Houman Fakhimi

Murder Trial Involving Inmate Beaten to Death Begins in Santa Ana

The trial of five men accused of killing an inmate they believed was a child molester began in Santa Ana recently, The Orange County Register reports.

The five men on trial are charged with murder and face possible prison sentences of 25 years to life, if convicted. Three other inmates pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and a fourth is expected to plead, the newspaper reports.

Charges of murder in California are the most serious and, therefore, require the most diligent and aggressive defense possible. That's why consulting with an experienced Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney before doing anything -- and that includes talking to police -- is so important.

Someone who is accused of murder is law enforcement's enemy and they are trying every way possible to get enough evidence to secure a conviction. An attorney can stand by the defendant's side and ensure their rights are upheld.

In this case, a man was booked into the Theo Lacy Jail on a misdemeanor charge of possessing child pornography. But the other inmates identified the man as a child molester and beat him severely, prosecutors told jurors during opening statements. According to the news article, the victim suffered ribs broken and fractured in 43 places in the assault, which was physical and sexual. He died at a hospital.

According to the article, the defense will attempt to show jurors that sheriff's deputies in charge of ensuring safety were complicit in the attack, and allowed it to happen. The newspaper reports that the man's death triggered investigations, including some that determined deputies recruited inmates to police one another rather than doing it themselves.

Jailhouse attacks can be among the most brutal, but finding credible witnesses is often a difficult task for prosecutors. And the same can be said for crimes that happen in public. Many times, the police will make arrests of multiple defendants, accusing them of a gang-related or group homicide, only to find they have few credible eye witnesses. When the state agrees to a plea deal with a co-defendant, the co-defendant has a vested interest in pinning the crime on the others and a trained attorney will make sure to point that out to jurors.

There are different forms of homicide under California law. California Penal Code 187 defines homicide and lays out the possible penalties.

First degree murder: Murder by using an explosive device, premeditation or while committing another felony, such as kidnapping, burglary, rape or robbery. It is punishable by 25 years to life, life or death.

Second degree murder: Murder, which is "the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought," is in the second degree if committed differently than as defined as first degree. It is punishable by 20 years to life, 25 years to life or life.

Manslaughter: It is the unlawful killing of a human without malice. It can be voluntary (heat of passion), involuntary or vehicular. Voluntary manslaughter is punishable by up to 11 years in prison, while involuntary is up to 4 years and vehicular can be up to 10 years. The circumstances dictate the possible length of prison sentence.

All of these penalties are severe and therefore require the most aggressive defense possible. That means working to suppress statements and evidence, such as DNA, fingerprints and eye witness accounts. Scrutinizing all state witnesses and reports and fully preparing for a jury trial to prove the client is not guilty and holding the state to its burden of proving the crime beyond all reasonable doubt is necessary.

Contact an Orange County criminal defense attorney at (714) 705-6701 as soon as possible if you are charged with a crime. Protecting your rights and setting up an aggressive defense at the beginning stages is critical in defending against criminal charges.

Additional Resources

Prosecutor: Inmates believed beating victim was child molester, by Vik Jolly, The Orange County Register