It seems the famed Pistorius family of South Africa just cannot catch a break lately. Oscar Pistorius, one of the most famous disabled athletes in the world, was charged with premeditated murder earlier this month after his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was shot inside the runner’s home. In this latest twist, the runner’s older brother, Carl Pistorius, has been officially charged with culpable homicide stemming from an alleged traffic accident in which a female motorcyclist collided with Carl Pistorius’ car in 2008. According to reports, blood tests showed that Carl Pistorius was not driving under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. Charges in the case had been dropped once before, only to be reinstated later. Carl Pistorius is expected to be in court in South Africa later this month to deal with his criminal charges. It is unclear what type of punishment he could receive if convicted on charges of culpable homicide. As for Oscar Pistorius, the case against him has seen its own share of twists recently. Pistorius was charged with premeditated murder and released on bail last Friday after a bail hearing that lasted two days. Pistorius is accused of shooting his girlfriend to death in his Pretoria home. Some initial reports indicated that Oscar Pistorius may have mistaken Steenkamp for an intruder and shot her. Pistorius himself is claiming that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder and that he did not realize that it was Steenkamp in the bathroom when he shot four rounds through the door. Other sources, however offer different opinions. Reports indicate that Steenkamp was shot four times through a bathroom door in Pistorius’ home, including in the hand and the hip. Early investigations reported that Steenkamp had locked herself in the small bathroom, suggesting that she was afraid of some danger, possibly from an enraged Pistorius. Some accounts also say that Pistorius used a cricket bat to break down the bathroom door after shooting his 9mm pistol into it. Neighbors had reportedly heard the couple arguing loudly at times before the incident. In a strange twist, The South African Police Service removed the lead investigator in the Pistorius case, Hilton Botha, after attempted murder charges were reinstated against him. Botha is accused of chasing a minibus full of people then firing his gun at the bus in a drunken rage in 2011. Botha is being charged with seven counts of attempted murder as a result. Law enforcement officials also recently admitted that they may have contaminated the crime scene at Oscar Pistorius’ home and had also possibly failed to properly catalogue evidence collected from the area. Oscar Pistorius made history as the first disabled runner to compete in the London Olympics last year alongside able-bodied runners. Oscar Pistorius had been born without fibula bones in both legs and had had his legs amputated below the knees when he was a small child. Pistorius ran with the use of prosthetic legs, earning him the nickname of “Bladerunner.”
Tagged as: Murder, police misconduct
Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers who defend burglary, murder, and other serious crimes in Southern California courtroom frequently contend with expert testimony related to fingerprint evidence. For example, in trial, a crime scene expert would testify that a print was lifted from the point of entry in a burglary case, and then a scientific examiner testifies that Defendant's prints (based on an expert comparison) match the lifted print from the entryway. In trial, jurors find this testimony very compelling because the use and knowledge of fingerprints science (whether you are providing your fingerprints at the DMV, the notary public, or for some other formal documentation) is part of everyday life for many.
A necessary step in trial preparation for a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer is to hire a defense fingerprint expert, to reexamine the work of the prosecutor's forensic examiner to deterimine whether the testing and comparison of the lift to the defendant's prints was done accurately.
The importance of reviewing law enforcement forensic work cannot be overstated. A recent confidential report, regarding LAPD fingerprint testing, concluded that people have been falsely implicated in crimes because the department's fingerprint experts wrongly identified them as suspects. The 10-page internal LAPD report highlighted two cases in which criminal defendants had charges against them dropped after problems with the fingerprint analysis were exposed. LAPD officials do not know how many other people might have been wrongly accused over the years as a result of poor fingerprint analysis and do not have the funds to pay for a comprehensive audit to find out, according to police records and interviews.
Subsequently internal discipline investigations led to the firing of one fingerprint analyst, who had been involved in both of the mishandled cases. Three other analysts received suspensions. In addition, two supervisors responsible for overseeing the unit were replaced, staff was bolstered and oversight tightened, she said.
There are 78 forensic print specialists assigned to the unit, according to the department's website. They are not sworn police officers but among the hundreds of civilians who fill specialty jobs in the department. After prints are lifted from a crime scene, the specialists run them through automated databases to find possible matches and then analyze those to seek a more precise match. Two other analysts are then supposed to check the work for accuracy.
LAPD department officials, however, described a poorly run operation, in which records and evidence were left lying around or misplaced, and supervisors "were stuck in the old way of doing things." Pressed to explain the sloppy work of the unit, the commanding officer of the Scientific Investigation Division, speculated that "people were reviewing the work of friends and just rubber stamping it without really reviewing it."
In one of the cases highlighted in the report, a man was extradited from Alabama to face burglary charges after an analyst matched his prints to those found at the scene. The mistake was missed by two reviewers and was caught only when a third reviewer was preparing to testify at the trial.
In the other example, Maria Delosange Maldonado, a pregnant hospital technician, was charged in February 2006 with breaking into a San Fernando Valley cellphone store. When questions were raised about the accuracy of the print analysis, the LAPD said the prints could not be reexamined because they had been lost. The audit characterized the fingerprint identification in that case as "erroneous."
The LAPD's internal investigation challenges the widely held view that forensic matches made by fingerprint experts are airtight. The authors of the internal LAPD report recalled the infamous example of an Oregon man who was linked through faulty fingerprint analysis by three federal agents to the 2004 terrorist train bombings in Madrid.
Tagged as: police misconduct
Falsely Accused of Murder: Los Angeles Men Freed after 4 Months in Custody - Wrong Identification to Blame Says ProsecutorPosted 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
The failure to disclose evidence by a criminal prosecutor is a defense attorney's fear. Is a prosecutor willing to win at any cost, so that he or she will hide or fail disclose evidence favorable to a criminal defense attorney? While in practice in Los Angeles courts this phenomenon is rare, a recent criminal law case addressed what happens when evidence is withheld from the defense.
Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers have many tools to prevent a prosecutor from hiding the ball, including filing informal and formal discovery motions pursuant to Penal Code Section 1054.
Specifically the California Court of Appeal ruled a videotape of the medical examination of the alleged victim of a sexual assault, in the possession of a medical professional who works with police and prosecutors, should have been turned over to defense lawyers as potentially exculpatory evidence. The justices said the tape might have been helpful to attorneys for Agustin S. Uribe because it supported a defense expert
Tagged as: motion to dismiss unlawful police search, police misconduct, sex crime accusations
Sometimes Los Angeles criminal prosecutors use government witnesses without sufficiently checking into their background. Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys use discovery requests, both formal and informal, along with the work of tenacious investigators, to obtain as much information as possible about a government witness prior to cross-examination.
In a recent appeal, a criminal defendant earned the right to a new trial, after successfully proffering evidence that the star prosecution witness had presented the trial court with a forged military document and repeatedly lied under oath about being a combat veteran. A divided panel held that Ninth Circuit Judge Richard C. Tallman, sitting by designation for the Idaho District Court, abused his discretion in denying David Roland Hinkson
Tagged as: police misconduct
This case is an example of how someone can be framed, falsely accused, and arrested.
A Fullerton high school history teacher who was recently jailed when police -- acting on a tip -- found a shotgun and marijuana in his car in the school parking lot was actually the "victim of an elaborate setup," police said.
Investigators are now convinced that Gregory Abbott, 31, of Placentia, who has taught at Sunny Hills High School for seven years, is innocent and was actually a victim, said Sgt. Mike MacDonald of the Fullerton Police Department.
Detectives want to talk to Abbott's estranged wife and a male friend. MacDonald declined to identify the pair, calling them "persons of interest at this time" and not suspects.
Abbott was pulled out of class Tuesday by officers who asked if they could search his car.
An anonymous caller had phoned police to report that he had purchased drugs from a teacher at the high school named Abbott, who kept a weapon in his vehicle. The telephone call was made from off campus.
MacDonald said Abbott was cooperative from the beginning and gave officers permission to search his car.
They recovered an unloaded shotgun, about a gram of marijuana and prescription drugs packaged as if for sale.
Abbott was arrested without incident and taken to the Fullerton City Jail, where he posted $25,000 bail.
He said the gun and drugs were not his, and a follow-up investigation "revealed he was telling the truth," MacDonald said.
Police said that they are still conducting a criminal investigation but that the focus is now on who framed Abbott.
"You could say the investigation has taken us in a different direction. We felt a duty to be impartial and fair, checking out Abbott's story," MacDonald said. "We're happy that the results vindicated him. He's had a tough week."
Reached by telephone late Thursday, the teacher agreed.
"I'm a lot better today," he said. "I feel extremely grateful to the people who were with me through this time, especially the Fullerton police, who did an amazing and professional job by investigating to get to the truth."
Abbott said he didn't blame them for arresting him, but that the ordeal seemed surreal.
"Nothing even close to this has ever happened to me," he said. "I come from a good family with a good background; to have the police come tell me that there's a shotgun in my car -- I can hardly believe it even now."
Tagged as: police misconduct
A successful Pitchess Motion may at times be a powerful tool for defense counsel.
Defendants are entitled to relevant "discovery," ie. police reports and witness interviews, contained in the personnel files of an arresting officer. Typically, Los Angeles criminal attorneys file this motion before the preliminary hearing in cases where there are allegations made against arresting police officers of racial discrimination, excessive force, or some other misconduct which is relevant to the criminal case.
Prior misconduct evidence can then be used to impeach the officers in the current case.
Tagged as: california criminal laws, police misconduct
Kestenbaum Eisner & Gorin LLP has been recognized as one of the best U.S. law firms, based on the experience, professionalism, and ethics of its criminal defense lawyers and attorneys. We aggressively defend clients in all Southern California courtrooms on state and federal charges, including DUI, DMV, misdemeanor, felony, juvenile cases, in the following communities and courthouses.