Court of Appeals Upholds Murder Convictions over Bruton/Aranda Rule Objections

On January 20, 2012, the Court of Appeals upheld the murder convictions of Javier Fuentes and Maria Alaniz, for the murder of then 18-year-old Walter Lopez in October 2006. The two were also convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in August 2006, and Javier Fuentes was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon on two other men in June or July of the same year.

During the appeal, the defense provided an argument that the LA Superior Court Judge Susan Speer wrongfully allowed the testimony of Billy Lazaro against the defendant Javier Fuentes. The testimony included information that Lazaro witnessed Fuentes telling Lopez “we’re gonna get you” and that Lopez told Lazaro on multiple occasions that Lopez was going to be a victim of a 187.

The defendant’s lawyers claimed that the defense was wrongfully allowed because it violated the Bruton/Aranda Rule. The Bruton/Aranda Rule bars using the out-of-court statements of a non-testifying defendant to incriminate another defendant at a joint trial before a single jury. Justice Patti Kitching explained that the evidence did not violate the rule because they were the statements of Javier Fuentes. Furthermore, the testimony did not violate the rule in respect to Alaniz because the testimony did not incriminate Alaniz. In addition, the justice said that Alaniz’s Confrontation Clause rights were not violated because the statements were not made to police and could not be held testimonial.  Accordingly, the Court of Appeals affirmed the murder convictions of Javier Fuentes and Maria Alaniz.

Murder Suspect Released in Arizona due to Violation of 6th Amendment Right to Counsel

Arizona defendant Joseph Roberts was facing murder and other charges when the Apache County Attorney’s Office authorized police officers to interview Mr. Roberts without his lawyer present, despite the fact that the County Attorneys who authorized the interview knew that Mr. Roberts was represented by an attorney and that the attorney would not be present and did not know about the interview.  This interview took place one day before Mr. Roberts’ scheduled preliminary hearing, and during the interview Mr. Roberts was told that if he did not accept the offer that was being given to him during the interview that he would be “held to answer” at the preliminary hearing, that he would be facing the death penalty or life in prison without parole, and that he had to make a decision immediately or else all deals would be off the table.

After learning of the improper police interview with his client, defense attorney David J. Martin moved to dismiss all charges against his client for violations of the 6th Amendment Right to Counsel.  Judge Donna Grimsley granted the motion and dismissed all charges against Mr. Roberts, ordering him released from custody on January 19, 2011.  In her ruling, the judge found that the 6th amendment violation resulted in prejudicial and irreparable harm to the attorney-client relationship.  Not only did the ruling result in all murder charges being dismissed, but the County Attorneys involved in the matter are now facing disciplinary charges by the Arizona State Bar.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, it is critical that you have an aggressive and knowledgeable attorney on your side who can protect your rights.  The attorneys at the X-Law Group, P.C. handle criminal defense matters in all of Southern California, including Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.  We offer free consultations and affordable payment plans.  Give us a call at 213-223-2232 and visit our website at