Wednesday, July 9, 2014
C.A. Upholds Convictions of Five in Orange County Jail Killing
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The Fourth District Court of Appeal has affirmed the murder convictions of five men in the 2006 beating of an Orange County jail inmate, rejecting the men’s claim that sheriff’s deputies bear the ultimate responsibility for the death of John Derek Chamberlain.
Presiding Justice Kathleen O’Leary Monday acknowledged evidence of “abhorrent” behavior by deputies, three of whom were at guard station less than 70 feet while dozens of inmates kicked, punched, beat, stomped, and sodomized the victim. One of the defendants, Jared Louis Petrovich, claimed he heard one of the deputies say Chamberlain was a child molester, although he was actually charged with misdemeanor possession of child pornography.
But regardless of what the deputies did or didn’t do, Leary said, there was enough evidence to convict Petrovich, along with Miguel Angel Guillen, Garrett Eugene Aguilar, Stephen Paul Carlstrom Jr., and Raul Villafana of second degree murder, and no showing that they were denied a fair trial.
First Degree Murder Charge
The five were initially charged with first degree murder, but the prosecution abandoned its effort to convict of them of that charge after jurors said they were deadlocked.
Each of the five was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison, except for Guillen, who because of a “strike” prior, was sentenced to 20 years to life. Four other defendants pled guilty to manslaughter charges for which they were sentenced to up to 15 years, while one defendant was tried separately for manslaughter, convicted, and sentenced to six years.
Chamberlain, a software engineer in his 40s, was attacked inside a dormitory for non-violent, mostly drug offenders inside Theo Lacy Jail in Orange.
Probes by the district attorney and grand jury, and testimony at the trial, revealed a system in which ethnic gangs controlled the housing unit, with “shot callers” for the gangs instructing the inmates on punishments to be meted out for various offenses. The case has been covered extensively by the OC Weekly, which obtained the interview in which Petrovich claimed that it was Deputy Sheriff Kevin Taylor who told him that Chamberlain was a “chester,” or child molester.
Taylor was known for rewarding inmates for enforcing order at the jail with extra food and privileges such as extra recreational time. Investigators said Taylor was watching television and exchanging personal text messages with female deputies while Chamberlain was being beaten to death nearby.
Taylor was subsequently fired, but the Weekly reported last year that an arbitrator had ordered his reinstatement, saying his rights under state law had been violated during the disciplinary process. The newspaper said six other deputies, including two assistant sheriffs, resigned or were fired in connection with the incident and the subsequent probe of order and discipline at the jail.
Not ‘Outrageous’ Misconduct
Leary, writing for the Court of Appeal, agreed with Orange Superior Court Judge James Stotler that the deputies’ misconduct—and the possible conflict of interest on the part of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in conducting the initial investigation itself rather than asking the district attorney to do so—did not rise to the level of “outrageous” government misconduct that would require the rare step of dismissing a criminal case.
“We begin by acknowledging appellants’ point the DA Report demonstrates . . . deputies in [Theo Lacy Jail] engaged in abhorrent conduct and were derelict in their duties,” the presiding justice wrote. “And we recognize that because of the extreme nature of their conduct, which violated the public trust and the spirit of what we expect from those we entrust to enforce the law, it is unreasonable, nay impossible, to find a case analogous to the case we have before us.”
But “[w]hile a truly independent investigation may have implicated Taylor [and the two other deputies at the guard station]…it would not have exonerated appellants,” O’Leary said.
At trial, the defendants offered varying theories in their defense, from blaming the deputies to denying any involvement at all. But the evidence, O’Leary said, was sufficient to convict each of the five on any of the theories offered by the prosecution, including implied malice, aiding and abetting under the natural and probable consequences doctrine, or conspiracy.
The case is People v. Guillen, 14 S.O.S. 3485.
Copyright 2014, Metropolitan News Company