LOS ANGELES — Disciplinary charges
have been filed by the State Bar of California against the former
city attorney of Los Angeles, Carmen Trutanich.
According to a
on LAist.com, the Bar has accused Trutanich of withholding
information about a witness in a murder case. His actions were found
to have led to a death-penalty sentence.
The complaint revolves
around a 1985 murder case that Trutanich had been the prosecutor for
involving a South L.A. gang member, Barry Williams, who had been
accused of shooting and killing a man in 1982.
Trutanich was a
member of the L.A. County district attorney’s gang unit at the time
of the case.
One of the trial's eyewitnesses, Patricia Lewis,
claimed she saw Williams fire his gun from a van where he was sitting
in the driver’s seat. She testified that she saw Williams kill
Jerome Dunn. Lewis said that she had been in a vehicle with a person
named Jean Rivers. However, this name was later found to be fake —
something that Lewis had used to protect the other person in the car
who did not want to be identified. It later came out that Jean
Rivers’ real name was Arlean McKay.
In the notice of filing
issued on Feb. 13, the Bar listed five
counts against the conduct of Trutanich.
The Bar alleged that
Trutanich purposely gave a false name and address of McKay or that he
acted with gross negligence. He has also been accused of failing to
correct the testimony of Lewis who had claimed she did not know
McKay’s real name.
Williams murder conviction was overturned by
a U.S. district judge in 2016. The judge said
that Trutanich’s actions had “significantly undermined the
integrity” of the initial verdict. The judge stated that some of
the notes that were handwritten by Trutanich included both the names
Jean Rivers and Arlean McKay, something that signals Trutanich was
aware of the use of a false name.
A spokesperson for the Bar said
that it is important to hold lawyers to account, no matter how much
time had passed since the initial incident.
“Attorneys have a
responsibility as officers as the court to ensure they are conducting
themselves ethically,” Laura Ernde told the Northern California
Record. “Anytime a conviction is overturned due to potential
attorney misconduct, the Bar is notified so it doesn’t matter how
long ago the misconduct occurred.”
According to the LAist.com
Trutanich was city attorney from 2009-13. The charges against him
must be proven in State Bar Court and need the approval of the
California Supreme Court before any discipline can be doled
Ernde said there were two common actions taken by the Bar in
cases of misconduct.
“Disbarment or suspension are the two main
disciplinary actions the Bar takes,” she said.
the death penalty overturned, Williams has been convicted of another
murder and is serving time in jail.
The State Bar of California
is an administrative part of the California Supreme Court and was
established in 1927, according to the organization's
to the State Bar in May 1979.