Pair Sentenced To Life In Prison For Murder Of Palm Springs Retiree

POSTED: 10:51 AM PDT Sep 27, 2011    UPDATED: 05:05 AM PDT May 06, 2011 
INDIO, Calif. -

Two men were sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the financially motivated slaying of a Palm Springs retiree.

Miguel Bustamante, 28, and David Replogle, 62, were both convicted in January for the 2008 death of 74-year-old Clifford Lambert.

Their sentencing came after a judge denied their request for a new trial earlier in the day.

Replogle's attorney, John Patrick Dolan, argued for a new trial because a key witness, a jailhouse informant named Arthur Jimenez, was found in April to have been a paid trustee by the government.

Jimenez was paid by the county to act as a janitor, cleaning up hallways and mopping floors in exchange for $.50 a day and the right to move about the jail freely.

Dolan said the fact the prosecution did not disclose Jimenez's status to the defense compromised the trial, because those facts could have undermined his credibility as a witness.

Jimenez testified in the trial that Bustamante divulged to him details of the Lambert's murder.

``That is critically important,'' Dolan said. ``We would have brought that up in cross examination.''

Bustamante's attorney, Joe Forth, sought a new trial based on a challenge of the qualifications of one of the expert witnesses the prosecution called during the trial.

Dolan also argued for a new trial because he has spoken to several jurors, who he claims were confused about the charges on which Replogle was convicted.

Deputy District Attorney Lisa DiMaria has said she's ``confident in the jury's verdict in this case'' and that her office was unaware Jimenez was being paid.

Dolan said the prosecution should have known about Jimenez's status.

``The motivation of personal integrity of the prosecutor is not an issue,'' the attorney wrote in a brief submitted to the court. ``The defendant is deprived of due process `irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecutor.'''

Two other defendants in the alleged six-person murder conspiracy are also scheduled to appear at the Larson Justice Center today. Daniel Garcia, 28, and Kaushal Niroula, 29, are both acting as their own attorneys, defending themselves against first-degree murder and conspiracy charges.

Downing has allowed them to watch today's proceedings so they can acquire information that can help prepare their case.

The two are set for trial Sept. 6.

Two other defendants in the case were convicted or pleaded guilty.

Craig McCarthy pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in August and a sixth defendant, Russell Herbert Manning, pleaded guilty to fraud-related charges and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Palm Springs police Detective Frank Browning testified at a preliminary hearing that McCarthy told him the initial plan was to kidnap Lambert and steal his identity to clean out his accounts, but the plan hit a snag when concerns arose that the retiree could reemerge and contest forged power-of-attorney documents prepared by Replogle, a San Francisco lawyer.

Lambert was slain during a staged break-in on Dec. 5, 2008, with Bustamante stabbing him in the back of the neck as McCarthy and Niroula stood by his side, Browning said.

Lambert's body has never been found, but the trio are believed to have buried it in the desert.

The prosecution said Lambert was targeted because he was lonely, liked to meet people over the Internet and had an interest in younger men, making him vulnerable.