All lawyers are held to strict ethical standards and bound by laws in California. District attorneys are no different. Prosecutors are required to turn over any and all possible exculpatory evidence upon receiving it and discovering its useful nature to the defense. This can include anything, ranging from:
- Investigator notes
- Witness testimony
- Audio and video records
Based on the Brady v. Maryland case (Brady v. Maryland 373 U.S. 83 (1963)), this is commonly referred to as “Brady material.” In the Brady case, the Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors must turn over evidence that could help the defense or be used to attack the credibility of a witness. So what happens when district attorneys fail to follow this procedure?
District Attorney Misconduct in Orange County
This situation of district attorney misconduct recently came to light in Orange County. Deputy District Attorney Erik Petersen, who was assigned to felony cases in the North Justice Center, reportedly used misconduct in several high profile cases.
Most of this alleged misconduct surrounded the use of jailhouse informants, who are inmates that investigators use to get a confession from the suspect while being held in custody. When the inmate hears a confession from the suspect, he will inform prosecutors. The use of jailhouse informants is not illegal. However, it is not allowed when the suspect is represented by an attorney because it can be considered a form of interrogation, and the suspect has a right to an attorney during an interrogation.
In addition to misuse of jailhouse informants, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office is alleged to have withheld useful material from defense attorneys. As trial dates came closer, “new” discovery would suddenly appear. However, it seemed that this evidence was actually discovered much sooner. This did not allow defense attorneys adequate time to properly refute or further investigate the evidence.
The Results of Orange County DA’s Misconduct
As a result of the alleged misconduct, Petersen will be resigning from his position in Orange County. Additionally, several cases have been impacted. Sentences for some convicted defendants have been severely reduced.
Leonel Vega, who was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to life without parole, had his conviction changed to voluntary manslaughter and may be released as early as 2019. Isaac John Palacios, who admitted to shooting a rival gang member in 2006, has been released with credit for time served. Alleged gang member Bryant Islas, who was facing a potential life sentence for attempted murder, has agreed to a plea deal that will allow him to be released from custody next year. All of these cases involved issues of jailhouse informants.
Call the Criminal Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich
These reported incidents of police misconduct show how important it is to have an experienced criminal defense attorney fighting for you if you are accused of a crime in Orange County. Our skilled criminal attorneys know the valid procedures prosecutors must follow, and we can help you fight for your freedom. The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of experience successfully defending our clients facing criminal charges in Orange County. We can help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, West Covina, Ventura and Victorville, our skilled criminal lawyers are available to help you no matter where you work or live.
Call our offices today at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.