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Vehicular Manslaughter – Penalizing Negligence

Ordinarily, if you’re negligent and someone was hurt you would be sued civilly and a jury could award the person hurt with money damages.

If a person is killed as a result of your negligence, you can be charged with manslaughter – a crime. The crime of vehicular manslaughter can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on whether the person’s negligence rose to the level of gross negligence (felony) or not (misdemeanor).

The elements of Vehicular Manslaughter are:

1. A person was killed;

2. The death was caused by the defendant’s driving;

3. The defendant drove a vehicle in the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony;

or,

3. Defendant drove a vehicle in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an

unlawful manner.

Gross negligence is bad judgment that rises to the level of recklessness that creates a high risk of death. In gross negligence the actions of the person evidence a conscious disregard for human life.

The punishment for vehicular manslaughter range from 2, 4 or 6 years prison if charged as a felony or up to 1 year in jail if charged as a misdemeanor. In addition, the person convicted will have their license revoked for 3 years.

Successfully fighting a vehicular manslaughter charge requires showing that the behavior of the defendant was not negligent. In felony cases it may be easier because all that is required to show is that the defendant did not act with gross negligence – ordinary negligence isn’t enough.

Vehicular manslaughter cases can also be fought by showing that the defendant’s actions did not cause the person’s death. There could be multiple causes to a traffic collision. In fact, the deceased driving may have contributed to the accident.

These cases are complicated and require bringing together witnesses, experts and lawyers to successfully defend. If you’ve been charged with vehicular manslaughter call (213) 479-5322 to discuss your case with an attorney who knows how to coordinate your defense.

As a result of Judge Goethals decision in Rodriguez, the Orange Cohttp://www.lawyerupla.com/orange-county-sh…y-scandal-part-2/unty District Attorney’s office went on a campaign to “paper” him.  Papering is a way that D.A.’s can vindictively force a judge off the bench.  Section 170.6 of the Code of Civil Procedure allows each side to challenge a judge and force him from the case. The case is then randomly reassigned to another judge. The O.C. public attornies used  this against Judge Goethals on every case that came before him.This was a petulant and retaliatory show of force.  All cases are tried by DAs, thus if no DAs are trying cases in front of Goethals he will be reassigned. It was a clear threat to toe the line.

The supervising judge told the DA to stop the blanket challenges, the DA appealed and the Court of Appeals recently ruled that the DA couldn’t be stopped from making their challenges – even though the Court of Appeals found that the practice was distasteful and that the law should be changed.

The most alarming part of the story happened at the beginning of the summer when heroic defense attorney James Crawford was attacked and beaten by a DA investigator in the hallway of the courthouse. Inv. Alley repeatedly punched Crawford after the two exchanged words.  Crawford had been appointed by the court to represent a witness as a friend of the court, Alley asked him “who the fuck he was” and when he didn’t like the answer, beat up Crawford. Here are the disturbing pictures of Crawford after the attack.

The case was referred to the California Attorney General’s office who declined to file charges because there were conflicting stories about what happened. They ignored the fact that there was no conflicting evidence regarding which person got his ass kicked, that was Crawford. Alley complained of damage to his fist.

On top of all of this insanity, on 8/19/2016 there was a hearing in a case that parallels Rodriguez’s case. In the case of People v. Scott Dekraai, Dekraai is alleged to have committed mass murder in Seal Beach in 2011, Judge Goethals ordered the Orange County Sheriff’s office to release TRED information about informants in 2013.  Which they reluctantly did.  Judge Goethals also ordered that since the OC DA’s office was unable to proceed against Dekraai fairly that the entire office was recused.  The OC DA’s office appealed that ruling.

In Dekraai, the OC Sheriff first said there was no evidence of informants, but later turned over some TRED evidence in 2013.  After they turned over more informant evidence today, the judge said, “At best, I’m disappointed that these documents washed ashore more than three years after my discovery order,” Goethals said. “I’m also disturbed that these documents should have been disclosed a long, long time ago.”

The prosecutor on the case stated t that there are still more documents to be released.  After the county counsel’s office cried about defense attorney Scott Sanders using the newly turned over informant information against Sheriff Hutchens and asked that they be kept secret, the judge gave county counsel a month to tell him why each of the each entry should remain hidden.

You can be sure, as soon as that information is released on Septemeber 19, I will let you know what happens!

Sources:

http://www.ocweekly.com/news/prosecutor-erik-petersen-magically-finds-jailhouse-snitches-to-save-troubled-cases-6482434

http://www.ocweekly.com/news/are-orange-county-sheriffs-deputies-hiding-more-evidence-in-jailhouse-snitch-scandal-7398919

http://www.ocweekly.com/news/orange-countys-embarrassing-jailhouse-snitch-scandal-now-turns-violent-7030340

http://www.ocweekly.com/news/jailhouse-snitch-scandal-judge-is-stunned-deputies-continue-to-hide-evidence-7430182

 

 

 

In the early 1990s, the OC Sheriff instituted a computer system to track county jail inmates called “TRED”.  One part of TRED was the Informant Index.  This Informant index is information that must be disclosed to the defense, particularly since law enforcement cannot put a snitch into contact with a represented defendant (Massiah v US). This Informant Index list was kept a secret from everyone outside of the Sheriff and D.A.’s offices until just recently.

This past year, as part of a Petition for Writ of Habeus Corpus on behalf of a defendant named Henry Rodriguez, the TRED Informant Index files were finally released. This was the result of two defense attorneys who would not give up on defending their clients rights: James Crawford and Scott Sanders. How they finally got them released and exposed a huge, illegal, lowdown scandal in the OC, is one heck of a story. And it’s still not over yet.

In 1998, a man named Henry Rodriguez was friends with Richard Tovar.  Tovar was convicted of killing his pregnant girlfriend.  The DA prosecuted Rodriguez for murder, for unclear reasons since his crime seems to be renting a boat or maybe disposing of the body. But they won a conviction in 1999. That conviction was overturned in 2003 because the cops violated Rodriguez’s Miranda rights.  Rodriguez was re-tried in 2006.  The DA had a big problem though: Rodriguez’s original confession was coerced so it couldn’t be used a second time. This time they needed actual evidence.

Their solution appeared in the form of Michael James Garrity. Garrity claimed to have heard Rodriguez tell him all the details of the crime when they were cellmates. He never testified in the first trial but appeared, conveniently, 7 years later, to secure a second conviction.

James Crawford, Rodriguez’s attorney smelled something fishy with Garrity and asked Judge Fasel for any evidence from the jail.  At a hearing on that issue, the Orange County Counsel (representing the Sheriff Department) told the judge that the files Crawford was seeking were “confidential and investigatory and didn’t exist.” “They were never even written down,” the county counsel whined.

Fasal sided with the Sheriff Department and said that Crawford was on a fishing expedition. Rodriguez was convicted again, but Crawford knew something was up, rumors of an illegal snitch program had been around for years. And now evidence was confidential, investigatory and nonexistant all at once.

So Crawford reopened the case with a Petition for Writ of Habeus Corpus, on behalf of Rodriguez. His petition was heard by Judge Thomas Goethals. Finally, you had two honest men in the room.

Judge Goethals had some experience with jailhouse snitches. In 2013, a slam dunk case of a mass murderer in Seal Beach had been completely bungled when a DA had gotten greedy and used an illegal snitch. Judge Goethals ordered a small part of the TRED information disclosed, revealing illegal snitches in at least two other cases, (remember this is confidential, investigatory existent but non existent evidence so it was hard to keep track of how many cases, how many lives were ruined by this scam).

Goethals then recused the entire Orange County District Attorney’s office from trying those two cases because of the DA’s dishonesty with respect to the snitch program. That meant the whole OC DA’s office could have nothing to do with these cases, their own cases. Eventually the California Attorney General had to try the cases.

Cut to three years later, when – after exhausting all of his appeals – Crawford filed his Petition for Writ of Habeus Corpus on behalf of Rodriguez. Goethals orders the entire Orange County TRED Informant Index files released. Finally, 1200 pages are released, with assurances that this is the entire record. And lo and behold, they contain the “investigatory, confidential and nonexistant” files on Rodriguez and Garrity.

These files show that Garrity was an informant for numerous agencies, not just Orange County, and that he received benefits for his snitching, like lesser sentences. The Informant Index shows that the Sheriffs Office placed Garrity into Rodriguez’s cell and actually gave him a list of questions to ask. All this is highly illegal because of a federal case called Massiah vs U.S. This ruling says any evidence gained by an illegal snitch must be excluded from evidence. The records even show the DA’s and cops conscious decision not to disclose that the snitch was explicitly directed and compensated.

As part of the Habeus petition, Judge Goethals ruled that the discovery failures that occurred in his case prejudiced Rodriguez since the court believed that there is a reasonable probability that litigation related to his second trial, with the tainted snitch, would have produced a result more favorable to the defendant, had Rodriguez received this discovery before that 2006 trial.

How did the Orange County D.A. react to this scandal? Their entire Sheriffs department was corrupt and their District Attorneys were complicit in coerced and false evidence and this had been going on for years, if not decades? Read our blog in two weeks to find out the next chapter in this amazing story.!

 


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