BAIL

Are there limits to the amount of money a court can set as bail in a criminal trial?
This issue came up in the arraignment of the vice president of a local Hells Angels Motorcycle club chapter. “Biker Guy” had been indicted for sales of controlled substances. Hs bail was set at one million dollars. “Biker Guy” moved to have his bail reduced to $100,000, the amount specified in the county's bail schedule. He pointed out that he had lived in the county all of his life and had no prior record. The DA argued that because Biker Guy was up to 25 years in prison is bail should be higher than scheduled bail. The Court of Appeal held it was the nature of the offense charged, not the punishment faced, that controls the amount of bail to be set.

In Re Christie was decided by the California Court of Appeals, Second District in October 2001. It is published at 92 Cal. App. 4th 1105.

   

DA
ETHICS

Randy Righteous was unlawfully searched and formally charged with possessing a throwing star. Randy’s attorney filed a motion to suppress citing a violation of Randy’s fourth amendment rights. DA Perry offered to dismiss the case if Randy stipulated there was probable cause for his arrest.

Is this offer ethical? No.

1st. A member shall not threaten to present criminal charges to obtain an advantage in a civil dispute
2nd. A member in government service shall not institute criminal charges when he knows or should know that the charges are not supported by probable cause.

An offer to dismiss a criminal prosecution may not be conditioned on a release from civil liability because that practice constitutes a threat to obtain an advantage in a civil dispute .

The full opinion is found in the State Bar of California Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct
Formal Opinion 1 1989-106.

   

DA
MISCONDUCT

In 1986, Gloria Killian was convicted of several crimes, including felony murder. The charges were based solely on a tip from Gary Masse, who had just been convicted of a home invasion robbery that ended in the execution-style slaying of one of the residents. Gary was sentenced to life without possibility of parole. After being sentenced he approached the sheriff’s department to see if there was anything he could do to reduce his sentence. This conversation resulted in a deal with the district attorney in which Gary would name Gloria Killian as the mastermind of the home invasion robbery, which was later proved to be a lie. In exchange, the DA would arrange to have Gary’s sentence reduced.

At Gloria’s trial, Gary testified that he had no deal with the prosecution as an incentive for his testimony. He also testified that Gloria was the mastermind, that she has gone with him on a previous attempt to rob the same house, and that after she found out about the robbery, Gloria called him to demand her cut. Gary’s testimony was the only direct evidence of Gloria’s guilt, and led to her conviction and a life-sentence.

Gary’s testimony, however, was a complete fabrication, and the DA knew it. Yet, in his closing argument, the DA reinforced Gary’s testimony, in particular Gary’s story that the DA wasn’t making any deals for him in exchange for his testimony. In addition, the DA used his closing argument to draw negative attention to the fact that Gloria chose not to testify by telling the jury that Gloria must have had something to hide.

The fact that the district attorney knowingly relied on a witness’ perjury in his closing statement and highlighted the fact that the defendant had exercised her fifth amendment right to remain silent was enough to grant Gloria a new trial.

Killian v. Poole is found at 282 F.3d. 1204