SAN DIEGO (June 10) – After waiting for seventeen years and spending almost six million dollars in pursuit of the truth, Philippine-born Lourdes M. Dubria is not about to call it quits.
Her faith is immeasurable, her resolve firm and unbreakable.
The 73-year-old retired justice department employee, a mother of four and grandmother of seven, manages a smile or two despite occasional pains from a recent spine surgery and a recurring bout with breast cancer.
A glimmer of hope is on the horizon now that San Diego Superior Court Judge James B. Jennings has concluded evidentiary hearings that could overturn a 1993 murder conviction of her eldest son, Dr. Sam Dubria who is in prison for life.
“I don’t want to give up because I knew he was wronged,” says Mrs. Dubria as she, her husband Paterno, and over two dozen supporters from Los Angeles, waited for the start of new hearings in Jennings’ sala in downtown San Diego early this June 2009.
The hearings — begun Monday, June 1, and ended on June 8 — had been the only window of opportunity for the Dubrias to show new evidence that could shed light on the case and hopefully reverse the conviction
The older Dubrias, who live in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale, never doubted their son’s assertion that he was innocent in the death of Jennifer Klapper in a motel room in Carlsbad.
Prosecutors claimed Dubria drugged Klapper with chloroform, raped her and killed her on Aug. 16, 1991. They also alleged she had no romantic interest in him.
On the other hand, Dubria had stated that Klapper, a medical library employee at a Cincinatti hospital where he was a resident physician, was his girlfriend and they had consensual sex at the Carlsbad motel just before she died.
Dubria and Klapper were vacationing in his parents’ house in Glendale from their work and were on their way to San Diego. They checked in at the Allstar Inn in Carlsbad to spend the night.
“I hope they will just open their minds and look at the evidence,” stresses Mrs. Dubria in an interview. She was at times misty-eyed, at times full of verve, at times chatty. On the outside, she didn’t look like she was despondent over her son’s misfortune.
The new body of evidence, just unearthed from Klapper’s hometown in Cincinatti, consists of medical records indicating that the then-21-year-old woman had consulted with doctors several times for “severe, rapid and strong heartbeat”.
That condition led Dubria’s lawyers Thor and Tracy Emblem to believe that Klapper had heart problems — critical information the Dubrias said were withheld from jurors who convicted Dubria.
Apparently, the San Diego medical examiner who did the autopsy on Klapper also never saw the record.
The Emblems contend the new medical information bolsters the claim that Klapper had died of natural causes, which contradicts prosecutors’ claim that Klapper was administered with chloroform, and once sedated, raped, and killed.
At his sentencing in 1993, Dubria professed innocence of the crime ascribed to him by prosecutors.
“I want to see my son come out of jail while I’m still alive,” states Mrs. Dubria.
That day may or may not come. New evidence may warrant his release.
At the hearing that started on June 1, a forensic toxicologist, Laura Labay, Ph.D., testified about the questionable, “inaccurate”, and possible contamination of laboratory examinations at the San Diego Medical Examiner’s Office.
The alleged use of chloroform by Dubria is denied by Dr. Labay’s testimony. She said no odor of chloroform was detected in Klapper’s, whose body was autopsied 30 hours after her death.
On the first day of hearing on June 1, more than two dozen supporters from Los Angeles showed up and filled Judge Jennings’ courtroom. Despite the Dubrias’ campaign for wide community support in San Diego, only four individuals who are related to them came once during the marathon six-day hearings.
At the end of the hearing on Monday, June 8, Judge Jennings ordered the parties to submit within 30 days proposed orders stating findings of facts. From there, he will rule on whether to conduct a new trial or not.
The latest developments make the Dubrias optimistic.
“We are praying hard that he (Judge Jennings) will do the right thing for justice’s sake; that he will never be influenced or intimidated politically and by his colleagues,” Mrs. Dubria concluded. (The Philippine Village Voice)