Mansion Suicide Case: Does the CA Constitution require the Attorney General to investigate Rebecca Zahau’s Death?

(Update 9/10/2012: Coronado Police decline Dina Shacknai’s (6 yr old Max’s mother) request to re-open his “accidental death” case after independent forensic investigators have found evidence of homicide. Based on this new info, Dr. Phil just finished taping an interview with the Zahau family and Dina Shacknai to be aired in November. Full press release & story,

(Update 5/30/2012: Zahau Family has filed a formal request to the California Attorney General to investigate the death of their daughter, Rebecca Zahau.)

(Update 4/10/2012: Zahau family attorney, Anne Bremner, has sent new information to San Diego DA and State AG to request an investigation of Rebecca Zahau’s death)

(Update: 4/4/2012: a civil lawsuit has been filed by Max’s mother, Dina, requesting a court order to obtain Max’s autopsy photos from SD Sheriff. Max was the 6-year-old son of Dina and Jonah Shacknai who took a fatal fall at the mansion days before Rebecca’s body was found. Max was apparently under the care of and found by Rebecca. San Diego Sheriff ruled Max’s death an accident.)

Can the California Attorney General conduct an independent review of the suicide finding in the Coronado Mansion Suicide Case? Interesting inquiry. In these circumstances, can we blame Mr. Shacknai for asking for a second opinion from the California Attorney General (AG), the chief law enforcement officer, in the suicide finding in the death of Rebecca Zahau? But, does the California Constitution article 5, section 13 apply and require the state AG to investigate and review the authorities findings? And, is an aggrieved party, like Mr. Shacknai the proper party legally to ask for the inquiry?

The state AG typically steps in to defend convictions on appeal, handle prosecutions when the district attorneys (DA) office has a conflict, and as authorized by section 13 “to see that the laws are uniformly and adequately enforced…have direct supervision over every DA, sheriff and law enforcement officer…” and “when required by the public interest …the AG shall assist any district attorney in the discharge of the duties of that office.” But, this inquiry isn’t about whether a law was not enforced to trigger section 13. It’s about whether an investigative finding of suicide was proper.

Furthermore, the “public interest” requirement that Mr. Shacknai alleges in his September 19, 2011 letter to the AG in support of his review request, may not call for the AG to step in either as the DA isn’t asking for assistance in the discharge of their duties. And, there is no pending case but rather a “closed case”. Mr. Shacknai, who is a private citizen and a lawyer is asking for the AG to weigh in.

Also, no one is alleging the laws of the state weren’t enforced. Mr. Shacknai is simply calling for the AG to “evaluate the investigative methods and conclusions of the San Diego and Coronado authorities”. He is also asking for the AG’s office “if they believe any further investigative steps are warranted, then of course the interests of justice demand they be pursued..” Can we blame him for asking for a second opinion but is he the right party (does he have standing to ask) to do so. And, does this California Constitution section apply in this instance? Putting the legal question aside, maybe, we should allow any citizen the right to request the AG to step in. But, given the bizarre circumstances of Rebecca’s death, I doubt any finding by the AG will stop the speculation and public scrutiny. Unfortunately, this time is difficult for all the families involved and especially for those families in high-profile cases.

Simply my opinion, WHAT SAY YOU?

For those interested, the CA Constitution Article 5, section 13, states:

“Subject to the powers and duties of the Governor, the Attorney General shall be the chief law enforcement officer of the State. It shall be the duty of the Attorney General to see that the laws of the state are uniformly and adequately enforced. The AG shall have direct supervision over every district attorney, sheriff, and over such law enforcement officers as may be designated by law, in all matters pertaining to the duties of their respective offices, and may require any said officers to make reports concerning the investigation, detection, prosecution, and punishment of the crime in their respective jurisdictions as the AG may seem advisable. Whenever in the opinion of the AG any law of the state is not being adequately enforced in any county, it shall be the duty of the AG to prosecute violations of the law which the superior court shall have jurisdiction, and in such cases the AG shall have all the powers of a district attorney. When required by the public interest or directed by the governor, the AG shall assist any district attorney in the discharge of the duties of that office.”  

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