Murder Conviction Tossed in Bizarre Plot

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A federal magistrate overturned the murder conviction of a man who killed a business owner 25 years ago in a bizarre plot to take over Marin County and turn it into a modern-day Camelot.

The ruling entitles Crossan Hoover, who has been serving 26 years to life in prison, to a new trial.

His lawyer, Nina Wilder, said Thursday she hoped the county would instead drop the case. Prosecutor Edward Berberian said he was unaware of the ruling and had no immediate comment.

Hoover was convicted of killing Richard Baldwin in July 1982 while making plans for the paramilitary takeover of the county.

He might have been found insane if jurors had been given proper instructions and if the prosecutor had not withheld key information from a psychiatric witness, U.S. Magistrate James Larson said in a Sept. 7 ruling.

Hoover was 17 when he beat Baldwin with a baseball bat and stabbed him with a screwdriver and chisel at the orders of Hoover's employer, Mark Richards.

Richards, a contractor identified by authorities as the mastermind of the plot known as "Pendragon," had money problems and ordered Baldwin killed because he was known to carry large amounts of cash, authorities said.

Richards' plan involved turning Marin County into King Arthur's court, with himself as king and teens as knights. He spoke of destroying the Golden Gate and Richmond-San Rafael bridges, and putting laser guns on Angel Island and Mount Tamalpais, authorities said.

Richards was convicted of murder in a separate trial and sentenced to life without parole.

During Hoover's trial, medical witnesses for the defense said the teenager had been prone to psychotic and violent outbursts, hallucinations and suicidal impulses.

But a court-appointed psychiatrist who examined Hoover testified that the teen killed for money. The magistrate said that testimony was key to the prosecution's case that the teen was sane.

Prosecutors, however, withheld important information from the psychiatrist, including details about the Pendragon plot, its impact on Hoover and the teen's suicide attempt in juvenile hall, Larson said. The psychiatrist, John Buehler, has since said his assessment of Hoover would have been different if he had known that information.

"The prosecutor's manipulation of the evidence provided to his expert, Dr. Buehler, so distorted the expert's testimony as to amount to false evidence," Larson said.

Jurors also were not given a proper legal definition of insanity, the magistrate found.

Hoover's lawyer said her client has been a model inmate at Solano State Prison with no evidence of lingering psychiatric problems.


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