Sunday, February 1, 2015

When They're Hit Over the Head with a Sledgehammer

So Johnny Baca gets a new trial.  

And the Riverside County District Attorney gets yet another chance, a third, to try and prove that Baca killed a couple of people.  

This time, perhaps, the prosecutors won't knowingly suborn perjury.  Which they did last time.

This time, perhaps, a prosecutor won't himself commit perjury.  Which happened last time.

This time, perhaps they'll do it right.  Which hasn't happened before.  And, of course, might not happen this time, either.  Becvause they really want to convict Johnny Baca.  And you gotta think that if the evidence was really good, they might have just relied on it.

So maybe the evidence sucks.  And maybe this time, maybe, it'll turn out that Johnny Baca is acquitted.  Except really, why would we imagine they'd do any better, do it right, this third time?
* * * * *
If you haven't been following along, this is an update to a post from 10 days ago.  Then the subject was how Judges Alex Kozinski, Kim Wardlow, and William Fletcher tore into Deputy California Attorney General Kevin Vienna for trying to defend Baca's conviction after the prosecutors suborned perjury and committed perjury to obtain it.

Don't make us write an opinion calling out the crooks by name, they said.  Take a week and work this out, they said.  Get back to us, they said.  If you need more time, just let us know.

And by the way, those guys should be up on criminal charges.  And have their law licenses yanked.

At the end of the week, Vienna let them know.  He needed more time.  Two more weeks, please. And the court said, sure.  

And so, on January 29, exactly two weeks later,

To which the panel said "sure."  And granted a conditional writ ordering Baca's release if he doesn't get a new trial.  Which, according to Maura Dolan in the LA Times, they'll do.

Of course, they don't concede they did anything wrong.  Oh sure, Deputy DA Paul Vinegard put a snitch on the stand who lied.  He said, as snitches often do, that he was just a public spirited criminal who sought no favors and received none for coming to court and testifying against Baca.  Which was a lie.  And sure, Vinegard then put his fellow Deputy DA, Robert Spira, on the stand who lied.  Spira said that the snitch told the truth.

But hey, these things happen.  Vinegard told Dolan that he believed the lies, so he did nothing wrong. And Spira, Vinegard said, certainly didn't lie.  He just testified to things that he knew weren't true. No flies on us.  Which is basically what the new DA in Riverside County said.
Mike Hestrin, Riverside County's newly elected district attorney, did not concede that the prosecutors' "misconduct" was intentional.
Accidental lies by everyone, you know.  Like when they meant to say that the snitch's testimony was bought and paid for, and that he'd just perjured himself and would be promptly prosecuted and ladies and gentlemen of the jury don't believe that.  But by an honest mistake they said
The snitch's word is gospel.
Just an oopsie.

Though Hestrin did say that his office would investigate the prosecutors' actions.  Though he didn't say that the investigation would actually lead to anything other than a medal for fine work.

Oh, and he promised to retry Baca.


Anyhow, they get to try again.  Not Vinegard.  He's retired.  Not Spira.  He's retired.  (The damn case has been going on for 20 years now.)

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