Earlier this year, a Kern County, California judge threw out all child molestation charges against Efrain Valesco-Palacios after the prosecutor added sentences to a transcript that indicated the defendant admitted guilt when he in fact had not.  Valesco-Palacios faced 16 years in prison if convicted.  Deputy District Attorney Robert Murray is now facing formal complaint before the California Bar.  The Kern County Public Defender’s Office first discovered that Murray made changes to the transcript.  Velasco-Palacios was charged with five counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years.

Murray defended his actions as just a joke.  Murray said that he sent the translation to Deputy Public Defender Ernie Hinman with two inaccurate lines inserted knowing that Hinman would see it and asked if Hinman disputed anything in the translation.  Hinman brought up the inserted lines and Murray told him that it was just a joke and then sent him the real translation.  Murray said that he thought that it was just banter that would remain between the two lawyers.  Murray said that if Hinman didn’t see the lines he wouldn’t have brought it to court that way.

The Chief Public Defender of Kern County called Murray’s actions “bizarre, shocking and disturbing,” and said Judge H.A. Staley had little choice but to dismiss the charges.  District Attorney Lisa Green insists that it was a “joke gone awry” and that it does not rise to egregiousness, a required element for the finding of prosecutorial misconduct.  Murray is accused in a 4-page complaint of three counts of violating ethical duties.  Count 1 is an act of moral turpitude, or a misrepresentation or falsification of evidence.

The complaint states:  “[Prosecutor Murray] sent discovery to the defendant’s attorney, which included an English translation of the defendant’s Spanish recorded statement, but [Murray] added the following statements which he knew were not part of the interview, which implied that the suspect had had sexual intercourse/penetration with the victim:

“[Officer]: You’re so guilty you child molester.”
“[Suspect]: I know. I’m just glad she’s not pregnant like her mother.”

“[Murray] knew that the defendant had not made those statements…which was an act of moral turpitude, dishonesty or corruption in willful violation of Business and Professions Code section 6106.”

Count 2:  Murray violated the defendant’s right to due process “by sending the English translation of the defendant’s Spanish recorded statement to the defendant’s attorney, [Murray] violated the defendant’s due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and…right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. [He] thereby willfully violated Business and Professions Code section 6068(a) by failing to support the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this state.”

Count 3:  Violation of the Code:  “By sending the English translation of the defendant’s Spanish recorded statement to the defendant’s attorney, [Murray] violated Penal Code section 1054.1, subdivisions (b), (c), (e) and (f) and Penal Code section 1054.7. [Murray] thereby willfully violated Business and Professions Code section 6068(a) by failing to support the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this state.

The bar not only is taking issue with Murray’s additions, but also to the fact that Murray sent the defense attorneys the state’s translation and not the original spanish statements.  Sending the original statements would have allowed the defense to obtain their own translation to ensure an accurate translation of their client’s statements.  Murray responded that he admitted the translation contained comments that were not made by the defendant, but he denies all wrongdoing.

Murray faces discipline, disbarment, fines, or a public finding of misconduct, if it is found he violated the bar’s regulations.  A settlement conference is scheduled for later this month.

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