Prosecutorial misconduct is rarely the subject of formal discipline, but the California State Bar recently moved to discipline former LA County DA Carmen Trutanich for failing to disclose eyewitness information to the defense in a 1985 murder trial. The disciplinary action follows a ruling last year where a a federal judge threw out the conviction and death sentence, ruling that Trutanich’s “deeply troubling” behavior during that case had deprived Barry Williams, a South L.A. gang member, of a fair trial.
In that case, Jerome Dunn was shot and killed on a street in South Los Angeles by someone in a passing van. Patricia Lewis, who was a passenger in a car driving nearby, was the only eyewitness to testify.At the trial, Lewis identified Williams as the van’s driver and said she saw him, not others in the van, fire at Dunn, but she also lied on the stand about the identity of the person who was driving her, giving a fake name to protect her friend, Arlean McKay, who was afraid of getting involved.
The judge found that Trutanich was aware of the deception before and during the trial – in notes, Trutanich wrote both McKay’s name and the fake name Lewis made up, next to each other and in quotation marks — which the judge said indicated Trutanich knew there were doubts about the woman’s actual identity. However, he did not provide this information to the defense.