LOS ANGELES — The State Bar of California announced today that it has filed disciplinary charges against former Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich for alleged misconduct in a death penalty case dating back more than 30 years.
The State Bar alleges Trutanich suppressed evidence, withheld the identity of a witness and allowed false testimony to be entered in the case of Barry Williams, who was accused of a fatal 1982 shooting.
Trutanich did not immediately respond to a request for comment but has denied any guilt in the case in past media interviews.
Trutanich, who served as city attorney from 2009 to 2013, sought and received a death penalty conviction in 1986 against Williams while serving as an assistant district attorney for Los Angeles County. The conviction was overturned last year by a federal judge, who cited prosecutorial misconduct as the reason.
The State Bar’s hearing notice documents on the case allege Trutanich knew that the testimony of a witness was false. Patricia Lewis claimed to have witnessed the murder from the passenger seat of a car she said was driven by “Jean Rivers,” whose true name was Arlene McKay.
The State Bar claims that Trutanich knew -- or was grossly negligent in not knowing -- the identity and contact information of McKay, that he failed to correct Lewis’ false testimony stating she did not know McKay’s true identity, and failed to turn the name and contact information over to defense attorneys.
The hearing notice also alleges that Trutanich failed to correct false testimony a detective gave during a pretrial hearing in 1985 regarding information provided by a jailhouse informant. At the time of the hearing, Trutanich “knew, or was grossly negligent in not knowing, that the detective’s testimony was false,” the State Bar document alleges.
Trutanich could face disbarment or other actions over the accusations, but any discipline would be recommended by the State Bar Court and approved by California Supreme Court.
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