People vs. Tortorelli
A man with no prior record was accused of having molested his niece when she was between the ages of 3 and 8. The niece now 14 years old was claiming she had seizures caused by post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse.
We spent nearly two years investigating the case and developing the defense theory. The investigation and defense involved review of the entire family’s background, family court records, child protective services records, medical records, and school records. The man participated in a polygraph examination administered by a former FBI agent. He passed the examination. Preparation of the defense also involved consultation with a number of expert witnesses in the fields of diagnosis and treatment of sex-offenders, repressed memory), suggestibility of child witnesses, misuse of psychiatric diagnoses in court proceedings, and the motivations that can cause an adolescent girl to intentionally fabricate allegations of sexual abuse against a family member.
Trial lasted nine days, during which the defense presented 3 expert witnesses and a number of character witnesses. Among the character witnesses were school teachers and a well known pediatrician in San Benito County. Each of the character witnesses testified the defendant was a good, honest man who would never harm a child. It took the jury less than three hours to deliberate before the man was found not guilty of all nine charges.
People vs. Chandler
A 30 year old man was accused of “date rape” of a woman who said she was so intoxicated she could not resist and did not know until the next morning that she had been sexually assaulted. In a jury trial, we introduced evidence that the woman not only consciously and voluntarily engaged in sexual activities with our client, but invited the activities. The rape shield law was carefully applied by the court which did allow some relevant evidence of prior conduct by the woman which tended to support our client’s testimony about the encounter between the two of them. The jury acquitted on all counts
People vs. Suber
A father was aware of ongoing domestic violence involving his daughter, and as a result, there had been several arguments between our client and his daughter’s boyfriend. One day when he and his wife were already on their way to visit the daughter, she called and reported an ongoing conflict between herself and the boyfriend. She asked them to hurry to pick up her child. Our client arrived with a loaded gun, and when confronted by the boyfriend with a bat, our client shot and killed him. This case tested the limits of self defense and defense of family. After a court trial, a judge reduced the offense from murder to voluntary manslaughter.
People vs. Williams — Two brothers shared an apartment near a college where both had athletic scholarships. The brothers were from a close, religious family and got along well. Neither had been in any trouble. One night, our client was returning from church choir practice and had a paper due the next day. He needed to use a shared laptop computer which led to a rare argument with his brother during which he picked up a kitchen knife. In a struggle, our client stabbed his brother in the heart. We retained experts in blood spatter which supported our client’s claim that the stabbing happened when they were struggling on the floor and that he never meant to stab his brother. A judge agreed to reduce the murder charge to involuntary manslaughter and granted probation.
People vs. Ramirez — A 19-year old Mexican immigrant with low grade developmental disabilities charged with statutory rape of a 14-year old girl. The sex act was not forcible. The girl became pregnant as a result. The young man was facing a lengthy prison sentence, mandatory deportation, and lifetime registration as a sex offender, despite the girl’s desire to have him involved in the child’s life. The case involved lengthy pretrial negotiations aimed at preventing mandatory deportation so that the young man could assist in raising his child. After these negotiations failed, we filed a motion to dismiss the charge for Denial of Due Process, arguing that refusal to consider the young man’s immigration consequences was a violation of Due Process when other “collateral consequences” are often considered in pretrial negotiations. After submission of the motion, the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor. The young man avoided deportation and a prison sentence.
People vs. Beltran
19 year old boy faced the death penalty in the stabbing of a Taco Bell employee. The Taco Bell was closing up when two masked men entered with guns and knives and demanded money. During the robbery, one of the employees sought safety by running into a walk-in freezer, but one of the masked men followed him and stabbed him--he later died of his wounds
Our client previously worked at that Taco Bell and was later identified by the store manager who miraculously escaped death when the gun that was aimed at him by the other masked man misfired.
Mr. Worthington had the young man submit to a SPECT exam (a brain scan that tests for mental function and impairment) and a battery of neurological and psychological testing. Mr. Worthington was able to give demonstrative evidence, particularly in the form of images of the young man’s brain developed during the SPECT exam, to the District Attorney and the Court that there was significant impairment of the young man’s cognitive functioning, his ability to reason and to exercise good judgment, and to understand the consequences of his acts.
The District Attorney agreed to drop the death penalty in exchange for a plea to life without the possibility of parole.