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NEW ORLEANS -- Orleans Parish Criminal Court Judge Frank Marullo has been removed from the case of condemned killer Rogers Lacaze, at least for now.

Fellow judge Lynda Van Davis ruled today that Marullo must step aside because of an investigation into whether Marullo returned a gun to Lacaze's co-defendant, former police officer Antoinette Frank. Last month, Marullo testified that somebody forged the document in which he allegedly ordered the gun returned to Frank from the police evidence and property room.

Marullo presided over the trial of Lacaze and Frank, both of whom are on death row in the 1995 triple murder at Kim Anh restaurant. The weapon used in the murders is the same caliber as the gun that was returned to Frank six months before the massacre.

The murder victims were NOPD officer Ronald Williams, and brother and sister Cuong and Ha Vu, who helped their parents operate the family restaurant. Williams and Frank were partners on the police force and both worked security details at the eastern New Orleans restaurant.

Marullo's recusal was requested by attorneys for Lacaze. His removal has been sought in separate appeals by both Lacaze and Frank, who have alleged that the judge has exhibited bias against them and tried to hide evidence during their 1995 trials.

The district attorney's office said it is appealing Van Davis's ruling, delaying Marullo's removal for at least 30 days while it prepares a writ to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal.

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