Thursday, May 26, 2005

PD Liable in Rampart Frame-ups

I'll post more on this tomorrow. This is outrageous, though. Jury found a PD 100% liable when the defendant was framed by LAPD. No liability apportioned to the cops or city. Of course, when she tried the case, the judge shut her down and prevented her from mounting a real defense, but of course, the court and DA are both immune, so take your best shots at us PDs.

Here's some background on this case, and why it's so outrageous.

This stems out of the Rampart scandal in Los Angeles. In that case, Rafael Perez was caught stealing cocaine from an evidence room to resell it. After his first trial hung, he offered up a bunch of information on his fellow officers in the anti-gang unit he served in (Rampart Crash) to get himself a deal (don't think his snitching did him all that well, his offer was 7 years, serve 3 1/2, snitching got him 5, serve 2 1/2, and ended up serving far more than that). He told stories about planting drugs and guns, making up cases against people, framing defendants, lying in court, even killing people. Most of what he said was corroborated. From the very start to the very end, though, the LAPD and DA's office sought to contain this as narrowly as possible, and they succeeded, so that it's basically been forgotten. When a few of the officers involved were brought up for trial, the DA's office did such an abysmal job of prosecuting (essentially trying the case with one hand behind their back and the other holding their nose). The Judge in the case, Jacqui Conners, had been publicly humiliated by Perez when he admitted lying on a trial in her court where she had recommended him for a citation for his great work. She bent over backwards to give the officers the fairest trial she's ever given a defendant, even granting them a new trial after 2 were convicted. The new DA buried the case for a few years before finally dismissing it instead of retrying it.

Despite all the claims that this scandal was limited to just Perez, or Perez his partner and a few bad cops, it's evident that it involved many more. One officer from the unit, while the scandal was erupting, began dealing drugs and formed his own little crime gang after he was transferred somewhere else. He was arrested trying to buy a bunch of kilos of coke near the Mexican border, was found to be involved in other robberies and a murder, and is now serving life. He was one the so-called "clean" officers, according to the police and DAs who buried this case.

The most sensational case involved Javier Ovando, who stumbled into an empty apartment Perez and his partner Nino Durden were using as an observation post. When he did, they both shot him, then planted a gun on him and claimed they shot him in self-defense. He's now partially paralyzed. They had him charged with assault on a cop with a gun, and he was eventually convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison. Perez claims that it was his guilt over that case that led to him turning snitch, that he had vowed to himself that he wanted to get this guy out of prison at some point in his life.

The lawyer who represented Ovando was a PD named Tamar Toister. When faced with the lying Perez and Durden, her client was convicted at trial. She fought the good fight, but the judge screwed her left and right (he wouldn't even give her a continuance when she claimed she needed more time to investigate), and she lost the case. Hey, big surprise, lying cops got someone convicted.

As much an outrage this was, it is an even bigger outrage that she was found 100% liable for Mr. Ovando's predicament, as if the police who shot him, framed him, and lied at his trial had nothing to do with it. How, exactly, is someone supposed to represent someone when lying cops can expose you to unlimited liability? And, the fact is, as much as we bring this stuff up, the DAs still pooh pooh our claims of lying cops, Judges still refuse to call a cop on lies, and juries still find people guilty even though it's obvious cops were dishonest.


Patterico said...

We agree on this. The verdict was an outrage. No way it stands.

It's tempting to call the jurors "incredibly stupid."

123txpublicdefender123 said...

It is tempting, indeed. Even if you believe the PD was negligent and didn't do her job, there is no way she can be 100% responsible. That is an outrage.

Patterico said...

Perez claims that it was his guilt over that case that led to him turning snitch, that he had vowed to himself that he wanted to get this guy out of prison at some point in his life.

Yeah. Nothing to do with trying to get a deal on a cocaine stealing charge.

mythago said...

Hm. The news story says that they held not only the PD, but Los Angeles County, 100% liable. I bet the jurors were thinking a) the PD isn't going to be the one paying the money and b) LA hired crooked cops so the money's all coming from the same place.

They would be very, very foolish not to appeal.

Anonymous said...

Weird. Could it possibly be the cops suck, sometimes? No, because the hegemony demands that I never complain.

Anonymous said...

There is a silver lining. I don't know what things are like where you practice but it seems to me that the verdict may provide breathing room for more judges to order more discovery of police personnel records or files. Certainly it is no longer frivolous for a defense lawyer to seek broad and searching discovery on these issues.

PD Dude said...

Mythago - you said they found the County liable, and perhaps that was due to their hiring of the police. That was the city (only coincidentally having the same name) who employed the police.

Anon - you thought that this may make the judges more likely to grant discovery of police files. Don't fool yourself, the Rampart scandal made them more stingy, not less stingy, of police files, and made the city even more zealous in their pursuit of covering it up. Finally, judges are immune, if it screws us over, what do they care. They, and their former employer (90% of them were DAs once) are immune from lawsuit. They hate us anyways, so all the better to screw us. We just have to screw back harder (ideas anyone).

Patterico - I don't know about Perez's pangs of conscience or not, but his snitching got him 2 years off of what the Judge had offered him - 5 years instead of 7, and remember, he had already hung the case once, what's to say he didn't hang it - or win it, again?

That Lawyer Dude said...

You live in a state that allows referendum.
Get a good government proposition together that requires that the state pay 200k in damages if someone is found to have been unlawfully convicted based on tainted government evidence and another 200k for each year in jail served.
Require that the money has to come out of police and prosecutor's budgets for the municipality and up to 33% of the rouge cop(s) pension (after all when they lie they didn't earn their salary anyway.)

Also require that the prosecutor of such a case may face a 90 day suspension without pay for their failure to properly investigate the case.

Finally set up an office of Special Police Prosecutor. Prosecutions for these types of crimes should not come from DA's offices any way.

Require that no sitting judge can sit on a criminal case within 5 years of working for the prosecutor's office because of potential conflict of interest.

Require depositions of all witnesses in all felony cases

BTW How come no one has thought about a lawsuit against the PBA as an organization there might be some liability there. And they wouldn't be shielded by an immunity.
Part of the problem is that we live in a nation of lambs that treasure their saftey more than Freedom. Ask anyone who has spent time in a gulag what is worse the Murder of a person or a goverment conspiracy to "get someone." They will correctly chose the government conspiracy. When one lunatic strikes out against an individual that is a private matter of public concern.
When a government official abuses the office we support him in then it becomes a wrong for all of us. In the latter situation that cop or prosecutor is in our Name the PEOPLE OF THE STATE. He acts for all of us and when he breaks the law we break the law. That is far worse than one person doing so even if the effects of that person are serious.
Libertarians are losing the publicity war on our own turf. We must remember Ben Franklin's remarks that a society that sacrifices freedom for security gets no security and doesn't deserve freedom.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, this has nothing to do with your post. I am a young (in-highschool-young)student eager to get into the jungle of American law. I wanted to let you know that your posts never fail to inforce my 'dream' of being a public defender. Your incessant rants about injusice educate and enrage me. I enjoy reading your posts because you take the T.V. glam out of being a pd; my appreciation for that can not be expressed. I have so much to learn from people like you.

Lawyermommy said...

I am a public defender and this verdict really pisses me off. It makes me not want to be a PD anymore. Why should I sacrafice everything I have worked so hard for just to be potentially taken away be some ex-gang member? Here are my 2 burning questions: 1) What is Tamar supposed to do to pay this ridiculous judgment if it does in fact stand? 2) Why is Javier Ovando such an asshole that he has to sue his own laywer (who did a wonderful job BTW) when he already got 15 million from the city??? How much more money does he need? Does he need to ruin someone elses life too??????

Patterico said...


I am confident that the County will pay the judgment if it stands. I am also confident that it won't stand.

tvproducer guy said...

there's this presumption that cops tell the truth that really bugs me. As a journalist, I see a lot of trials from the out side. As a TV producer, I wind up editing a lot of reporter's copy from those trials, and I see smart reporters writing things from police reports or cops' testimony as if they're fact! My stock speech has been, "assume the cop is a democrat/republican senator and the defendant is a senator from the other party, and they're debating on the senate floor. Now how would you write this?"

I've made some good progress with most of our reporters (though one really talented guy still has the sensibility of Nancy Grace...) I wish you all could make the same progress with juries... we might have something closer to a justice system.

mariognitrini111 said...

My Name is Mario G. Nitrini 111.

I was Personally Involved in The OJ Simpson Case. There ARE People Connections in The Notorious B.I.G. Federal Civil Case, Rampart, The OJ Simpson Case. The Names: Russell Poole, Detective Ronald Y. Ito, Anthony Pellicano, Suge Knight, Larry Longo, Bill Wasz and More.

Mr Patterico, Did You do ANY Investigating on Me after I Posted on Your website???? If You did, You would Have Recognized the People Connections I have Metioned Above. DID YOU??????? You do seem to have "SOME SMARTS" about You Mr. Patterico.

Look for something Legally BIG to Happen with these names above and The Notorious B.I. G.'s Civil Federal Lawsuit.

Check Out Smartfellows


Mario G. Nitrini 111

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