Judge finds DA Todd Spitzer violated Racial Justice Act while discussing now convicted double-murderer

Racially charged comments by DA Todd Spitzer about a Black man since convicted in a brutal Newport Beach double-slaying violated the state Racial Justice Act but will not lead to a reduction of special circumstances murder charges, a judge ruled on Friday morning.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregg L Prickett found that comments Spitzer made about Jamon Buggs during a closed-door meeting about whether to seek the death penalty in the double-murder case ran afoul of the California law that addresses racial bias in prosecutions.

Judge Prickett, however, said the appropriate legal remedy for the racial comments would have been taking the death penalty off the table, a decision the DA’s office already proactively made prior to trial when they decided to instead seek life without the possibility of parole. Given the facts of the killings, the judge added, it was not in the interest of justice to reduce the charges of which Buggs was recently convicted.

Spitzer has repeatedly denied the allegations of racial bias, previously describing the accusations as “baseless and quite frankly offensive.”

Buggs’ hearing will resume on Friday afternoon, when he is expected to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for the April 1, 2019 killings of 38-year-old Darren Partch and 48-year-old Wendi Miller.

Buggs apparently wrongly believed that Partch, a former minor-league hockey player, was in a relationship with Buggs’ estranged girlfriend. Buggs interrupted Partch and Miller having sex in Partch’s Newport Beach condominium and, according to the defense, mistook Miller for his ex-girlfriend before shooting both Partch and Miller to death.

Buggs was arrested several days later, while prosecutors say he was trying to track down and kill another man who was actually in a relationship with his ex-girlfriend.

Buggs’ attorneys did not dispute that he carried out the killings but argued to jurors that the slayings occurred in the heat of passion and were not premeditated first-degree murders.

During a pre-trial internal meeting with top DA officials about whether to seek the death penalty against Buggs, Spitzer asked about the race of Buggs’ former girlfriends and said he “knows many Black people who enhance their status by only dating ‘White women,’” according to internal DA memos. Buggs is Black, Partch and Miller were White and Buggs’ ex-girlfriend is White.