The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals filed an Order commanding the State of California to release, or retry Johnny Baca, in connection with a 1995 killing case. During oral arguments, the three-justice panel had lambasted the state’s attorney over the undisputed fact that the snitch in the trials (the case had been reversed once before) and the prosecutor lied during Baca’s trial. The court also called the prosecutor’s conduct “horrible” and threatened to write an Opinion and “name names” if the California Attorney General’s Office didn’t reach a deal with appellate counsel; after that warning, the state did not oppose the motion to release Baca or retry him within a reasonable amount of time. A retrial appears uncertain. One of the judges on the panel said she understood why state court judges were hesitant to reverse such cases since they have to stand for election- an obvious slam. The court also strongly suggested that the prosecutor should be charged criminally for his lies under oath.
COMMENT: The state’s practice of doing little about the prosecutor misconduct in this case is disturbing, and it is a sad day when a federal appeal’s court has to step in and rectify the problem; one member of the panel said she understood that some state judges are often afraid to buck prosecutors or make the right decision in unpopular cases because they are subject to elections; we think these are the type of judges who should be voted out. The prosecutors in this case also tried to prevent a state appeals court from ever seeing parts of the trial transcript that was favorable to the defendant. It was a pitiable sight to watch the assistant California Attorney General trying to justify the prosecutor’s lies (from a legal standard of review perspective) and his own office’s failure to pursue criminal charges against the undisputable lying prosecutor; these types of prosecutors stoop lower than many of those people in the criminal milieu and have long since jettisoned the once honorable titles of “Ministers of Justice”- what a joke this would be if it wasn’t for the innocent men and women who linger unjustly in prison cells across the state because of such prosecutorial misconduct and inaction on the part of some nervous judges.