By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
"I told him he should do whatever his conscience told him was the right thing to do." Two months later, said Garnett, Garcia came forward with his story.
Jailhouse confessions by prisoners serving life sentences will rarely result in a new trial on a decades-old murder case, even when buttressed by corrections staff. Yet Frutis is fortunate — relatively speaking — to be represented by Antonio Rodriguez, a dogged attorney who has pursued Frutis’ appeals, with little prospect of compensation, for more than a year and a half. Rodriguez’s habeas corpus petition for a new hearing was denied on June 1; he re-filed on August 27.
Rodriguez is also a determined critic of police misconduct, and is hoping that in addition to achieving what he considers justice in the Frutis case, his efforts will force a modicum of reform at the LAPD.
To Rodriguez, the Frutis case shows that the kinds of misconduct of which the CRASH officers at the Rampart Division stand accused are rife in the department, and have been for years. "As far as I’m concerned, the whole department is implicated. It’s not one or two or four cops who know about it. All kinds of cops know about it."
Adds Stuart Holmes, the Claremont attorney who brought Frutis’ civil case, "You get these sorts of incidents popping up around the country — here, New York, Houston — and you start to wonder what’s going on."
Holmes, himself a former Pomona police officer, contends that reform will have to come from within: "You can appoint a commission, but those reports are received and filed, and then it’s back to business-as-usual."
But there’s little in the Frutis case to indicate any real interest in reform. Antonio Rodriguez contacted District Attorney Gil Garcetti’s office in the week before the police scandal broke to seek a new investigation in the case, but was told then that the D.A. would leave it to the LAPD to conduct its own inquiry.
Early this week, Garcetti’s aides changed their tune and promised to do a parallel investigation. There was one catch: The officer they would rely on to review the LAPD’s conduct of the case was Albert Gonzales — the same detective who witnessed Frutis’ shooting 19 years back, and the same one who handled his prosecution.
Asked on Tuesday if that decision was final, D.A. spokesperson Sandi Gibbons said, "We’re still looking into that."
Christine Pelisek contributed to this story.