Wednesday, September 09, 2015

People v. Mendoza (Cal. Ct. App. - Sept. 2, 2015)

The evidence that Mr. Mendoza molested a kid is fairly overwhelming.  So he's convicted of that.

The evidence that he "possessed child pornography," by contrast, is incredibly slim.  The mother of the molested child says that she broke into his Facebook account (where images from his cell phone were, she says, automatically backed up) and saw two pictures of him molesting her child, which she says she immediately deleted.  But Facebook can't find them anywhere (because deleted images are "forever deleted") and even a detailed forensic examination of Mr. Mendoza's phone and other records can't find any evidence whatsoever that such pictures were ever taken.

But the mother says she saw them, and the Court of Appeal says that alone is sufficient proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  A jury can believe a witness if it wants even if we'd expect computer forensics to find deleted images but doesn't.

So Mr. Mendoza gets a total sentence of 67 years to life.

The Court of Appeal's right that you don't need direct evidence of a crime and that credibility questions are for a jury.  Mr. Mendoza is right that it's incredibly unusual to be found guilty of child pornography when there are no actual pictures put into evidence, especially when the computer people say there's no physical evidence they were actually ever there either.

But, unfortunately for Mr. Mendoza, given the overwhelming evidence against him on the molestation counts, I'm fairly confident his plight does not create overwhelming sympathy for his legal position in the Court of Appeal.  Or anywhere else, for that matter.