Court overturns man's double-murder conviction in fiery 2007 attack in Orange County

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SANTA ANA, California — An appellate panel has reversed the conviction of a man in the killing of the father and sister of his friend's ex-girlfriend in a fiery attack on their Orange County home.

A three-judge panel in Orange County ruled Thursday that Vitaliy Krasnoperov, 29, did not get a fair trial in 2011 when he was convicted of the murders of Jay Dhanak and his daughter Karishma.

During the trial, prosecutors breached an agreement with Krasnoperov by using information he provided to authorities in a proffer statement on the condition it not be used against him, the ruling said.

"It is a vindication of Mr. Krasnoperov's constitutional rights, and what happened in the trial was really quite unfair," said Michael Ian Garey, his lawyer on appeal.

Krasnoperov will likely be retried, said Howard Gundy, senior deputy district attorney for Orange County.

Krasnoperov was convicted of two counts of murder for the 2007 deaths of the Dhanaks and was sentenced to life without parole.

Authorities contended Krasnoperov helped plot the murder scheme with his friend Iftekhar Murtaza, who was angry that his ex-girlfriend Shayona Dhanak's family had opposed them dating. Murtaza was later convicted of carrying out the killings with another friend, Charles Murphy Jr.

At the 2011 trial of Krasnoperov and Murphy, prosecutors called a witness who they would not have known about until he was identified during Krasnoperov's proffer statement, which was given when plea negotiations were underway, the judges wrote in the ruling. Those negotiations later broke down.

Krasnoperov's lawyer agreed that witness Jose Velasco could be called during the trial but was not to testify about any conversations with his client about securing a hit man to carry out the killings, the ruling said.

Velasco ended up discussing these conversations, in part during questioning by Murphy's lawyer. Krasnoperov's lawyer asked to sever his client's trial, but his request was denied.

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