Court Throws Out 2006 Conviction of ‘Teen’ in Highland Park Murder

By City News Service

A federal appeals panel has thrown out a man’s murder conviction, finding that Los Angeles police violated the then-teenager’s rights by denying his request for a lawyer and then “badgered” him into
confessing.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena determined that detectives continued to question then-14-year-old Jessie Rodriguez about a gang-related shooting in Highland Park after he requested an attorney. The February 2005 shooting left Cynthia Portillo dead and Manuel Penaloza wounded.

Rodriguez was convicted in September 2006 of second-degree murder and attempted murder and sentenced to 84 years to life in prison.

“It is clear that, in this case, a boy who invoked his constitutional right to the assistance of counsel was denied this assistance, and then was badgered into confessing murder,” according to the appellate opinion by Judge Robert S. Lasnik released on Sept. 29.

The panel found that detectives told Rodriguez he was going to be charged with murder and suggested that his cooperation would result in leniency. Rodriguez’s confession was obtained in violation of his Miranda rights, the panel wrote.

If state prosecutors do not retry Rodriguez, he can be released from prison, according to the ruling.

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October 5, 2017  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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