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 report 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 report, 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 out.
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.
Despite having 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 website.
Trutanich was admitted to the State Bar in May 1979.