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.

Filed Under: california, confessions, falsified transcript, kern county, police


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 13 Mar 2015 @ 6:29pm

    One of these things is not like the other

    Consider the following:

    The US criminal justice system.

    vs.

    Adding fraudulent information to a confession and then presenting it in court as factual.

    One of these is a joke, the other, not so much.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2015 @ 10:30pm

      Re: One of these things is not like the other

      Damn good post.

      But I do notice that the Judge did not place the dirt bag in question in contempt. Apparently the slap down from the judge was more of a hand slap if you ask me.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2015 @ 1:46am

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

        It should be a lot fucking more than comtempt charges.

        The person should be locked up for perjury for a very long time. Possibly in a mental institute.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2015 @ 9:26am

          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!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        PRMan, 14 Mar 2015 @ 10:25am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          David, 14 Mar 2015 @ 11:28am

          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)."

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2015 @ 1:30pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 7:35pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 17 Mar 2015 @ 8:22am

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

          "That's pretty severe if you ask me."

          While I agree that it's more than a "slap on the wrist", I don't think it's very severe considering the offense. Maybe it's more like a "punch to the jaw".

          The prosecutor should be in prison.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Uriel still hasn't fixed his Tablet Browser, 17 Mar 2015 @ 4:28pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2015 @ 6:46pm

    I'd try to get a civil rights prosecution from the DOJ if he doesn't get disbarred.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2015 @ 7:26pm

      Re:

      I'm wondering how absolute immunity factors into this. Is there a lawyer in the house?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2015 @ 2:05am

        Re: Re:

        There is no immunity from evidence tampering that I'm aware of. Why have a deprivation of rights under color of law statute if it can't ever apply.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          David, 14 Mar 2015 @ 7:28am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2015 @ 1:26pm

        Re: Re:

        I found this at federalpracticemanual.org:
        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).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          David, 15 Mar 2015 @ 3:07am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Uriel-238 (profile), 15 Mar 2015 @ 12:37pm

            Der Richter und sein Henker was published in the fifties.

            Al Capone was convicted of Tax Evasion in 1931.

            So...stranger than fiction.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              David, 16 Mar 2015 @ 2:32am

              Re: Der Richter und sein Henker was published in the fifties.

              But they did nail him for something he'd done.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Uriel-238 (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 11:46am

                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.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jake, 13 Mar 2015 @ 7:14pm

    Have you lot stolen one of our terrible law-enforcement ideas instead of the other way around for once and introduced conviction quotas?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 15 Mar 2015 @ 12:39pm

      Conviction Quotas

      In some states there certainly are inmate quotas, where the state pays a fine if their corporate run prisons ever drop below 90% occupancy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Blackfiredragon13 (profile), 13 Mar 2015 @ 7:52pm

    I'm confused.

    What exactly would the added lines to transcript imply? I'm kinda lost on that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Kathy, 13 Mar 2015 @ 10:26pm

      Re: I'm confused.

      The additional lines are admission of guilt of penetration. Which, according to the embedded court document, can carry a life sentence.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Blackfiredragon13 (profile), 14 Mar 2015 @ 2:20am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2015 @ 2:40am

          Re: Re: Re: I'm confused.

          You're right if you only confess the crime that you're charged with , but consider this: If, during the confession of the bank robbery, you also admit to killing the bank manager and hiding his body, then you can of course be charged and sentenced for that as well.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Reverend Draco, 14 Mar 2015 @ 5:55am

      Re: I'm confused.

      The added lines implied that the man confessed to a worse crime than the one he was being charged with. . .

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 13 Mar 2015 @ 7:59pm

    Good thing this doesn't call into question any "confessions" or other evidence Murray has used to convict people in earlier cases.

    /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2015 @ 1:36pm

      Re:

      Yea, this is a real travesty, it should trigger an automatic review of EVERY case this person prosecuted to search for any sign of prosecutorial misconduct.

      The "Justice" System has tarnished its own name to the degree that is should only be referred to as the "Court System".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 13 Mar 2015 @ 11:31pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      PRMan, 14 Mar 2015 @ 10:27am

      Re:

      "Not a peep."

      Murray is now facing disciplinary action from the state bar, including the possibility of being disbarred completely.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        David, 14 Mar 2015 @ 11:39am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      daengh (profile), 30 Mar 2015 @ 9:58am

      Re:

      >>The system protects itself at the expense of those it is charged with overseeing.

      Several years back I worked at a different county court in California. One of the supervisors there told me "The legal system works for itself. Actual justice is an accidental byproduct."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 14 Mar 2015 @ 2:35am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2015 @ 5:03am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Mar 2015 @ 12:25pm

      Pleabargaining in the '80s was illegal

      ...and in televised police procedurals was a hallmark indicator that a given lawyer was corrupt and a bad guy.

      At some point the attitude changed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        David, 14 Mar 2015 @ 12:46pm

        Re: Pleabargaining in the '80s was illegal

        You can say that again. Being corrupt and a bad guy is a career requirement in the Department of Justice (and a number of other government positions) these days.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2015 @ 10:36am

    Nothing like the hands on approach of hired goons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Mar 2015 @ 12:35pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2015 @ 3:16pm

    JUST A PRANK BRO!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Mar 2015 @ 9:25pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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