Ex-LA City Attorney Facing Discipline Over Death-Penalty Case

LOS ANGELES (CN) – The State Bar of California on Thursday filed disciplinary charges against former Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich that include counts of corruption and gross negligence over his prosecution of a now 30-year-old capital murder case.

The attorney discipline agency says that while a deputy district attorney prosecuting and eventually obtaining the death penalty conviction of Barry Glenn Williams in 1986, Trutanich suppressed evidence, withheld the identify of a witness at trial and failed to correct false testimony.

According to case records, eyewitness Patricia Lewis testified that she saw Williams, a gang member also known as “Big Time,” shoot a man named Jerome Dunn from a van on the evening of March 25, 1982.

Lewis said she was riding in a station wagon driven by a woman she called Jean Rivers, though her true name was Arlene McKay. McKay did not testify at the trial.

The state bar’s notice of disciplinary charges says Trutanich breached his constitutional obligation under Brady v. Maryland by failing to correct Lewis’ testimony regarding the identity of the woman driving the station wagon, and failing to reveal McKay’s true identity and home address to Williams’ attorneys.

Trutanich is also charged with failing to correct false testimony by a detective in a pretrial hearing in 1985, regarding the origin and timing of his initial contact with a jailhouse informant named Arthur Cox, to whom Williams allegedly made incriminating statements.

Williams was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death on July 11, 1986.

The state bar began its investigation of Trutanich after U.S. District Judge David O. Carter overturned Williams’ conviction due to prosecutorial misconduct this past March.

In his ruling, Carter said Trutanich had some idea of McKay’s real identity from a handwritten witness list he’d made referencing both McKay and Rivers.

Trutanich served as Los Angeles City Attorney from 2009 to 2013, when he lost his reelection bid to former Assemblyman Mike Feuer. He could face disbarment or other discipline.

The state bar said it doesn’t comment on pending disciplinary cases, but said Trutanich can file a response to the charges. His first State Bar Court appearance is set for March 13 in Los Angeles.

In a phone interview, Trutanich’s attorney David Carr said, “Mr. Trutanich strongly disputes the factual allegations. He has a long and distinguished career as a deputy district attorney and City Attorney. He’s been an attorney for 40 years with no previous blemish on his record and he intends to fight these charges vigorously.”