Court Tosses Child Molestation Charges After Prosecutor Falsifies Confession Transcript

from the a-laugh-at-the-expense-of-life-and-liberty dept

Kern County, California, is apparently no place to seek justice. The Kern County Sheriff’s Department is infamous for its handling of residents — both inside and outside the jail it controls. During a four-month stretch in 2013, the Sheriff’s Department was involved with three in-custody deaths. In two of the three cases, deputies applied a ton of force to arrestees, resulting in de facto death penalties for the crimes they allegedly committed.

The Kern County DA’s office is seemingly no better, although its members aren’t as likely to take such a hands-on approach. Instead, they’d be more apt to falsify confession transcriptions, like assistant DA Robert Murray did.

Kern County prosecutor Robert Murray added two lines of transcript to “evidence” that the defendant confessed to an even more egregious offense than that with which he had been charged—the already hideous offense of molesting a child. With the two sentences that state’s attorney Murray perjuriously added, Murray was able to threaten charges that carried a term of life in prison.

Here’s what Murray added to the transcript:

(Detective): “You’re so guilty you child molester.”

(Defendant): “I know. I’m just glad she’s not pregnant like her mother.”

Murray added this to the English translation of the confession transcription, but not to the Spanish version — the language used for the entire interrogation. He then handed this off to the defense, just as it was advising the defendant to consider a plea deal. It wasn’t until the defense requested the original recordings that Murray finally admitted adding statements the defendant never made — nine days after he turned his edited version over to the defendant.

Here’s Murray’s defense of his actions:

It was only after defense attorney Ernest Hinman confronted Murray about the altered version. Murray said he meant it only as a joke to be kept between the two men [Hinman and Murray].

Haha. Life and liberty are hilarious. It’s only someone’s life in the balance. No better place to deploy a little prosecutorial wit than in the transcript of a police interrogation.

The court wasn’t amused.

The trial judge saw no laughing matter—and neither should the rest of us. He dismissed the indictment completely, and in a scathing opinion, also quoted by the appellate court, wrote that the prosecutor’s actions “diluted the protections accompanying the right to counsel and ran the risk of fraudulently inducing defendant to enter a plea and forfeit his right to a jury trial.” The court refused to “tolerate such outrageous conduct that results in the deprivation of basic fundamental constitutional rights that are designed to provide basic fairness.”

Not only did Murray tank the prosecution side, but he also managed to scuttle the defendant’s legal representation as well. During his asinine defense of the altered transcript, he offhandedly mentioned that the defense counsel had told him the defendant “had no viable defense.” The prosecution team was hit hard, but so was the defendant, who suddenly found he couldn’t even trust his own representation.

Despite its own prosecutor admitting he had falsified evidence, the DA’s office appealed the court’s decision, arguing that only “abject physical brutality” should result in dismissal of charges. It found no comfort at the higher court.

Indeed, there is simply no support for the People’s contention that an act must involve some form of physical brutality in order to support a sanction of dismissal. Meanwhile, there is ample support for defendant’s contention that egregious violations of a defendant’s constitutional rights are sufficient to establish outrageous government misconduct.

Murray is now facing disciplinary action from the state bar, including the possibility of being disbarred completely. He’ll get to wait out this decision in comfort, as the DA’s office has made no proactive move to punish someone who admitted in court that he falsified evidence.

The law and order side always reminds us that they’ll do all they can to put bad guys away. In theory, it’s dedication and hard work. In practice, it appears to be a whole lot of lying.

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Comments on “Court Tosses Child Molestation Charges After Prosecutor Falsifies Confession Transcript”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: One of these things is not like the other

O yea, definitely agree there… I should have written it more like the judge “did not even so much as charge them with contempt”.

This is the type of thing where the Prosecutor should be disbarred and criminally charged. The judge shortly after for effectively doing “just not a damn thing” about it there by becoming an accessory and facilitator of FUTURE misconducts. The judge only “caught this one”. How many did the judge or some poor saps public defender miss or just let slide by?

This is wholesomely fucked up!

PRMan (profile) says:

Re: Re: One of these things is not like the other

He’s trying to sanction and/or disbar him. That’s not a slap on the wrist. Imagine you spent 5 years of your life studying for a career and another 5 practicing it. Then to be told you could never do it again. All because of a simple lie (one that has dire consequences for someone else, but still just a lie).

That’s pretty severe if you ask me.

David says:

Re: Re: Re: One of these things is not like the other

That’s pretty severe if you ask me.

It isn’t. He has proven to be morally absolutely unsuitable for doing his job without causing grave damage to others.

It’s like a kindergartener telling a kid that it should cross a road running whenever the lights are red.

Or a secret service leader telling a president that he has undisputable evidence of weapons of mass destruction in a land he likes to see invaded.

“All because of a simple lie (one that has dire consequences for someone else, but still just a lie).”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: One of these things is not like the other

Okay, good to hear that was happening, but that is still a slap on the wrist.

Yes, imagine I did spend that much time in my life to practice a career that “SEVERELY AFFECTS” other peoples lives, you are damn fucking skippy I would not have done something like this. The person that did this, well, this goes beyond the pale.

There never has been, or ever will be justifiable cause for this as a joke or otherwise, and our court system simply does not have the time or money on its hands to endure such an individual as this. All complicit parties should be criminally charged. There is a time and place for joking around… and court just simply never has been and never will be that place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: One of these things is not like the other

He’s trying to sanction and/or disbar him. That’s not a slap on the wrist. Imagine you spent 5 years of your life studying for a career and another 5 practicing it. Then to be told you could never do it again. All because of a simple lie (one that has dire consequences for someone else, but still just a lie).

That’s pretty severe if you ask me.

Imagine being put in jail for life because some jackass who studied for 5 years and practiced for 5 more decided to add “just a little lie” to the case he was presenting against you?

Sounds pretty fucking severe, and deserving of some pretty fucking severe punishment to me.

Uriel still hasn't fixed his Tablet Browser says:

Re: Re: Re: A lie isn't an accident.

This isn’t anywhere near the equivilent of a stressful situation in which a drawn gun is warranted followed by shots fired and unintentional injury / death.

This was willful. This was malice This was a witting effort to subvert due process. It’s likely Murray did it because he felt that child sexual abuse is such a heinous crime that even one suspected of it should be burned. A lot of people feel that way because children.

But Murray’s job is to rise above such impulses, and allow someone a day in court without the presumption of guilt.

Obviously he can’t. He should be disbarred due to incompetence.

David says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

There is no immunity from evidence tampering that I’m aware of.

Not in the letter of the law. Tampering with evidence is one of the customary rights of the prosecution for procuring a verdict in cases of insufficient evidence. It’s a particular form of prosecutional perjury, another customary right reserved to the Department of Justice, law enforcement and the military (including the secret services).

Ask Holder and Clapper and other honorable men how this works.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I found this at

Although a prosecutor who suborns perjury at a criminal trial is absolutely immune, a prosecutor who manufactures false evidence does not enjoy absolute immunity. The former performs a prosecutorial function by presenting evidence, while the latter performs a police investigatory function by gathering evidence.*

I’m guessing this is how evidence tampering falls outside of prosecutorial immunity.

* – Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 273 (1993).

David says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I consider it beyond the pale that a prosecutor performing or inciting perjury at a criminal trial is immune against prosecution.

Basically, that means that everything the prosecution can come up with, including witnesses, should not be regarded as more than hearsay.

Because, you know, everything that can be abused without penalty will be abused.

The government’s role in a court case should be to serve truth and justice. And “justice” does not mean that for every guilty person that manages to escape imprisonment there should be one innocent person incarcerated. Or that for any crime that cannot be proven to have been committed by the defendant, there should be a substitute crime fabricated and “proven” to have been committed by the defendant.

In Dürrenmatt’s “Der Richter und sein Henker” there is a passage where the two antagonists have a semi-private talk and the detective tells the villain “In all that time, I have not been able to prove you guilty of the crimes you committed, so now I’ll prove you guilty of a crime you did not commit.”

Now in Switzerland, that was an unthinkable plot twist only possible in literature, and unthinkably criminal. In the U.S., that’s apparently standard treatment, legal, and not limited to archvillains.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 If by "something he'd done" you mean they revised law so that he was guity.

The IRS specifically revised tax law to make illegal gains taxable due to major gang leaders such as Capone and Moran. Previously, they figured that illegal gains were in the purview of whatever law made the gains illegal.

And then they found that the alleged gains were beyond the statute of limitations, so the judge reinterpreted the statute of limitations so as to allow Capone to be guilty.

So it’s a pretty clear case of putting Capone in jail only because people in the DoJ wanted him in jail, and not because of the letter of the law.

It was the kind of thing to get Harvey Dent to have doubts and start obsessively fidgeting with coins.

Blackfiredragon13 (profile) says:

Re: Re: I'm confused.

oh I never read through those because I never understand the legal system. It’s too f***ed up to make any sense. At least to me. Also I can spend hours trying to figure out why an admission of guilt of the crime can result in a worse sentence, when really it should only kill any doubt of innocence of crime one stands accused of. EX: I rob a bank. I get caught and admit to it. Now should the admission of guilt of the crime result in a worse sentence than I am already facing? because that just leaves me more confused than the “this sentence is false” paradox.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

The system protects itself at the expense of those it is charged with overseeing.
There is a balance to be wanted in proving facts before firing people, but when outrageous conduct gets not a peep the entire office should be considered flawed.

There needs to be no special protections offered to those who violate the rights of others, someone leading the charge against another who violates the basic tenants should face the entire weight of the law.

The system is not fair as is promised, and we need to restore the rights of all.

David says:

Re: Re: Re:

Disbarment should be pretty much automatic for conviction and prison sentence for a perjury and attempted false imprisonment.

The sentencing needs to be at the upper possible range to take into account the abuse of a position of power.

The Department of Justice will likely instead assign him to desk duty and give him a promotion.

David says:

The idea has merit

“Your honor, we only shot him as a joke. We had no way to guess he’d take it to his heart.”

Too bad the courts were not in support of this kind of creative thinking. The DoJ was likely right in asserting that the defendant was not prejudiced: whether they screw with justice in one manner or another is not really all that relevant.

“Plea deals” are, in itself, incompatible with the Constitution.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The idea has merit

Arrest everyone for everything, then release them as needed with an official “J/K ;D” court order.
I think the right to be “J/K ;D” accused should be at the top of every constitution.
And since adopting Emojis in the official stenography records in courts, the transcripts just come alive on the page! It’s so much better than reading novels.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

One of the problems with our current system...

Is that in order for us to fix the system, one or more suspects of heinous crimes have to go free, and the choice of the court is either to set things right for the state, or to play along and pin the guy for tax evasion.

Most jurists go for the tax evasion, so much so that we cannot tell if a lot of people actually did a bad thing, or were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Dunno how to fix this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Document this

Prosecutorial misconduct is not documented so that corrupt prosecutors’ privacy is protected. I can’t think of much that violates due process more than a proecutor remaining on the job with their track record of misconduct hidden. Thanks to SCOTUS for giving their blessing for some of the most egregious abuses that have miltiplied as a result.

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