Not many lifetime presidential appointees publicly admit they made a major mistake in a trial, but U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter, the senior member of Orange County’s federal bench, is a rare, courageous breed.
In a surprise ruling today, Carter conceded he erred in an April civil trial between defense lawyer James Crawford and district attorney investigator Dillon Alley over a 2016 violent scuffle inside a state courthouse in Santa Ana.
Alley, a former Los Angeles County cop who pummeled Crawford’s face, essentially won the trial after Carter allowed testimony claiming the defense lawyer had called a woman the “C” word.
The overwhelmingly female jury, several of whom admitted a bias toward police before they were selected, gave Alley a $250,000 verdict.
But over the objections of private lawyers representing Alley at taxpayer expense, the judge agreed with Jerry Steering, Crawford’s counsel, that allowing the jury to hear that testimony was the inflammatory equivalent of introducing the “N” word to a majority African American jury or the “K” word to a largely Jewish panel.
“Upon reflection, the court would exclude or sanitized the “C” word in this case, rather than allow its admission, even if it came through the testimony of the deputy district attorney stating that Crawford had said it directly to her face,” Carter, a former OC homicide prosecutor who served as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam combat, wrote in his 11-page ruling. “Under Federal Rule of Evidence 403, the prejudicial effect of the “C” word substantially outweighed its probative value in the context of this case.”
He added, “This specific form of bias evidence—evidence suggesting that Crawford called women prosecutors cunts—tends primarily to show bias against women rather than bias specifically against law enforcement.”
Noting his belief that the testimony created an “extreme prejudicial effect on jurors,” he vacated their verdict and ordered a new trial.
Norman Watkins, who represented Alley, unsuccessfully argued that the jury’s finding were “reasonable.”
Go HERE to read an earlier news account of the beating.
R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.