Friday, August 20, 2021

People v. Roberts (Cal. Ct. App. - Aug. 20, 2021)

Wow:  This is a long opinion.

After reading 110+ pages, I'm still not totally convinced that Ryan Roberts actually killed 13-year old Jessica Funk-Haslam.  (Justice Murray's opinion doesn't use Jessica's last name, but it should -- as I've said previously in connection with a different very long murder opinion by Justice Murray.  But he apparently continues to believe that murder victims shouldn't be named; so be it.)

Do I believe that Mr. Roberts was in the dugout and smoked cigarettes with the victim that night?  Yes.  I do.  His DNA is on the butts.  He was in the park earlier.  It doesn't matter that he denies it; I agree that he and the victim were together.  (I find it depressing that the 13-year old girl here got into an argument with her mother and "left the apartment . . . . [with] a pack of Camel cigarettes," since kids that age obviously should not be chain-smoking like the victim here did, but in context, that's the least of the sorrows here.)

But there's only a tiny bit of evidence that he actually was the one who killed her; a little of (maybe) his DNA on her belt buckle, and proof that he owned knives (Jessica was killed with one), but that's about it.  Plus plenty of evidence that suggests that someone else might have killed Jessica; allegedly, Jessica was supposed to be initiated into a gang the weekend before her death -- a gang who hung out at the park at which she was killed -- but skipped out on it.  Given all the facts contained in the 113-page opinion, I can see why it took the jury around a week to deliberate; it's super hard to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

But find him guilty they did.  And, yeah, he might well have done it.

I'm just not sure.

(Nor, perhaps not surprisingly, is his family.)