The 1982 murder conviction of a Spanish-speaking man was reversed Tuesday by the 4th District Court of Appeal on grounds that the Santa Ana police did not properly advise him of his rights before hearing his confession.
The appellate court criticized Deputy Dist. Atty. Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian (now a Municipal Court judge) for disregarding a warning from Superior Court Judge James O. Perez that she should not use the statement as evidence because of the inadequate police warning.
Rights Read to Him
Carlos Hernandez, 25, of Santa Ana, was convicted of second-degree murder in the July 24, 1982, shooting death of Anatolio Palacios, in the parking lot of the Coco Inn Bar in Santa Ana.
Hernandez, who speaks no English, was read his rights by a Spanish-speaking police officer. But Justice John K. Trotter of the 4th District found that the officer had failed to translate to Hernandez that any statements he made “will be used against you” in court, which is a necessary part of reading someone his rights. Also, the translator failed to tell Hernandez he had the right to an attorney “before” any questioning, but only told him he had the right to an attorney “during” questioning.
But there was a more important point, Trotter stated in his written opinion. When the officer asked Hernandez if he understood his rights, no audible answer was picked up on the tape recording of the interview. Under court interpretation, an arrested person cannot waive his rights until after he acknowledges that he understands what those rights are.
The defense claimed the gap on the tape while officers were waiting for his response indicates he did not understand. The police testified that Hernandez answered “ si ,” but the tape recorder simply did not pick it up because he spoke so softly.
‘Proper Warning’ Given?
Trotter stated that “we are not persuaded Hernandez received a proper warning or gave an intelligent waiver” of his rights.
Hernandez eventually confessed in his statement that he shot Palacios. According to appellate records, Bamattre-Manoukian made the confession a key part of her case.
“There can be no doubt the error was prejudicial,” Trotter stated.
Trotter pointed out that the judge allowed the prosecutor to use the confession as evidence but warned her, “If this thing gets reversed on appeal, it’s not because I didn’t tell you so.”
Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. James Enright said his office would retry Hernandez without using the confession.
“We could appeal the ruling, but that’s not very realistic, given the people who sit on the state Supreme Court,” Enright said. Enright has long criticized the Supreme Court as anti-prosecution.
Hernandez is serving a prison sentence of 17 years to life at the state prison at Chino.