Wednesday, June 27, 2001
Judges Lack Jurisdiction to Issue Order to Appear for Lineup Absent Arrest, Appeals Court Rules
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
Courts have no legal authority to issue warrants requiring suspects who have been neither arrested nor charged to report to law enforcement officials to appear in a lineup, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Writing on assignment for Div. Five, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Thomas L. Willhite Jr. said such a warrant would pass constitutional muster and might even be a good idea, but he added that absent a statute creating the procedure judges lack the power to act.
The ruling is the latest twist in a probe into the 1988 murders of motor racing legend Mickey Thompson and his wife, Trudy, and attempts by investigators to implicate Thompson’s ex-partner and Supercross impresario Michael Goodwin.
Goodwin was the target of appearance order.
“The absence of constitutional proscriptions, and the wisdom and noble motives of pursuing such a procedure, do not vest jurisdiction in a trial court to grant the order at issue,” Willhite wrote.
“While the absence of such jurisdiction may be remedied, that task is for our Legislature, not this court,” he said.
The Thompsons were slain at their Bradbury home, but 13 years later no arrests have been made or indictments returned.
Investigators in both Orange and Los Angeles counties have said they suspect the couple were victims of a hit set up by Goodwin, who formed a brief but stormy partnership with Thompson that ended with a lawsuit and judgment for more than $500,000 against Goodwin.
Goodwin is the target of a new Orange County grand jury probe into the killings.
Meanwhile, on March 28 of this year, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Det. Mark Lillienfeld sought an order from Superior Court Judge John A. Torribio in Norwalk compelling Goodwin to report to the Men’s Central Jail downtown on April 17 to take part in a lineup. Lillienfeld asked that his affidavit in support of the request be sealed, and Torribio agreed to seal it and to issue the order.
The Court of Appeal reviewed the affidavit, and Willhite said it contained enough to establish probable cause for an arrest warrant.
But Lillienfeld did not seek, and Torribio did not issue, an arrest warrant. It was instead what Willhite called “a court order of a novel kind an ex parte order, issued before the institution of any criminal proceedings, compelling a person who is out of custody to appear at a lineup and submit himself to custody for that limited purpose.”
California law permits law enforcement officials to subject suspects who have been arrested or indicted to lineups, but no law specifically permits officials to bring in non-arrested suspects for a so-called “administrative detention.”
Willhite rejected arguments by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office that Torribio could act under Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 187, which gives courts “all the means necessary” to carry into effect their jurisdiction. Sec. 187 grants no new jurisdiction where none previously existed, he said.
The judge also said the order did not fall into the category of a Ramey warrant, named after the 1976 state Supreme Court case of People v. Ramey. A Ramey warrant for residential arrests before criminal charges are filed may be deemed valid because it is based on probable cause to arrest, and is followed by an arrest, he said.
Even though the detective seeking the order presented probable cause for arrest, the order was not an arrest warrant. It instead commanded Goodwin to appear at the jail for a lineup, a procedure for which there was no legal authority.
Goodwin’s attorney, Jeffrey Benice of Irvine, said the reason no arrest warrant was sought was that investigators knew they had insufficient evidence to sustain it in a preliminary hearing.
“There would have to be a preliminary hearing in 10 days, in which we would prove that it is all B.S.,” Benice said.
He charged that declarations filed by Lillienfeld were “littered with false statements.”
Benice also asserted that his client is the victim of political pressure exerted by former San Juan Capistrano Mayor Collene Campbell-Thompson’s sister.
Campbell is a well-known political figure in Orange County and one of the leading backers of Proposition 115, a successful ballot measure that gave families of murder victims the right to be present at the trial of the suspects.
That measure did not grow out of Thompson’s murder, but of an earlier tragic killing in Campbell’s family that of her son, who was robbed, killed, and thrown out of an airplane near Catalina in 1982.
Campbell and Lillienfeld could not be reached for comment.
Goodwin has had previous legal trouble. He was convicted in 1996 on federal bank fraud charges.
The Orange County probe started more than a year ago and has run into problems of its own. The lead deputy district attorney was fired earlier this year.
In March, Goodwin called a news conference to deny any connection with the killings and to blast the Orange County probe. The order to appear in the lineup was served on the evening after the conference.
Benice called the order “retaliation” for the press conference.
Thompson became a legend in the 1950s, when he was known as the Speed King. The holder of nearly 500 land speed records, he became the first person to break 400 mile per hour on the ground in 1960.
He then turned his attention to speed boats, until he was seriously injured in a crash.
Thompson built and raced top-fuel dragsters, then pioneered off-road desert racing in Baja California then came up with the idea of moving off-road racing to stadiums and making it a spectator sport.
The case is Goodwin v. Superior Court, B149818.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company