Thursday, March 8, 2007

Court voids drive-by shooting conviction

Court voids drive-by shooting conviction, Seattle P-I, March 7, 2007.

Cesar Sarausad drove the car from which a Ballard High School student was shot. He admitted that he was driving, but said he didn't know that his passenger had a gun. The jury instructions were unclear as to whether he needed to know that his passenger intended to kill someone -- so unclear that the jury asked three times for clarification, only to be told to reread them.

Judge Coughenour (W.D. Wash.) granted habeas based on the erroneous jury instructions and insufficiency of the evidence. The 9th Circuit affirmed the grant of habeas relief, but only on the jury instruction issue. The state hasn't indicated whether it will appeal or seek a rehearing.

The opinion is Sarausad v. Porter, 05-35062 (9th Cir. March 7, 2007).

The panel was split: Judge William Fletcher wrote the first opinion, Judge Reinhardt concurred in part (jury instruction issue) and dissented in part (sufficiency of the evidence issue), and Judge Bybee dissented. This case has been through the system -- trial court, appeal in state court, personal restraint petition in state court, federal district court, federal court of appeals -- 13 years!

This morning I've been procrastinating on a less interesting task, but I really have to get to that task, so I'll resist the temptation to sift through the 80 pages of 9th Circuit opinions further. (If you read the opinions and would like to explain, please click on Comment!)

Part-time lecturer Patricia Novotny has represented Mr. Sarausad throughout his appeals.

1 comment:

Kelly W said...

I am the aunt of Melissa Fernandes. It isn't so much that he is potentially being released early. It is that he will become a "victim" of the justice system. Cesar Sarausad is no victim. Perhaps if he hadn't driven the car that day there would have been no drive-by and my niece, an innocent wouldn't be dead.

We cannot allow criminals to exploit the justice system. His conviction was not overturned because he is innocent but rather because of one element of the entire trial.