Murderers, fakers throw bizarre twists in high-tech lawsuits

Two filings in two weeks bring unexpected moments to Silicon Valley high-tech trials

Two high-profile Silicon Valley lawsuits have been thrown bizarre twists in the past week after individuals, apparently in one case including incarcerated murderers, attempted to join the legal actions.

The battle between Apple and Samsung over smartphone patents and an antitrust case over hiring at major tech companies including Apple and Google were both targets of motions to intervene, which allow third parties who are not initial plaintiffs or defendants to seek permission join the case.

In late June, a handwritten letter was sent from the state prison in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, by 10 people seeking to join the Apple vs. Samsung case.

The letter included the purported signatures of Jodi Arias, whose trial and conviction in 2013 for murdering her boyfriend achieved widespread coverage on cable news channels; James Holmes, who appears to be the same person accused of killing 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012; and Christopher Wirth, who was found guilty in 2013 of killing his girlfriend while driving under the influence of alcohol.

It wasn't possible to verify the authenticity of the signatures, but the envelope used to send the letter bears a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections "Inmate Mail" postmark and a return address of the state prison in Bellefonte, where seven of the 10 are listed as being incarcerated.

"Intervenors have new evidence in support of Apple," the note said. "Intervenors will provide documents, exhibits, phone records and photographs that will support Apple."

The district court in San Jose has yet to rule on their application, but it's unlikely to go anywhere.

Many of the 10 have attempted to intervene in other court cases in the last couple of months by writing similar letters.

The high-tech hiring case at the Northern District of California, which is investigating possible collusion on hiring practices, received a similar motion to intervene on Monday, but this one was typed, and carried the names of three individuals and that of a lawyer.

At face, it looked a lot more legit than the handwritten note from the state prison, but the court denied the motion on Tuesday, in part because it lacked merit but also because it faked the lawyer's details.

"Cathy Jones, the attorney who purportedly signed these motions, has informed the Courtroom Deputy [that she] did not file these motions and has reported the filing of these motions ... to the State Bar," Judge Lucy Koh said in her order denying the motion.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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