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Slaying indictment called biased

Ventura County Star (California), SECTION: VENTURA
BYLINE: Raul Hernandez. 805-437-0264

Ventura County, CA

Grand jury member had job with sheriff

The state Supreme Court will consider whether to hear legal arguments to dismiss an indictment against slaying suspect Joshua Graham Packer because a member of the grand jury that indicted him was a civilian clerical employee of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.

Packer, 21, of Ventura is accused of murdering Brock and Davina Husted and their unborn child. On May 20, 2009, Packer allegedly entered the family's house in a gated community in Faria Beach wielding a firearm and demanding money.

Packer was arrested a year later. His DNA was found on the visor of a motorcycle helmet found under Brock Husted's body and under Brock's fingernails, according to court documents.

Packer's lawyers maintain the indictment was based on grand juror bias and that Packer was denied due process.

Deputy District Attorney Michelle Contois, who filed the prosecution's response to defense lawyers' writ of mandamus said the California Supreme Court will decide by May 27 whether to accept and hear the case.

Packer is set for trial Sept. 12, but if the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, the trial could be delayed, she said.

Packer's lawyer, Benjamin Maserang, with the public defender's office, declined to comment on the filing.

In her written response, Contois said the grand juror was working with the High Tech Task Force of the Sheriff's Department, which analyzes computers and other electronic devices. Her primary function was processing payroll reports for the 'narcotics side,' she said.

Contois said in the petition that Ventura County Superior Court Judge James Cloninger was aware of the grand juror's job. The juror had said she 'might have received one computer' from the Packer case and put it in the evidence room.

'Based only upon on a speculative and theoretical possibility of bias, Packer seeks dismissal of his indictment, an indictment which is unquestionably supported by probable cause,' Contois wrote.

Packer is charged with three counts of first degree murder and other felonies, including robbery, burglary and the special circumstances of committing multiple murders, committing murders during a robbery and committing murders during a burglary.

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