Working to right an injustice

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From the La Cañada Valley Sun

On Dec. 8, 1985, an intentionally-set fire destroyed a small retail shop in the garment district in downtown Los Angeles. One person was killed, and Rosie Sanchez, a single mother of four, was charged and convicted of first-degree murder.

Twenty-nine years later, Jennifer Farrell, a 1999 La Cañada High School graduate and second year student at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law School, is trying to secure parole for Sanchez, who she believes was falsely convicted.

Working with the Post Conviction Justice Project, a clinical program at USC Law that gives students hands-on experience, Farrell travels regularly to the California Institution for Women (CIW) in Corona on a regular basis to meet with Sanchez and prepare her for the grueling parole process.

Farrell has already scored a major victory. In mid-October, the California parole board found Sanchez suitable for parole. The recommendation will go before Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in February.

The case against Sanchez was riddled with holes from the start, Farrell said. At the time of the incident, Sanchez, a Mexican immigrant who spoke no English, was operating her own small shop two storefronts down from the scene of the fire. The prosecution argued that the crime was financially motivated, Farrell said, and that Sanchez’s business was suffering from unwanted competition brought on by her neighbor. Tax records show, however, that her shop was prospering.

In addition, the defendant had multiple witnesses to corroborate her alibi — she was with her children at a friend’s house at the time the crime took place. Sanchez’s public defender called only one witness, Sanchez’ sister, to the stand to testify. It is normal, Farrell said, for jurors to disregard a witness who is related to the defendant because jurors assume such a witness would be willing to lie.

For more of this story, read here

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Written by Megan O'Neil

December 10, 2009 at 2:12 pm

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