plea agreement, the former San Francisco-based investigator avoided a possible 19 years in prison on 45 counts. She originally was charged with filing false documents under the names of 11 jurors, two witnesses, two court interpreters and one police officer.


A defiant Culhane used her sentencing hearing in Sacramento County Superior Court to criticize at length a justice system she was sworn to serve.

Though trained as a lawyer, Culhane worked as a private investigator for Habeas Corpus Resource Center in San Francisco and for private attorneys defending condemned inmates in the final stages of their court appeals and in last-ditch clemency appeals to California governors.

She said she started making up statements from real witnesses and jurors and forging their signatures on documents favorable to condemned murderers out of her belief that the death penalty is often disproportionately applied to racial minorities and the poor.

She got away with it for years.

Investigators eventually found that Culhane filed at least 23 fraudulent documents to help four death row inmates between November 2002 and February 2006. They say she faked documents for a fifth inmate as well, but those allegations were dropped as part of her plea agreement.


She was discovered after Michael Morales petitioned Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for clemency as he was about to be executed last year for the 1981 rape and murder of a Central Valley teenager.

San Joaquin County prosecutors challenged six documents provided by Culhane. They found jurors who swore they had never spoken with Culhane and said they supported Morales’ death sentence.

San Joaquin Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau, who attended Thursday’s sentencing, said it is ironic that Morales’ execution has since been stayed because of concerns about the state’s lethal injection method—an issue that was not related to Culhane. Morales is on death row for the rape and murder of 17-year-old Terri Winchell.


In addition to Morales, the other three death-row inmates named in Culhane’s charges are: Jose Guerra, convicted by a Los Angeles County jury for the 1990 rape and murder of Kathleen Powell; Vicente Figueroa Benavides, convicted by a Kern County jury for the 1991 murder and rape of a 21-month-old child; and Christian Monterroso, convicted by an Orange County jury for the 1991 murders of Tarsem Singh and Ashokkumar Patel and the attempted murder of Allen Canellas.

Each remains on death row with pending appeals.

Hat tip: Patterico’s Pontifications’ How One Person Managed To Thwart And Delay The Death Penalty For Years In California Through Her Lies And Perjury

One thought on “How much time do you get for illegally helping murderers and rapists avoid their just deserts?”

  1. Hi,

    Private detectives and Private investigators are often specialized. Some focus on intellectual property theft, investigate and document acts of piracy, help clients stop illegal activity and provide intelligence for prosecution and civil action. Many investigators specialize in developing financial profiles and asset searches. Their reports reproduce information gathered through interviews, investigation and surveillance and research, including review of public documents.

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