Wednesday, June 03, 2009

People v. Ebaniz (Cal. Ct. App. - June 3, 2009)

Tyrone Ebaniz is a sixteen-year old charged with participating in the grisly group torture and murder of his best friend, seventeen-year old Eric Jones. At his first trial, he's convicted of a wide variety of charges -- including first degree murder -- and sentenced to 34 years to life. The Court of Appeal affirms all of these convictions except the first degree murder charge, which it reverses for instructional error. The Court of Appeal lets the DA decide whether to retry him on the murder count, and the DA goes for it.

At the second trial, the DA again gets a conviction for first degree murder. But, on appeal, the Court of Appeal again reverses, this time for a different instructional error. Again, the Court of Appeal lets the DA decide whether to try again, and the DA again says: "Sure, why not?"

The third time's the charm. At least for Ebaniz. This time, the jury acquits him of both first- and second-degree murder.

End of story, right? Nope. Ebaniz then seeks to vacate his plethora of convictions from the first trial -- the ones the Court of Appeal affirmed. Why? On the basis of the testimony introduced at the third trial, which he claims is "new evidence" that supports his innocence of even those old counts.

And the Court of Appeal agrees. So now Ebaniz gets a new trial on those as well.

Sometimes, when you're a DA, you've gotta leave well enough alone. We'll see what happens at Trial No. 4.