Kovacich appeal attempt denied by state Supreme Court

Decision follows Placer County first-degree murder conviction in 1982 death of Janet Kovacich
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Convicted murderer Paul Kovacich Jr.’s appeal options are narrowing. The California Supreme Court earlier this month denied a petition for review filed by Kovacich’s attorney, leaving the possibility of a U.S. District Court review on constitutional grounds the next step. Kovacich, a former Placer County Sheriff’s Office sergeant, was convicted three years ago of the murder of his wife, Janet on Sept. 8, 1982, and is now serving a 27-years-to-life prison term. Both were living with their children in an Auburn home at the time she disappeared and her body was never found. Prosecutors used part of a skull discovered 13 years later near Colfax as a key piece of evidence in the case. Deputy District Attorney Dave Tellman, who worked with prosecutor Suzanne Gazzaniga on the conviction, said the state higher court ruling was further testament to the work of many involved in investigating and prosecuting the case, including Auburn Police, cold-case investigator Jerry Johnson, the FBI and the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. “Everyone’s work has paid off with a just verdict that has now been upheld again,” Tellman said. “We’re very pleased with the Supreme Court decision not to review the Appellate Court decision, which upheld all of Judge (Mark) Curry’s trial court rulings. We were comfortable with the rulings from the beginning.” The decision not to take up the case means Kovacich’s attempts to roll back his 2009 Placer County Superior Court jury murder verdict have been exhausted on the state judicial level. The state Supreme Court ruling was made March 14. The Third District State Court of Appeals issued a written ruling in December stating the court could not agree with any of the Kovacich defense team’s appeal points. San Francisco appeals attorney Dennis Riordan has said that the lower court’s decision on admissibility of expert testimony is a significant legal issue and could be a challenge at the Supreme Court level. He couldn’t be reached Friday for comment. Tellman said Kovacich’s attorney has the option of now starting the appeals process at the federal level.