A teenager’s murder conviction was overturned Friday by a federal appeals court, which ruled that the Los Angeles Police Department violated the teen’s rights by denying his request for a lawyer and forcing him into a confession.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Jessie Rodriguez was 14 years old in 2005 when the LAPD questioned him about a gang-related shooting that left a woman dead and her boyfriend injured.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the detectives in question continued to question Rodriguez even after he requested an attorney. The detectives told Rodriguez that he was going to be charged with murder and suggested that his cooperation would lead to leniency in his case. The court ruled that the confession Rodriguez subsequently made was coerced.
Rodriguez was found guilty of second-degree murder (.doc) in the 2005 drive-by shooting death of Cynthia Portillo and guilty of the attempted murder of her boyfriend, Manuel Penaloza. He was sentenced to 15 years to life for the murder, plus 25 years for a firearms-use enhancement, with a minimum parole eligibility of 15 years because of the gang enhancement. For the attempted murder of Penaloza, he received a consecutive sentence of nine years, plus 25 years for a firearms-use enhancement and 10 years for the gang enhancement.
According to court documents, Penaloza was a noncooperative witness who somewhat reluctantly picked Rodriguez out of a photographic lineup.
At a pretrial hearing, Rodriguez testified that while detectives were transporting him to central station for booking, they pressured him to confess and told him that two other members of his gang had already “told police everything.” He testified that he wrote his confession because detectives told him that if he did, he would stay in juvenile hall and not be transferred to prison.
Rodriguez can now be retried by prosecutors. Neither the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office nor the state attorney general’s office has commented on whether or not that will happen.
Read more at the Los Angeles Times.