LOS ANGELES – An Oct. 4 trial date was set this morning for an Ontario man whose attempted murder conviction was overturned on appeal.
It’s been eight months since a federal judge threw out Rafael Madrigal’s conviction, citing evidence that indicates the 34-year-old was innocent of the crime for which he was imprisoned for nearly a decade.
Since Madrigal’s release on bail in October, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has reviewed evidence and re-interviewed witnesses in preparation for a possible retrial, Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila told a judge this morning.
When asked after the hearing whether prosecutors have made a firm decision to bring Madrigal’s case to trial, Avila was noncommittal. “We’re evaluating the case as we proceed,” he said.
Madrigal’s conviction for a 2000 gang shooting in East Los Angeles was based largely on two witnesses who identified Madrigal as the shooter in photos shown to them by Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives.
But according to Madrigal and several of his co-workers, the married father of three children was at work in Rancho Cucamonga until a half hour after the shooting.
In an October order granting bail for Madrigal, U.S. Magistrate Judge Marc L. Goldman faulted Madrigal’s original defense attorney for failing to adequately present Madrigal’s alibi during his trial.
During this morning’s hearing in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom, attorneys discussed with Judge Curtis B. Rappe the progress they’ve made in preparing for trial.
Avila said he’s handed over 800 pages of discovery – such as police reports – to Madrigal’s three-attorney defense team.
The defense is also seeking reports from the prosecution about a shooting in the 1990s that the defense believes can help prove the actual identity of the shooter in Madrigal’s case.
Rappe scheduled a May 24 hearing to rule whether the prosecution must hand over evidence in the prior shooting.
Rappe said he wanted the case to come to trial quickly, so that if Madrigal is acquitted he can move on with his life. And if he is acquitted, prosecutors could then begin work investigating the identity of the actual shooter.
“I think Mr. Madrigal, whether he’s innocent or guilty, deserves a swift resolution to this,” Rappe said. “… It’s been under this cloud for years now.”
Rappe, citing the seriousness of the charges Madrigal faces, denied a request by Madrigal’s defense to eliminate electronic monitoring as a condition of Madrigal’s release on bail.
Madrigal, who is fitted with a GPS-tracking device on his ankle, spends half his income paying for the monitoring program, one of his attorneys, Melanie Natasha Henry, told the judge.
The monitoring condition also prohibits Madrigal from many activities, such having dinner with his wife at a restaurant, “that he has already missed all those years in prison,” Henry told the judge.
Rappe said he might reconsider his ruling once there is a firm trial date for Madrigal’s case.