Los Angeles
Victims of the State

34 Cases

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Year:   1924   1941   1973   1984   1990   1995

Los Angeles County, CA
James Preston
Oct 18, 1924

James W. Preston was convicted of robbing a Los Angeles widow and shooting her when she tried to escape.  The victim, Mrs. Dick R. Parsons lived at 906 W. 50th St.  The perpetrator had entered through a first floor window, and on the dust of the screen, fingerprints were found.  Preston was arrested on a minor charge a few days after the crime.  His fingerprints were compared with those found on the screen, but did not match.  For some reason, however, the Los Angeles newspapers carried stories stating that Preston had been identified as Mrs. Parsons' assailant through the fingerprints.  The source of this misinformation could not be determined.
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Los Angeles County, CA
Lesher, Garvey, & Rohan
Nov 1, 1927

Harvey Lesher, Mike Garvey, and Phil Rohan were convicted of murder in 1928.  The victim was A. R. Miles who was found fatally injured in the drug store that he owned at 2729 West Jefferson Street.  Following the men's convictions, the trial witnesses who identified them were discredited.  A new investigation raised serious doubts about allegations that Miles was tied up when he was found and that money was taken from his cash register.  This evidence led to a conviction on the part of investigators that quite likely there had been no murder or robbery, but that Miles had suffered a fainting spell and in falling received his injuries.  California Governor Young pardoned the three men in 1930.  (CTI)  [10/08]

Los Angeles County, CA
Evans & Ledbetter
July 8, 1928

Police officers Walter E. Evans and Miles H. Ledbetter, both detectives, were convicted of extorting a $750 bribe from Harry McDonald, a person with a criminal record of felonies.  After being arrested in 1929 for receiving stolen property, McDonald surprised the District Attorney by confessing to conspiracy transactions involving over 50 LAPD officers.  Among those were officers Evans and Ledbetter.  McDonald claimed that the officers had in 1928 extorted a $750 bribe from him in exchange for suppressing evidence that McDonald had purchased stolen diamonds from a Jack Hawkins.

At trial, McDonald, his wife, and his maid all swore that Evans and Ledbetter had visited McDonald on a Saturday and Sunday in 1928 and that McDonald had paid the officers a bribe.  The officers countered that they had indeed visited McDonald on Saturday July 7 and Sunday July 8, 1928, but the visits were to investigate an unconnected robbery of two diamond rings.  In rebuttal, McDonald and his wife testified that the detectives could not have visited them on the specified dates as the McDonalds moved to a bungalow in Venice, CA on the Sunday before July 4, and that they were not in Los Angeles for the two weeks thereafter.  The jury chose to believe the McDonalds and convicted the two officers.  In 1930, following unsuccessful appeals, the two officers started serving their sentences in San Quentin.

Later evidence surfaced that McDonald signed a safety-deposit record of a Los Angeles bank on July 9, 1928, so he could not have been out of town that day as he and his wife swore.  Also evidence surfaced that their maid had not been in their employ until after August 8, so she could not have been present on July 7 or July 8.  Coupled with these disclosures, and other discovered facts, California Governor Young pardoned both officers in 1931.  Evans and Ledbetter later received $4533.36 and $3313.39 in compensation.  (CTI)  [11/07]

Los Angeles County, CA
Elmer Jacobs
Aug 1928

Between Aug. 16 and Aug. 20, 1928, four taxicab drivers were robbed of their cash as well as their cabs.  Each time the robbers were two males who asked to be driven to a remote location.  All four of the taxi drivers identified Elmer P. Jacobs in police lineups as one of the robbers.  Jacobs was convicted at trial and sentenced on Nov. 5 to serve 15 years to life for each robbery.  The same week that Jacobs was sentenced, four other men were arrested on unrelated charges.  Confessions soon linked the men to the taxi robberies, and the robbed taxi drivers identified them.  One pair of men had robbed three of the taxi drivers, while the other pair had robbed the fourth taxi driver.  The taxi drivers acknowledged that their identification of Jacobs was in error.  (CTI)  [7/07]

Los Angeles County, CA
Daisy DeVoe

Daisy DeVoe was actress Clara Bow's manager.  At the time, Clara Bow was the most popular film star in the world.  As part of a power struggle with Clara's boyfriend and future husband, allegations were made against Daisy that she had stolen money from Clara.  Grilled for 27 hours straight by the police, she refused to sign a confession, exclaiming: “I haven't done anything!”  Indicted on 35 counts of grand theft, her trial began on Jan. 13, 1931.  No proof was presented that she mishandled Clara's finances, and after 3 days of deliberations, she was acquitted of 34 counts and found guilty of one count.  Daisy could not have been guilty of that count because it involved an $825 check signed by Clara that was used to pay her income taxes.  After being sentenced to 18 months in prison, Daisy confronted her prosecutors, Burn Fitts and David Clark by telling them: “You two are railroading me, and you'll both come to a bad end because of it.”  Four months after her conviction, DA Clark was charged with a double murder, and in 1973 DA Fitts committed suicide.  DeVoe's case is written about in Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild by David Stenn (2000).  (Justice: Denied)  [7/05]

Los Angeles County, CA
Fred Rogers

Courtney Fred Rogers was sentenced to death for the murders of his parents.  In Oct. 1941 his 50-year-old father was rescued from a burning house, but later died of smoke inhalation.  Investigators found burning candles in the house and determined that fires had been set in several rooms.  The death of Rogers Sr. was ruled a suicide.  Eight months earlier, Rogers' mother had died from the inhalation of chloroform.  Her death had also been ruled a suicide.

Four months after the death of his father, Rogers was arrested for making a false $400 insurance claim.  Police found that the 24-year-old was heavily in debt and began to wonder if he had killed his parents in order to collect on life insurance.  Rogers, however, received no insurance proceeds for the death of his mother, although he did receive full ownership of the home he had jointly owned with her.  He received only $1000 for the death of his father plus $2300 for damage to the house.  Such proceeds were small compared to Rogers' debts.

After 16 days of more-or-less continuous questioning by police, Rogers confessed to the murders of his parents, a confession that he soon retracted.  Nevertheless, he was convicted of these alleged murders.  In 1943, the California Supreme Court unanimously threw out Rogers' convictions.  Evidence that his mother had committed suicide was clear and convincing.  The same was true in regard to the death of his father.  Neighbors had testified at how despondent Rogers Sr. was over the death of his wife and how he often had spoken of taking his own life.  Neighbors also said he had spoken of his dread of being left alone, after Rogers Jr., his only son, answered a draft call into the army.  Rogers Jr. was scheduled to report the day after the fatal fire.  At retrial, in the face of no evidence against Rogers, the retrial court dismissed charges.  (ISI) (Time)  [2/09]

Los Angeles County, CA
Sleepy Lagoon 22
Aug 2, 1942

On Aug. 2, 1942, a teenager named Jose Diaz was found murdered near the Sleepy Lagoon reservoir in southeast Los Angeles.  The reservoir was frequented by Chicanos (Mexican Americans) who were excluded from public pools.  As a result of apparent prejudice and press hysteria, police arrested 600 Latinos in connection with the murders.  Twenty-two Latinos (mostly Chicanos) were indicted for the murders and tried before an all white jury.  The defendants were not allowed to sit near or speak with their attorneys during trial.

Three of the defendants were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison; nine were convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to five years-to-life, five were convicted of assault and released for time served, and five were acquitted.  In Oct. 1944, the Court of Appeal of the State of California unanimously reversed the convictions, finding that there was no evidence linking the defendants with the crime.  (Wiki) (Google)  [4/08]

Los Angeles County, CA
Daniel Kamacho
Mar 11, 1946

Daniel Kamacho was convicted of the murder of Deputy Sheriff Fred T. Guiol.  Guiol attended a movie with a friend, Miss Pearl Rattenbury, and drove her to her home at 1117 Elden Ave.  Before Rattenbury could step out of the car, a young man armed with a gun wrenched open the car door and demanded the occupants hand over their money.  When Guiol reached for his gun, the man shot Guiol dead and ran off.
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Los Angeles County, CA
Madge Meredith
June 30, 1947

Screen actress Madge Meredith was convicted and sentenced to prison for 5 years to life for complicity in an assault of her former manager, Nicholas D. Gianaclis, and his bodyguard, Verne V. Davis.  Gianaclis and Davis reportedly were beaten, kidnapped, and robbed by a group of men as they neared Meredith's Hollywood Hills home.  Meredith's off-screen and legal name was Marjorie May Massow.  In March 1951, the CA Assembly Interim Committee on Crime and Corrections issued an official report concluding that Meredith had been framed.  In July 1951, Gov. Earl Warren commuted her sentence to time served.  Available news clips on the case suggest that Gianaclis framed Meredith to gain ownership of her home.  After her release Meredith got her home back and Gianaclis, an immigrant, was denied U.S. citizenship by the Immigration Service.  (Google) (FJDB)  [3/09]

Los Angeles County, CA
Bob Williams

Robert E. Williams, also known as Bob, was was convicted of the murders of Matt Manestar and Ralph Burgess.  Manestar, 56, was the owner of the Rose Motel located at 1345 West Pacific Coast Highway in Harbor City.  He was killed on the night of Jan. 22-23, 1956.  Williams confessed to this murder while in a northern California juvenile correction camp.  He figured his confession would allow him to contact his girlfriend as it would force his transfer to police custody in southern California for questioning.  He was anxious to contact her because he believed she was about to marry someone else.  He also figured that he could not be convicted of murdering Manestar as he was incarcerated at the correction camp when the murder occurred.  Unfortunately Williams figured wrong.

Two years later, in an effort to free himself by proving that an innocent person could be convicted of murder due to a false confession, Williams decided to confess to another murder that occurred while he was in the correction camp.  In a Long Beach newspaper Williams found a story about the unsolved murder of Ralph Burgess.  Burgess, a salesman, was murdered on Nov. 20, 1955 at McKinney's furniture store at 2430 East Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach.  While five fellow inmates watched him, Williams wrote out a confession to this murder using details from the newspaper.  Williams was proven right more than he had hoped.  When put on trial for the murder, he was convicted again.  He was not allowed to refute his confession by calling his fellow inmates as witnesses.

Seventeen years later, in 1975, Williams was paroled from prison.  He began working on establishing his innocence.  Eventually, in a San Pedro police records room, he found a letter from a correction camp supervisor camp stating he had been in custody at the time of Manestar's murder.  This letter had been withheld from Williams' defense at trial.  In 1978, a judge released Williams from his life parole, effectively ending his sentence.  (News Article) (ISI)  [7/09]

Los Angeles County, CA
Paul Kern Imbler
Jan 4, 1961

Paul Kern Imbler was convicted of the shooting murder of Morris Hasson.  Hasson was the owner of the Purity Market on West Eighth Street in Los Angeles.  The conviction was due to prosecutorial concealment of exculpatory evidence and police manufacturing of evidence.  Imbler was sentenced to death, but he was granted a stay of execution 7 days before it was scheduled to take place.  After Imbler's exoneration in 1971, he sued the prosecutor for damages, but the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the suit on the grounds of prosecutorial immunity.  (ISI) (Imbler v. Pachtman)  [7/05]

Los Angeles County, CA
Chance & Powell
Dec 12, 1973

Clarence Chance and Benny Powell were convicted the murder of David Andrews, an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer at a South Central Los Angeles gas station.  The murder occurred in the gas station men's room reportedly during a robbery of the station.  A four-year investigation by Centurion Ministries, supported by the district attorney's office, showed that the LAPD had coerced trial witnesses to lie against the two men.  The judge who freed Chance and Powell apologized to them.  Both defendants each served 17 1/2 years of life without parole sentences.  Since their release, each man has been awarded $3.5 million.  (CM)

Los Angeles County, CA
Charles F. Persico
May 29, 1980

Charles F. Persico was charged with the murder of Ann Pontrelli Smith, 41.  Smith was shot to death at the beauty shop that she owned in Highland Park.  LAPD detectives Neil Westbrook and Richard Crowe zeroed in on Persico after receiving an anonymous tip that he lived in the area and resembled a composite drawing of the murder suspect.  Two women who had been in the beauty shop – Smith's mother and a customer – identified him as the gunman.  Rather than face trial for murder, Persico pled guilty to manslaughter.  Persico served four years in prison and was paroled in 1984.  A year after his got out of prison, Persico was ushered into a meeting at the district attorney's office, secretly exonerated and released from parole.  Persico did not know how or why he was exonerated.   LAPD Officer William E. Leasure was later charged with conspiring with the victim's husband, Arthur Gayle Smith, to murder her.  In 1992, Persico was awarded $4.8 million dollars in a lawsuit against detectives Westbrook and Crowe.  (Google)  [5/08]

Los Angeles County, CA
Patricia Wright
Sept 19, 1981

Patricia Gordy Wright was convicted in 1999 of the 1981 murder of her ex-husband, Willie Jerome Scott. Jerome was found stabbed to death in his motor home while it was parked in a bad area in downtown Los Angeles. Jerome's homosexual lifestyle led to the dissolution of the couple's marriage. It also led him to some unsavory partners and placed him in some dangerous situations. No physical or forensic evidence connects Wright to the crime.
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Los Angeles County, CA
Bruce Lisker
Mar 10, 1983

Bruce Lisker was convicted of murdering his mother, Dorka, allegedly when she caught him rifling her purse.  Lisker's former roommate, Mike Ryan, is a much more likely suspect.  Ryan gave a false birth date to an investigator to prevent the investigator from learning about his criminal past.  Ryan strangely volunteered that he had stabbed a robber on the same day as the murder.  Ryan arrived in California from Mississippi on March 6 and returned the day after the murder.  Lisker's trial judge did not permit him to mention Ryan in his defense.  Case investigator Monsue presented fraudulent facts.  Additional evidence has surfaced that exonerates Lisker and implicates the now deceased Ryan.  In 2009 Lisker's conviction was overturned and charges against him were dropped.  (L.A. Times)  [7/05]

Los Angeles County, CA
Willie Earl Green
Aug 9, 1983

Willie Earl Green was convicted of fatally shooting 25-year-old Denise “Dee Dee” Walker in a South Los Angeles crack house.  The conviction was based on the testimony of a single eyewitness, Willie Finley.  After Centurion Ministries accepted Green's case, Finley admitted in 2004 that he was high on crack cocaine at the time of the murder and did not know who committed the crime, but he was pressured by police into identifying Green.  (FJDB) (L.A. Times)  [9/08]

Los Angeles County, CA
Titus Brown
Aug 17, 1984

Titus Lee Brown, Jr. was convicted of the stabbing murder of Israel Guzman Rangel.  The murder occurred in a South-Central Los Angeles parking lot.  The chief prosecution witness was Ricardo Pimental Baldavinos.  Pimental testified that he saw Guzman being attacked by two men. Pimental drew his unloaded gun and approached the assailants in an attempt to scare them away. Presented with a series of photo lineups a few days later, he identified Brown as the killer. However, Pimental's identification was weak: The incident occurred at night; Pimental had never seen the assailant before; he only saw the assailant briefly, though his estimates of time varied from “a couple of seconds” to “five minutes”; he had been drinking earlier in the evening; he could not recall whether the assailant had facial hair; when first contacted by the police, Pimental denied any knowledge of the incident; and Pimental failed to identify Brown's photo when presented in a photo lineup at trial.
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Los Angeles County, CA
Timothy Atkins
Jan 1, 1985 (Venice)

Timothy Atkins was convicted of murdering Vincente Gonzalez.  His neighbor, Denise Powell, testified that Atkins confessed to the murder.  She has since recanted her testimony and in 2007 Atkins' conviction was overturned.  Jan Stiglitz, a co-director of the California Innocence Project, which helped Atkins, said, “The case was thin to begin with. We think without Powell, the DA has no realistic chance to get a conviction.”  (KNBC TV)  [4/07]

Los Angeles County, CA
Michael Dorrough
Mar 2, 1985

Michael Reed Dorrough, Sr. was convicted of a shooting murder.  The murder occurred at the Nicherson Garden Housing projects in Los Angeles.  (IIPPI)

Los Angeles County, CA
Harold Coleman Hall
June 27, 1985

Harold Coleman Hall was convicted of the murder of Nola Duncan and her brother, David Rainey.  Hall confessed to police during a 17-hour interrogation, but soon recanted.  Many of the facts of the murder contradicted his confession.  A fellow inmate, Cornelius Lee, got Hall to answer questions about his case in his own handwriting.  This two-page document incriminated Hall at trial, but after Hall was sentenced to life without parole, Lee admitted it was a forgery.  Lee had erased his original innocuous questions and substituted incriminating ones above Hall's answers.

 Hall's conviction for the Rainey murder was vacated in 1994 for lack of evidence.  The police officer whom Hall claimed coerced his confession was caught using police computers to spy on celebrities and other civilians for an L.A. private detective.  The conviction for the Duncan murder was vacated in 2003.  Hall served 19 years of a life without parole sentence.  (JD#1) (JD#2)

Los Angeles County, CA
Trujillo & Delvillar
Mar 21, 1986

LAPD investigators induced Ruben Trujillo and Pedro Barrios Delvillar to confess to the same double murder and robbery.  Yet, at the time of the murders, Trujillo was in the San Diego County Jail while Delvillar was in a California Youth Authority facility in Ventura.  [9/05]

Los Angeles County, CA
Adam Riojas, Jr.
Dec 8, 1989

Adam Riojas, Jr. was convicted of murdering Jose Rodarte in a drug related incident.  Rodarte was shot twice and his body dumped from a van on a street. Riojas said he had loaned the van to two friends of his father, who had come by his Oceanside apartment.  His girlfriend testified he spent the entire day of the murder with her in North County.  Riojas had no criminal history except for an arrest for vandalism in a high school prank of toilet-papering a home.  Riojas' father, Adam Sr., told numerous people shortly before his death that he was the killer, not his son.  Adam Sr. had been involved in drugs and immigrant smuggling.  Adam Jr. was released on the second unanimous recommendation of his parole board.  (Gov. Davis vetoed the first recommendation; but Gov. Schwarzenegger did not oppose the second).  Riojas served 13 years of 15 years to life sentence.  (Google)  [4/08]

Los Angeles County, CA
Mark Bravo
Feb 20, 1990

Mark Diaz Bravo was convicted of raping a psychiatric patient at a hospital where he worked as a nurse.  The patient at first identified several suspects, then settled on Bravo.  Bravo was also victimized by incorrect/outdated lab results and the failure of counsel to pursue his strong alibi.  The DA spent years fighting efforts by Innocence Project to gain access to biological evidence, but after access was granted, DNA tests exonerated Bravo.  (IP) (DNA)  [6/05]

Los Angeles County, CA
Jerry Killedjian
Sept 15, 1992

Jerry Killedjian was convicted of murdering black-marketer Daryoush “Jessie” Khorrami.  Khorrami's bullet-ridden body was found in his Mercedes-Benz parked in  North Hollywood.  Killedjian worked as a bagman for another black marketer and allegedly killed Khorrami for the $26,130 found on him.  A rival black marketer might have a business motive to kill Khorrami, but Khorrami had just been sentenced in an illicit-fuel case.  In 2003, another man who was convicted in the same fuel scheme allegedly confessed to a jail mate to the murder of Khorrami.  This jail mate passed a polygraph test.  Khorrami apparently fingered this new suspect to law enforcement and this suspect had once sued Khorrami, claiming he owed him money.  [12/05]

Los Angeles County, CA
David Allen Jones

On second day of interrogation, David Allen Jones who has IQ of 60 to 73, was apparently ready to confess to the murders of three prostitutes about which he was questioned.  However, investigators apparently did not want the mentally challenged suspect to confess as such a confession would look coerced.  Instead, they had him make incriminating statements about the deaths while permitting him to deny murdering anyone.  On the interview tape, detectives correct Jones when he wrongly remembers what he is supposed to say.  On the strength of such incriminating statements, a jury convicted him of the murders of Tammie Christmas, Debra Williams, and Mary Edwards.

Other detectives investigating serial killer, Chester Dewayne Turner, thought Turner might be responsible for Jones's alleged murders and had DNA tests performed which implicated Turner in two of the murders.  The evidence in the third murder had been destroyed, but detectives felt that Jones was innocent and that Turner was the likely suspect.  Detectives helped to obtain Jones's release.  (IP) (Justice: Denied)  [6/05]

Los Angeles County, CA
Eric Robinson
June 25, 1993

“Eric Robinson was wrongly convicted in June 1994 of [murder in] a Los Angeles drive-by shooting [of Edward Fuentes].  [He] was sentenced to life in prison. In late 2006 Robinson obtained the LA Police Department records that showed he was excluded as a suspect within days of his arrest.  Robinson had type "B" blood and it was known that the shooter had type "O".  Based on the non-disclosed evidence proving his innocence, the LA District Attorney's did not oppose the dismissal of the charges against Robinson and his release from prison in early 2007, after 13-1/2 years of wrongful imprisonment.” – FJDB

Los Angeles County, CA
O. J. Simpson
June 12, 1994 (Brentwood)

Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson was found civilly liable for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and Ronald Lyle Goldman, 25.  He had earlier been acquitted of the murders in criminal court, but he is perceived by many as guilty despite his acquittal.  The victims, who were white, were found outside Nicole's home at 875 S. Bundy Drive in Brentwood, CA.  O.J., who was black, was a Heisman trophy winner, a Hollywood movie actor, a network TV football commentator, and was known for the TV commercials he made for the Hertz Rental Car Agency.  He was the most famous American ever charged with murder.  O.J.'s criminal trial was dubbed the “Trial of the Century,” although that designation had previously been used to describe the 1935 trial of the alleged Lindbergh baby killer.
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Los Angeles County, CA
Timothy Fonseca
Apr 23, 1995

Timothy Fonseca was convicted of the murder of Arthur Mayer.  He was convicted because of a tainted identification procedure.  Much more likely suspects are gang members who lived at the house where the shooting occurred.  (Justice: Denied)  [9/05]

Los Angeles County, CA
Javier Ovando
Oct 12, 1996

Javier Ovando as convicted of attempted murder of a Los Angeles policeman.  A policeman shot Ovando when he was unarmed and then framed him by planting a gun near him.  The LAPD officers who turned informant admitted that it was routine for them to plant evidence on Latinos and then intimidate them into falsely pleading guilty.  Ovando was cleared in 1999 after an investigation of LAPD Ramparts unit.  (JD) (Rampart Scandal)

Los Angeles County, CA
Jose Salazar
Nov 18, 1996

Jose A. Salazar was convicted of murdering Adriana Krygoski, an infant girl, by shaking her to death.  Salazar's conviction was due largely to the testimony of deputy coroner James Ribe.  In 1999, veteran prosecutor Dinko Bozanich broke the “code of silence” in the DA's office and exposed the fact that Ribe had given false and misleading testimony in a number of baby death cases, making innocent deaths appear to be the result of sexual abuse or violence.  Salazar's conviction was vacated in Aug. 2003 based on the prosecution's withholding the deputy coroner's mistakes, altered findings, and changed testimony in other homicide cases.  (L.A. Weekly) (People v. Salazar)  [12/05]

Los Angeles County, CA
Zepeda & Diaz
Convicted 1997

LAPD officer Rafael Perez admitted during a corruption investigation that he framed William Zepeda and Argelia Diaz, because he neither saw them selling any drugs, nor did he obtain their permission to search their apartment.  The convictions were overturned in 2000.  [7/05]

Los Angeles County, CA
Charles Harris
Convicted 1998

Charles Harris was convicted of possessing and selling cocaine after being framed by LAPD officers.  He was later exonerated due to an investigation related to corruption in the LAPD Ramparts Unit.  Harris's conviction was overturned in 2000.  [7/05]

Los Angeles County, CA
Jason Kindle
Nov 22, 1999

Jason Kindle was convicted of the armed robbery of an Office Depot store where he worked as a janitor.  The store was located at 2020 S. Figueroa Ave.  A thief had robbed it of $15,000 in cash and $7,000 in checks.  Following the robbery, Kindle continued to work at the store for seven weeks without his fellow employees pointing a finger at him.  After police detained him in the store, letting everyone know he was a suspect, five employees identified him as the robber from a police photo lineup.  At trial the prosecution presented a “things to do” list that Kindle says he compiled during a training session on working as a janitor.  The prosecution contended the list was a “recipe for robbery.”  Judge Lance Ito refused to order a retrial after learning that items on the list were janitorial tips.

An appeals court ordered a new trial because Kindle's counsel failed to introduce an expert on witness IDs.  An analysis was performed on a videotape of the robbery, which showed that the perpetrator was 6'6" tall.  Kindle was only 6' tall.  The DA declined to retry the case.  Kindle served 2 years of a 70 years to life sentence given under the three strikes law.

Los Angeles County, CA
Juan Catalan
May 12, 2003 (Sun Valley)

Juan Catalan was charged with the murder of 16-year-old Martha Puebla.  Puebla had testified against Catalan's brother in another case.  Catalan insisted that he was watching the Los Angeles Dodgers with his six-year-old daughter at the stadium minutes before Puebla was killed about 20 miles north of the stadium.  He said he had ticket stubs from the game and testimony from his family.  However, police said that they had a witness who placed Catalan at the scene of the crime.

Catalan's attorney, Todd Melnik, subpoenaed the Dodgers and Fox Networks, who owned the team, to scan videotape of the televised baseball game and footage from its “Dodger Vision” cameras.  Some of the videotapes showed where Catalan was sitting but Melnik could not make him out.  Melnik later learned that HBO had been at the stadium the night of the killing to tape an episode of the TV show Curb Your Enthusiasm.  The attorney found what he was looking for in footage that had not made the final cut.  “I got to one of the scenes, and there is my client sitting in a corner of the frame eating a hot dog with his daughter,” Melnik said.  “I nearly jumped out of my chair and said, ‘There he is!’”

The tapes had time codes that allowed Melnik to find out exactly when Catalan was at the ballpark.  Melnik also obtained cell phone records that placed his client near the stadium later that night, about 20 minutes before the murder.  The attorney said it would have been impossible for Catalan to get out of the parking lot, change vehicles and clothing, and play with his daughter as well as kill Puebla during that span.

Catalan, who could have been sentenced to death had he been convicted of murder, was released after 5 1/2 months of imprisonment because a judge ruled there was no evidence with which to try him.  (CBS)  [7/07]