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Family hires attorney after fair trial issue raised in suit

May 04, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

The family of Armando Rosales has hired a lawyer to find out if Rosales got a fair trial after a former deputy district attorney raised the question in an April 16 article published in the Imperial Valley Press.

Rosales was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of 14-month-old Joseph Camacho in December 1999.

In a $3 million lawsuit against the county, former Deputy District Attorney Doug MacCartee states in a sworn deposition the District Attorney's Office withheld evidence that was constitutionally required to be turned over to Rosales' attorney, Tom Storey.

"Our feeling from the beginning was that our son did not have a fair trial," Rosales' mother, Martha Rosales said. "After we read the story in the paper, we knew someone else thought so, too."

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The Rosales family hired Robert Espinosa of the Espinosa and Espinosa law firm in El Centro.

The prosecutor had a duty to provide Rosales with material that could be favorable to his case, Espinosa said.

That material, also known as Brady material, is named for a 1963 case, Brady v. Maryland, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled evidence known to the prosecution that tends to clear a defendant from fault or guilt must be disclosed.

Armando Rosales appealed his conviction, but the appeal was denied in early April.

The appeal was denied because Rosales' lawyer didn't know about this Brady material, Espinosa said.

The Brady material is in a child protective services file that is confidential.

"It appears Storey, Rosales' attorney at the time, requested the information in the file," Espinosa said. "This resonates with impropriety."

Espinosa said he needs to analyze the contents of the file and if he finds evidence, he'll file a writ of habeas corpus, a petition to release Rosales because the court that ordered him to prison made an error.

Deborah Owen, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the Rosales case, said in an earlier interview Rosales was convicted because his story changed during the trial and the jury found him not to be credible.

There may have been a report or accusation against the mother but there has never been a criminal case against her, so the District Attorney's Office would not know what was in the file, Owen said.

Rosales' appeal said he initially lied because he wanted to help his girlfriend, Joseph's mother, who was worried her other child would be taken from her.

"He changed his story. It doesn't look good," Espinosa said. "He didn't realize there was a prior report of abuse."

Martha Rosales is worried about the welfare of her grandson, Armando's child with Camacho. She said she has not seen her 3-year-old grandson in years.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or lauramitchell9@yahoo.com

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