$6.5-Million Award Is Overturned
A Los Angeles County judge has thrown out a $6.5-million award to a former gang member who sued his public defender for failing to convince a jury he didn’t assault two corrupt police officers.
Judge Tricia Ann Bigelow on Monday also ordered a new trial after finding that a juror committed misconduct and that the panel improperly found Javier Ovando’s former defense attorney liable.
Ovando, 27, was convicted in 1997 of assaulting Rampart Division officers Rafael Perez and Nino Durden and sentenced to 23 years in prison. He spent more than two years behind bars until it was revealed that the two officers had shot and paralyzed Ovando, then planted a gun on him and falsely accused him of assault.
After his conviction was overturned in 1999, Ovando sued Deputy Public Defender Tamar Toister and Los Angeles County, claiming Toister knew Rampart officers had a pattern of falsifying and planting evidence. In May, Ovando was awarded $6.5 million.
Ovando’s attorney, Gregory Moreno, said he planned to appeal.
The judge said juror Jennifer Salinas committed misconduct when she denied knowing about the Rampart scandal. Salinas starred in a 2004 film about the scandal called “Gang Warz.” The judge also found evidence the jury disregarded instructions.