Monday, April 21, 2014

People v. Garcia (Cal. Ct. App. - Feb. 13, 2014)

Here's something you don't see every day.

It's a murder case.  In which defendant was convicted 35 years after he committed the murder.  We don't have many cases bouncing around the system any more for events that transpired a couple of months after the nation's bicentennial.  (Which I remember well, as I was 10 at the time.  Lots of pretty fireworks.)

It's also a case in which there were no fewer than three trials.  The first one deadlocked 9-3.  In favor of acquittal.  Pretty unusual.

That's also the only one in which the critical witness against the defendant actually testified.  After that, the police sent the witness back to Mexico.  He kept in contact with the authorities for a while and then disappeared forever.  At the second trial, the witness was unavailable, so the jury was permitted to read the transcript of his prior testimony, but was not able to actually see the guy.  That jury deadlocked 8-4.  In favor of conviction.

Third time was a charm.  But not for Garcia.  Witness still wasn't available, transcript was read again, and this time, the jury convicts.  And Garcia gets life plus five years.

Garcia's as successful in the Court of Appeal as he was in the third trial.  Which is to say:  Pretty much not at all.

Garcia still has the possibility of federal habeas relief.  But it's a longshot.  For now, he's spending the rest of his life in prison.  For charges that were filed, and a crime that occurred, in 1976.