Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog
     


Falsely Accused of Murder: Los Angeles Men Freed after 4 Months in Custody - Wrong Identification to Blame Says Prosecutor

Posted on: September 6, 2008 at 10:58 p.m.

Two Hollywood men who spent nearly four months in a Los Angeles County jail walked out free after a murder case against them was dropped, in Los Angeles, California. The men, both 20, had been charged with murder and attempted murder in a drive-by gang shooting in April that left one man dead and another injured. "This matter is dismissed in the interest of justice," Superior Court Commissioner Henry J. Hall said Friday afternoon, prompting applause by family members sitting in the courtroom.

The men, still wearing their blue jumpsuits, left the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles about 6:30 p.m. Relatives yelled, clapped and rushed toward them. "I feel like a million bucks," said one, "I knew I was wrongfully accused. I just had to wait it out."

The decedent Heriberto Osorio, 19, was killed on North Oxford Avenue in Hollywood early on the morning of April 20. Police arrested the two suspect about an hour after the shooting, and prosecutors filed charges a few days later. If convicted, they could have faced life in prison. The Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney on the case said the men matched the physical description given by witnesses and were in the immediate area of the shooting shortly after it occurred. Witnesses also identified both men in a field show-up, singling out one of the men as the gunman. Both men had prior criminal records and police believe at least one had gang affiliations. They both are construction workers.

Defendants had denied any involvement and told police that they were at a nearby McDonald's restaurant at the time. Despite the arrests, Los Angeles police detectives discovered the possible involvement of other individuals in the shooting, according to the prosecutor. One woman has since been arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting, but police are still searching for the gunman.

Prosecutors realized that the clock on the McDonald's camera was incorrect and that Defendants said the car they were driving was at the fast-food restaurant just minutes after the shooting. Although the McDonald's video did not show them, it did show the van -- a different vehicle than witnesses said was used in the shooting, according to the prosecutor.

Thereafter, after reviewing the case, the L.A. criminal prosecutor made a motion to dismiss the case, which was scheduled for a preliminary hearing next week. "When we put it all together . . . it became clear to me at that point there was reasonable doubt, and, in fact, it was likely they didn't commit the crime," he said. "If someone is in custody improperly, we have to release them as soon as possible."

Tagged as: jury trial defense, police misconduct







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