Woman Convicted of Murder Free on Bail : Court: Judge's unusual ruling enrages prosecutors and family of victim. They say witnesses in the case fear retaliation.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In an unusual judicial ruling that outraged the victim's family and prosecutors, a woman convicted of second-degree murder Friday was allowed to remain free on $100,000 bail until sentencing.

Victoria Flores, 35, faces a sentence of 18 years to life in prison for shooting and killing Rhonda McClinton, 31, in a fight outside a bar two years ago.

Normally bail is immediately revoked after a murder conviction and the defendant is taken into custody.

But Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Morris Jones denied the district attorney's request to revoke bail or to increase bail to $1 million, the amount recommended by Los Angeles Superior Court judges for a murder charge.

Flores' sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 26.

"Outrageous," said Bill Crisci, a supervisor in the district attorney's office. "When you're facing 18 years to life and it's a mandatory sentence, why, pray tell, would you let someone out on bail? It's a terrible thing to do to the victims."

McClinton's grandfather, Nathaniel Robinson, complained that Flores "shouldn't be able to walk free. I know [Flores] is a danger to society."

The prosecutor in the case, Deputy Dist. Atty. Walter Mueller, added: "Literally, a convicted murderer is walking the streets."

Jones was in court and not available for comment Friday.

State law gives judges some discretion in granting bail, allowing them to take into account such factors as a defendant's compliance with orders to appear at earlier hearings.

Still, some legal experts thought it unusual that bail of any amount would be granted to someone facing a maximum life sentence.

"The incentive for that person to flee is tremendous now no matter what the size of the bail," said Loyola Law School professor Victor Gold. "People who are willing to commit the crime of murder might be willing to commit the crime of fleeing as well."

Prosecutor Mueller said he plans to file a motion asking Jones to reconsider his bail decision.

Robinson, the victim's grandfather, said witnesses who testified against Flores during her trial were afraid for their safety because she was not in custody. Mueller said one witness Friday "was almost in tears because of fear of potential for retaliation."

Flores was convicted of killing McClinton outside a bar on Pico Boulevard south of Koreatown at 2 a.m. on May 28, 1993. Police, responding to a call that the women were fighting, saw Flores shoot McClinton in the head. A jury deliberated three days before convicting Flores.

Times staff writer Andrea Ford contributed to this story.

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