Why Did You Choose To Practice Civil Rights Law? Why Is It Important To You?
When I was in high school, police misconduct was commonplace. On one occasion, a fellow student paid a high price for giving the finger to a police officer: he was chased down, tackled to the ground, and beaten. This was during the late 1960’s during the time Rueben Salazar, a Los Angeles Times Reported was killed at the Silver Dollar on August 29, 1969.
I attended California State University, Los Angeles as an undergraduate. During this time, I was a member of a police misconduct litigation organization in Los Angeles called Police Watch, which not only provided me with the ability to work on several cases (including the checkpoint case in Pomona, CA), but also taught me a lot about police misconduct in general.
It was also during this time that I met Richard Cruz, the criminal defense attorney fighting for Gordon Hall’s freedom. An activist group Free Gordon Hall had raised awareness and money up and down the state for Gordon’s freedom. At just 16 years old, Hall was the youngest individual to be incarcerated for a murder he did not commit; the conviction was based upon (1) an inadequate criminal defense attorney who failed to investigate the case properly and was ultimately sued for malpractice; and (2) testimony that came out of a plea bargain with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office in which they sealed the eyewitness’s lips and would not identify the real killer.
I ended up working on the criminal side of this case for several years, and Hall was eventually exonerated. The California Supreme Court granted a Writ of Habeus Corpus. In re Hall on Habeus Corpus 985 Cal. Rtr. 855 (1980) I was in law school at the time assisted Hermes Moreno with the Civil Rights case which after a multimillion-dollar verdict it was overturned.
During this time I also obtained a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Southern California. My thesis to graduate was on An Analysis of Police-Minority Community Relations (1981) in which excerpts are contained herein. Having worked in the Pomona courts for several years, my opinion is that it isn’t a very friendly court, especially for criminal defendants. The police department has a bad reputation and coupled with a strict prosecutor’s office Pomona is a hard court.
I have focused on civil rights law in Pomona for over three decades now and handle criminal and other types of law. I also work on the police review board on behalf of Police Oversight Starts Today (POST).
POST has been fighting to get this as an amendment to Pomona’s Constitution. The City of Pomona’s charter review board has accepted it as a legitimate project, and the proposed police review board contains subpoena power and an inspector general.
It’s very rare for a police officer to be prosecuted. This has been attributed to the police and the prosecutors work had and hand to produce convictions. Recently, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s prosecutors are fighting back and trying to do what the Constitution says, which is to be fair and seek the truth rather than rack up prosecutions.
Unfortunately, many individuals are convicted of crimes that they did not actually commit. It’s my hope that this book will shed light on and raise awareness of the enormity of the police misconduct problem, and what is being done about it.
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