Prosecutor pulled from cold case after affair

A prosecutor and a DNA expert working on a 1989 cold case murder in San Jose have been reassigned after the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office learned they were having an affair, but prosecutors said Monday they do not think it will affect the case.

Deputy District Attorney Ted Kajani was removed from the district attorney’s office’s Cold Case Unit and criminalist Amanda Cardenas from investigating cold cases for the county’s criminalistics lab because they had a “physical and emotional” relationship, Assistant District Attorney David Angel said.

Kajani, who headed the Cold Case Unit, came forward to reveal the affair to District Attorney Jeff Rosen and Chief Assistant District Attorney Jay Boyarsky about two weeks ago, Angel said.

On Friday, Rosen’s office reassigned Kajani and Cardenas and appointed Deputy District Attorney Steven Dal Porto to take over the murder case the pair was working on.

Kajani and Cardenas took part in the prosecution of the 1989 murder in San Jose of 38-year-old Cathy Zimmer, who was found strangled and her body wrapped in a quilt in the back of her car parked at Mineta San Jose International Airport.

Cathy’s estranged husband David Zimmer, now 66, and David’s brother, Robert, 70, were both arrested and charged in the 25-year-old murder earlier this year, with prosecutors relying on DNA evidence on Cathy’s clothing they said implicated Robert in her death.

Kajani used Cardenas, who tested DNA samples in the Zimmer and other cold cases at the county’s Laboratory of Criminalistics, as a DNA expert witness once in the preliminary hearing in May and later before the grand jury that heard the case, according to Angel.

Angel said:

“Clearly this is unprofessional. … People working on a case should not have a personal relationship.”

The district attorney’s office disclosed information about the affair to defense attorneys “so that a court can act on it,” Angel said:

“We really have a philosophy that we are going to be transparent even if it’s embarrassing. … Our first concern was the integrity of the case.”

Kajani will now work in the district attorney’s office section that decides what charges to bring for new cases submitted by law enforcement, while Cardenas will work on DNA evidence outside of cold cases, Angel said.

Office employees who engage in similar conduct may be subject to disciplinary action from counseling to termination, he said. But the district attorney’s office does not feel that the revelation will hurt its case against the Zimmers, who are being tried together and whose trial starts next month, Angel said:

“We think the signs are still good and the process is still good. … We have looked at the evidence and we believe it’s solid.”

David Zimmer’s attorney Michael Cardoza said that while he is not sure how news of the affair would affect his client’s case, “it definitely calls into question how the DNA was extracted” from the zipper and button of Cathy Zimmer’s pants and the fact that there is no more DNA evidence left on the clothes to test. “Isn’t it strange that this comes out a month before trial?” Cardoza said.

Cardoza said part of Kajani’s case against David Zimmer, which he said does not include DNA, is that David was having a relationship with another woman at the time of the murder.

Because of the fact that the prosecutor has also been having an affair, Cardoza said Kajani “hoisted himself on his own petard.” Cardoza said part of the responsibility lies with Rosen, who was elected in 2010 while running a campaign of reforming the district attorney’s office and that Kajani had been one of a group of favored and respected prosecutors called “Rosen’s Chosen.”