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As district attorneys shift prosecution of ‘Golden State Killer' to Sacramento County, we preview the legal strategies for both sides

Joseph James DeAngelo, the suspected
Joseph James DeAngelo, the suspected "Golden State Killer", appears in court for his arraignment on April 27, 2018 in Sacramento, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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The so-called “Golden State Killer” made national headlines when police arrested a suspect in April of 2018 after decades of investigation.

But what may attract even more eyeballs than the headlines about alleged serial rapist and murderer Joseph DeAngelo’s arrest will be his trial, which prosecutors announced Tuesday would be a joint effort held in a single trial in a Sacramento courtroom. It’s so highly anticipated that even DeAngelo’s lawyer has called it the “biggest trial in California history.”

Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and five other DAs announced that they had refiled the 13 murder counts, which took place in several California counties, in Sacramento Superior Court in order to consolidate the case and speed up the trial process. 10 of those counts have special enhancements that will permit prosecutors to pursue the death penalty if they so choose, though they say that call won’t be made for some time. The amended complaint also includes 13 new charges of kidnapping to commit robbery.

Prosecutors said they decided on Sacramento county because many of DeAngelo’s alleged crimes happened there, and that the county is large and has the forensic and legal resources to handle a trial of this nature.

DeAngelo, who is set to be arraigned on Thursday, is a former police officer and Vietnam War veteran accused of committing a series of rapes, kidnappings and murders over the course of 11 years. After disappearing for years into the general public, investigators were able to use a genealogy website to match DNA from a crime scene to the DNA of a relative who was registered with the site.

What will be the strategies for the prosecution and defense? Given the high-profile nature of the case, are attorneys on either side expecting trouble with jury selection? We’ll tackle these questions and more as Larry Mantle and our legal experts preview the upcoming trial.


Joseph Serna, is a Metro reporter with the Los Angeles Times; he’s been following the golden state killer; he tweets @JosephSerna

Dmitry Gorin, a former trial prosecutor in the Los Angeles DA’s office and a criminal defense attorney; he tweets @DmitryGorin

Ambrosio Rodriguez, former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney; he led the sex crimes team in the Riverside County D.A.’s office; he tweets @aer_attorney