Despite Hazell’s claim that the relationship began after the trial, there are signs that a bond between the prosecutor and the mother of his child formed earlier. Court records state that Navarro was coming home from work one night in 1980 and happened upon the convenience store where Gary Black was murdered. She recognized Miranda, her former junior high school classmate, leaving the store with a gun in his hand. After Navarro testified against Miranda, in 1982, Hazell and executives from Atlantic Richfield Co. — owners of the convenience store — gave her a $25,000 reward, according to a news report. The reward, paid for by ARCO, allowed Navarro to move away from her neighborhood, where she feared for her life, Hazell told a reporter in the 1980s. “What she did was incredibly courageous,” he said, noting that neighborhood youths had made her life “absolute hell.” Court transcripts further show Hazell protecting Navarro from being harassed by refusing to reveal the club where she stripped.
Since Miranda was sentenced to death, Hazell has played a role in his appeals in both state and federal court. But the larger issue in the case has been the letter by Larry Montez, which was left buried in a prosecution file for 14 years, until a federal judge ordered that the file be turned over to the defense. In December 2000, Hazell swore under penalty of perjury that he had no recollection of the letter from the time he began prosecuting the case: “I have no reason to believe [the letter] was not provided to the defense.” However, on June 4, 2002, a judge concluded that defense lawyers never received the Montez letter.
In 2005, Cooley elevated Hazell to chairman of the office’s Special Circumstances Committee, which allows Hazell to sign off on all decisions about whether to seek the death penalty. He did not usher in an era of candor. Last September, in response to a public-records request by Bozajian for “all documents in the D.A.’s possession in connection with the Miranda case,” the D.A.’s Office stated it was “unable to locate” the file.