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  1. #1
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    Prosecutors Pursue Death Penalty for Juan Ramon Coronado Jr. in 2008 CA Slaying of Lupe Delgadillo

    The California Supreme Court decided Wednesday to review a trial judge’s order removing the Riverside County public defender’s office from a death penalty murder case.

    In a December hearing, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Christian Thierbach branded a lawyer for the public defender's office as ineffective and said there was “the very real appearance” that defense investigators may have tried to induce perjury in the case of client Juan Ramon Coronado Jr.

    Coronado and Eusebio Fierros were both charged in the 2008 robbery and murder of 85-year-old Lupe Delgadillo from the community of Good Hope, a rural area west of Perris.

    Fierros has been convicted, and jurors recommended the death penalty. He will be sentenced May 18. Coronado's case was severed from Fierros' trial by Thierbach's ruling.

    In announcing the 7-0 decision to take on the matter, the high court also kept in place a stay on the Coronando case it had earlier issued.

    But the justices did order new action.

    The case will be threaded backward through the local appellate court, with an order to Thierbach.

    The court said Thierbach needs to explain how he did not abuse discretion with both his decision removing the public defender’s office from the case, and with his denial of a plea from deputy public defender R. Addison Steele II for a private hearing to offer an explanation that Steele said included privileged attorney-client material.

    There was no timetable attached to the court’s order that accompanied its decision to grant the review petition.

    Thierbach acted after reviewing two defense memos, made three years apart and filed with Steele by different investigators who interviewed the same acquaintance of Coronado.

    The content of the memos differ significantly.

    One from 2008 said Coronado confessed his role in the murder to the friend. And there was a written suggestion from the investigator in that memo that it could be written “minus” the murder confession.

    The second interview memo from 2011 — with the same friend — suggested Coronado seemed unaware of the murder and was surprised to learn about it from a newspaper story.

    Steele insisted that the offer to write the 2008 memo without the confession was “a joke” and that the 2011 memo that implied Coronado was ignorant of the slaying was not the result of collusion between the investigators.

    http://www.pe.com/local-news/breakin...nder-issue.ece
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  2. #2
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    March 26, 2013

    RIVERSIDE COUNTY: Judge must reconsider ouster of public defender from capital murder trial

    By Richard K. De Atley

    A judge who took the rare step of kicking the Riverside County Public Defender’s office off a capital murder case for apparent conflict of interest will have to reconsider the matter, a state appellate court ruled Tuesday, March 26.

    The court ruled that Riverside County Superior Court Judge Christian Thierbach should have informed defendant Juan Ramon Coronado Jr. that there was problem with his defense counsel, appointed an independent attorney to consult with Coronado, and then asked if Coronado if he was willing to waive the issues.

    The appellate justices said the steps should be taken “although we believe there is substantial evidence to show that the public defender’s office has a potential conflict of interest.”

    They sent the matter back to Thierbach to set aside his original finding and hold a new hearing that follows their guidelines. The Riverside County District Attorney’s office had argued Thierbach’s ruling should stand.

    While the ruling gives Thierbach a new procedural roadmap for the pretrial ruling, the outcome may not change.

    The three-judge panel from the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division Two, noted in its unpublished decision that judges have the power to remove appointed counsel, even over the objection and waiver of the defendant.

    Coronado and codefendant Eusebio Fierros were both charged in the 2008 robbery and murder of 85-year-old Lupe Delgadillo from the community of Good Hope, a rural area west of Perris.

    Fierros has since been convicted and sentenced to death. Coronado’s case was severed after Thierbach removed the public defender’s office from Coronado’s case in December 2011.

    The judge made the ruling after reviewing two defense memos, made three years apart by different investigators who had interviewed the same acquaintance of Coronado. The content of the memos differ significantly.

    A 2008 memo said the friend claimed Coronado had confessed to him his role in the murder. And there was a written suggestion from the investigator that the memo could be written “minus” mention of the murder confession.

    The second memo by a different investigator from 2011 – interviewing the same friend — suggested Coronado seemed unaware of the murder and was surprised to learn about it from a newspaper story.

    The judge said the public defender’s office accidental shipment of the conflicting memos to prosecutors was tantamount to ineffective counsel, and said there was “the very real appearance” that defense investigators may have tried to induce perjury.

    The appellate opinion written by Presiding Justice Manuel Ramirez noted that the situation in the Coronado case looked at an area not previously reached by the state Supreme Court.

    In one cited case, the high court had ruled that even if a judge had abused discretion in removing counsel, the defendant had failed to show prejudice.

    “We are confronted with the exact issue that the Supreme Court did not decide,” Ramirez wrote, “whether the trial court did abuse its discretion in removing the public defender.”

    In the absence of clear law, Ramirez said that before removing appointed defense counsel, “we believe the better course is for the court to advise the defendant of the problem, and if possible, to secure a knowing and intelligent waiver.” Ramirez said a declaration by Coronado to the appellate court was “insufficient.”

    The procedure should also include appointment of independent counsel to confer with Coronado, Ramirez wrote. “We believe the trial court abused its discretion by failing to follow these guidelines when confronted with this situation.”

    The public defender’s office, which had appealed Thierbach’s ruling, did not argue that its attorney should have been given a chance to explain the circumstances of the memos to the judge during a closed-door hearing in December 2011.

    “Instead, it is argued that if we find the removal order cannot stand, we should issue an order to that effect and let the trial judge exercise his discretion from there,” the ruling stated.

    Associate Justices Betty Ann Richli and Jeffrey King concurred.

    Either side can petition the state Supreme Court to hear an appeal.

    http://blog.pe.com/crime/2013/03/26/...-murder-trial/

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