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L.A. Now Live: Judge sparks controversy with decision in slaying case

Crime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemHomicide

In an unusual move, a judge recently reduced a man’s conviction for second-degree murder to voluntary manslaughter, shocking the victim’s family.

In his ruling, Superior Court Judge Raul A. Sahagun said he found that Robert Redd feared for his life when he fired the shot that killed houseguest Joseph Rubalcaba in Pico Rivera in 2011. Instead of receiving a mandatory sentence of 40 years to life in prison for murder with a gun, Redd was sentenced to 10 years.

Join us at 9 a.m. as we discuss the case and a brief history of judges reducing convictions with Times reporter Jack Leonard.

After fatally shooting his unwanted houseguest in the head, Redd stuffed Rubalcaba’s body into a recycling bin and wheeled it into a room of his Pico Rivera home, officials said.

When the stench grew too overpowering a couple of days later, Redd wheeled the bin out into the backyard and tipped Rubalcaba's corpse into a shallow grave that he topped with plants, they said.

Last month, a Norwalk jury convicted Redd, 53, of second-degree murder.

The judge’s decision, which prosecutors are considering appealing, drew fierce criticism from the 19-year-old victim's family members, who said they were shocked when it was announced.

Sahagun's decision to change a jury's unanimous verdict highlights judges' seldom-used power to act as a sort of 13th juror in criminal trials, giving them the ability to modify a jury's verdict if they conclude the evidence proves a defendant was actually guilty of a lesser crime.

 

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