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Judge Denies Request in Balcony Collapse

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

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BERKELEY, CA--The contractor that built the apartment where six students were killed in June has been denied access to building components removed as part of the criminal probe.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo rejected Segue Construction’s request to inspect beams removed by Berkeley building inspectors after a fifth-floor balcony on the Library Gardens apartment building gave way June 16, sending 13 people to the street below.

In denying the request Thursday (July 2), Grillo said it was tantamount “to participating in” the criminal investigation, reports note.

Six were killed in the balcony collapse, including five students visiting from Ireland.

Alameda Court House
Superior Court of California, County of Alameda

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo denied a request by the company that built the apartment building to be present at DA inspections of evidence.

In a report released June 23, Berkeley city officials said the beams supporting the collapsed balcony on the eight-year-old building were plagued with severe dry rot, confirming earlier suspicions.

The next morning, Alameda County District Attorney launched a criminal investigation into the accident. District Attorney Nancy O’Malley says manslaughter charges are possible.

The Request

On June 30, Segue Construction requested that Grillo issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the DA from further testing the evidence from the collapse without Segue’s involvement.

Segue asked that no evidence be “altered, inspected , tested, or destroyed without allowing Segue to observe and participate in that process,” reports said, citing court documents.

Specifically, the company said that the removal of the balcony and other testing of failed components could prevent future investigators from determining the cause of the water penetration, report relate.

Prosecutors reportedly said Segue’s request was similar to allowing a possible criminal defendant to “piggyback and spy on a criminal investigation.”

Eventual Access

Following the hearing, prosecutors told members of the media that the DA investigation would be “fair and impartial” and that anyone charged would be granted access to the evidence eventually.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O'Malley
Official Photo

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O'Malley's office is in charge of the collapse investigation.

Segue fully expects to be a party to civil litigation in the wake of the deadly collapse.

“There are dueling interests here,” Segue attorney Victoria Ersoff reportedly told the court. “We all know there is going to be civil litigation.”

Segue has settled at least two previous civil cases, alleging damages caused by water penetration, according to reports.

   

Tagged categories: Building envelope; Condominiums/High-Rise Residential; Fatalities; Health and safety; Moisture management; Multifamily; Residential Construction; Waterproofing

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (7/7/2015, 8:30 AM)

The Defendant does have a point - mediocre failure investigation could well destroy evidence of the water leakage.


Comment from Mark Anater, (7/7/2015, 11:31 AM)

Allowing a defendant in a possible criminal case direct access to evidence and discovery process is a very bad idea. We certainly wouldn't allow someone accused of murder to sit in on police investigations. This contractor is essentially asking to participate in his own prosecution. We have to allow investigators to do their jobs without interference, and if they are open with their findings as they should be, any concerns about the quality of their work can be addressed in court.


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