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Attorney with death penalty experience assigned to Heritage Ranch double murder case 

NOTE: This story was updated March 14 to include a written statement from District Attorney Dan Dow.

A SLO County defense attorney with experience in death penalty cases has been assigned to help represent a 31-year-old Paso Robles man accused of murdering his girlfriend and her unborn child.

At a March 13 hearing, SLO County Superior Court Judge Dodie Harman agreed to allow attorney William McLennan to work with defense attorneys for Daniel Ruiz Rodriguez Johnson, who is charged with two counts of murder for allegedly killing 27-year-old Carrington Jane Broussard and the 9-month-old fetus she was carrying.

At the hearing, Johnson's public defender, Kenneth Cirisan, said he needed a second attorney to assist him with the case, noting that it was complex for a number of reasons, including that Carrington's fetus was one of the victims in the case.

"That kicks it into the special circumstances realm," he said.

Those special circumstances make it a capital murder case, meaning Johnson could face life in prison without parole or the death penalty if found guilty. McLennan has worked on several high-profile capital murder cases, including that of Rex Krebs. McLennan is also serving in a similar capacity on the ongoing capital murder case of Carlo Alberto Fuentes Flores, who is charged with murdering Paso Robles resident Nancy Woodrum.

The hearing in Johnson's capital murder case occurred just hours before Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order halting any further executions in California. Newsom said he signed the moratorium because he believed the death penalty was unfairly and disproportionately applied, calling it "ineffective, irreversible, and immoral."

The moratorium would grant reprieve to 737 people currently on California's death row. The moratorium will not release any of those individuals from custody and does not alter any current convictions or sentences. Current death row inmates convicted for crimes committed in SLO County include Krebs, Michael Whisenhunt, and Richard Benson.

The SLO County District Attorney's Office is currently prosecuting at least three potential death penalty cases.  In a written statement to New Times, District Attorney Dan Dow said that Newsom's executive order would not impact how his office proceeds with potential death penalty cases.

"No Governor can strike the law, and Governor Newsom’s action can be completely undone by the next governor," Dow wrote. "Until it is no longer a lawful option for us, we will continue to think about every case individually, gather all the facts, and make a very sobering careful decision over whether or not it’s the type of case where the death penalty is appropriate.”

At the March 13 hearing, Johnson didn't enter a plea in connection with the charges against him. Another hearing for Johnson was tentatively scheduled for early April. Δ

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