Legal issues for investigators.
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of the evidence
Arrest, search, complaint
Why? Check out these disasters. . .
Man Accused in O.C. Toll Road KnifeSlaying Is FreeProsecutors say the victims instigated the attack. 'This isshocking to me,' the surviving brother says.L.A. Times 2/1/05
Murder charges were dropped against Rodrigo Requejo, 31,owner of a motorcycle shop and a reputed Hell’s Angel,who was arrested on 12/21/2004 for stabbing to death JustinAmmann and wounding his brother Jason Ammann at a trafficaltercation. Requejo, who fled the scene, was fingered byJason Ammann, who told deputies that the suspect assaultedthem and yelled “this is the Hell’s Angels’” as he stabbed hisbrother to death.
Three independent witnesses since came forward to say that the brothers started the altercation by pursuing Requejo, beating him and dragging him from his truck.
Requejo made his problems worse by falsely telling deputies that he had not been present during the incident. Prosecutors say that no one will face any charges.
A California murder case in which two juries were tolddiffering accounts of events raises concerns about fairness,ethics and tactics. Los Angeles Times, 3/2/05
In 1990 an L.A. County D.A. argued to a jury thatTauno Waidla used a hatchet to kill a woman.This is a “special circumstance” so Waidla got death.
Several months later, in a separate trial of Waidla’s accomplice, Peter Sakarias, the same prosecutor told another jury that Sakarias used a hatchet to kill the victim. Sakarias was also sentenced to death.
Although the evidence revealed that Waidla delivered the death blows, while Sakarias only struck the victim after she was dead, the prosecutor argued at Waidla’s trial that he struck all the hatchet blows. At Sakarias’ trial he suggested that Sakarias struck all the blows.
On appeal, the Calif. Supreme Court agreed that the theories were inconsistent and set aside Sakarias’ death sentence, but not his murder conviction. As to Waidla, who admitted striking the victim with a hatchet before she died, the Court ruled that attributing all hatchet blows to him was harmless error and his death sentence was allowed to stand.
You are a Pensacola homicide detective. On November 26, 2001 you arrive at the scene of a residential fire. Inside the home, lying dead on a recliner, is a 40-year old father of two. His head has been brutally caved in.
You interview the dead man’s teenage sons the next day. Both extensively confess to the murder, on tape, providing many details that you confirm. They say they snuck up on their sleeping father and one boy beat him to death with a baseball bat. Your investigation reveals:
The neighbor strongly denies having anything to do with the murder. After telling different stories, he admits that he hid the boys after they killed their father. He also washed their bloodstained clothing.But the killing was not his idea or doing.
What do you do?
One week later the boys went to trial. They were convicted. The neighbor’s verdict was then read. He had been found innocent. (The boys’ confessions were played at both trials.)
“It happens when the prosecution has probable cause that both sets of defendants are involved, but isn’t positive which set of defendants is responsible and leaves it up to the juries to decide.”
On 10/17/02 the Judge who presided over the boys’ trial threw out their convictions. Jurors had said they believed that the neighbor actually committed the murder, but that the boys let him in the house.
Was he insane? (From the Los Angeles Times, 9/16/02)
On 9/16/02 jurors rejected the argument thatStayner was legally insane.
One month earlier the same jury convicted Stayner of the 1999murders of Carole Sund, 42, her daughter, Juli, 15 andSilvina Pelosso, 16. The three had been staying at a lodgewhere he was a handyman. At the time of his conviction Staynerwas serving a life term for beheading a park tour guide,Joie Armstrong.
Prosecutors said that Stayner was obviously abnormal, but thathis confession, in which he admitted burning a car and doingother things to cover up the crimes, demonstrated that he knewthe difference between right and wrong.
The defense contended that Stayner’s family had a history ofmental disorders and Stayner claimed that “voices” told him to kill.One expert said that Stayner was psychotic, while two othersdisagreed.
Stayner got the death penalty and is presently on death row.
Extract from L.A. Times 1/27/05
Juan Manuel Alvarez faces 11 counts of murder under "special circumstances" according to L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley.Alvarez stabbed himself in the chest with a knife and tried to slit his wrists. Under state law, he could face the death penalty if convicted, but the decision whether to seek it has not been made. Alvarez, described as "deranged" by Glendale Police Chief Randy Adams, was under a suicide watch. “This man had a wanton and willful disrespect for the lives of others. [He] is now going to be held accountable by the justice system," Cooley said."The fact that he was distraught or distressed isn't a defense here — that is no excuse for endangering so many lives...He is not as distraught as the next of kin of 11 murder victims and more than 100 people injured” Cooley said. Cooley added that pursuing an insanity defense would "very, very difficult."
UPDATE: On 9/21/07 the judge dismissed one of the defense lawyers for repeated delays.
Andrea Yates, the mother whoadmitted drowning her five childrenin 2001, will get a new trial. Courtsruled that her right to a fair trial wasviolated by false testimony from aprosecution medical expert, whosaid that Yates’ actions werepatterned on a T.V. episode of“Law and Order” about a mother who drowned her kids in a bathtub.This evidence was considered by the jury when determining whether Yates was legally insane. But it turns out that no such television showever aired.
UPDATE: In July 2006 Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a mental institution.
On October 31, 2003 William Strierrepeatedly shot an attorney outsidethe L.A. County courthouse. Strierwas supposedly angry that he wasnot receiving sufficient money froma trust. He and the attorney, whorepresented the trust’s guardian,had never met. The attorneyrecovered.
At Strier’s trial a cameraman testified that Strier yelled “that’s what you get for stealing my money!” Strier’s attorney claimed that the shooting was a “psychotic episode” caused by Strier’s use of painkilling drugs, and that the financial dispute left Strier unable to pay for an operation on his back. Strier showed up at court in a hospital bed, which he said was necessary for his injury. In January 2006 Strier was convicted of attempted murder. He got life plus 25 years. This wasn’t Strier’s first time. In 1969 he had shot a neighbor four times “for no good reason.” He got probation and a fine.