News - August 18, 2010

Murder suspect struggles to find attorney

by Dave Boyce

After six unsuccessful attempts to obtain a plea from Pooroushasb "Peter" Parineh to a murder charge, prosecutors from the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office are out of patience.

Mr. Parineh, 64, has been in county jail since mid-June on charges connected with the shooting death of his 56-year-old wife Parima Parineh. Sheriff's deputies found her dead on April 13 of multiple gunshot wounds in the bedroom of their home in unincorporated Woodside.

Mr. Parineh has repeatedly asked judges to continue his arraignment proceedings while he tries to arrange for a defense attorney in a case that, if he is convicted, may end in his being put to death or kept in prison for life without the possibility of parole, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Mr. Parineh has been in negotiations with at least three attorneys since his arrest on June 17, according to reports from Mr. Wagstaffe's office. He has been in court about every other week for the purpose of entering a plea, but the judge has always granted him a continuance while he seeks an attorney.

In death penalty cases, attorney fees usually run from $250,000 to $500,000, Mr. Wagstaffe said, noting that Mr. Parineh's difficulties in obtaining a lawyer revolve around what it's going to cost him.

His next arraignment is set for Aug. 19, Mr. Wagstaffe told The Almanac. If Mr. Parineh hasn't settled on an attorney by then, prosecutors are going to ask the judge to require him to list his assets so the judge can determine whether he has the wherewithal to afford his own defense.

Ms. Parineh had a "large" life insurance policy and Mr. Parineh had several properties in foreclosure, no liquidity and "enormous debt," Mr. Wagstaffe has said.

Asked if Mr. Parineh was indigent, Mr. Wagstaffe said that prosecutors do not have access to information that would answer that question. "Some money is coming in from somewhere," he said. "Evidently this attorney he is seeking to hire is not an inexpensive attorney."

If Mr. Parineh is shown to be indigent, the county will pay his legal bills and appoint a defense attorney from a pool of about 115 members of the county bar association, Mr. Wagstaffe said.

About a quarter of these lawyers have experience in death penalty cases and would be "as good or better" in court than any attorney Mr. Parineh could hire on his own, Mr. Wagstaffe said.

Prosecuting a case against appointed attorneys can be daunting, Mr. Wagstaffe said. Recalling his own experience in a recent death penalty case against a court-appointed defense, Mr. Wagstaffe noted that he was alone while his opposition had four attorneys to draw on, and that he had two investigators whereas the defense had four.


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