D.A. Asks Court to Reinstate Jury's Convictions of Three LAPD Officers

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles County prosecutors Friday formally asked a state appeals court to reinstate last year's conspiracy convictions against three former officers of the Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart Division.

In a 72-page motion to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles, Deputy Dist. Atty. Brentford Ferreira said Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Connor erred last December when she overturned a jury's decision that the officers had committed perjury by framing suspected gang members, who they said assaulted them.

The judge, after reading several affidavits from jurors, ruled that the jury based its verdict on a misreading of police jargon in a report.

The district attorney's appeal motion said Connor abused her discretion by considering the affidavits taken by defense attorneys.

The three officers--Sgts. Edward Ortiz, 44, and Brian Liddy, 39, and Officer Michael Buchanan, 30--were charged with framing suspected gang members by falsely accusing Cesar Natividad and Raul Munoz of trying to run them over with a pickup truck. The gang members were eventually charged with "assault with deadly force likely to produce great bodily injury," a crime frequently abbreviated in police reports as "ADW w/GBI."

Prosecutors charged that the officers lied and that Munoz and Natividad did not assault them with the truck.

When the jury considered that charge, several jurors could not agree on whether the officers were actually hit by the pickup truck, according to affidavits they gave to defense attorneys.

But they convicted the officers anyway, because some of them apparently misread the officers' police report, defense attorneys argued. Several of the jurors thought the abbreviation ADW w/GBI meant that the officers were claiming they were assaulted and suffered "great bodily injury." The officers did not suffer serious injury, so the jury concluded that the officers had lied and were guilty of framing the gang members.

Ferreira contended that the law does not allow a judge to second-guess the "subjective processes" of a jury's deliberations.

He said the jurors' affidavits were replete with such words as "I believe" and "we concluded" that reflect their mental processes.

"The decision to grant a new trial in this case mocks this jury's verdicts and casts serious doubt on the efficacy of the criminal justice system," he said.

If the district attorney's office prevails before the appellate court, the convictions would be reinstated. If prosecutors lose, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley could still retry the officers.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
58°