In April 1990, in Los Angeles, California, Jesus Avila and his brother Ernesto, both members of a gang, were in a park celebrating a baby shower. Several black men, members of a rival gang, began tagging the park with their gang’s sign. A fight erupted and someone pulled a gun, shooting at the black men and hitting one in the ear. The shooting victim and his friend identified Avila from a mug book. Avila’s attorney suspected that Ernesto was the real shooter, but failed to pursue this information believing that it would be against the family’s wishes. In May 1991, Avila was convicted by a jury of attempted murder after the two witnesses identified him at trial; he was sentenced to life in prison plus eight years.
Following his conviction, Avila filed state and federal habeas corpus petitions. Although Avila presented evidence of his lawyer’s incompetence, and Ernesto testified that he was the real shooter, his state habeas corpus petition was denied. Avila’s federal petition, however, was granted by the Federal Appeals Court for the Ninth Circuit in 2002; his conviction was overturned and he was ordered released unless he was retried within 90 days. The prosecution did not seek to retry him.
- Stephanie Denzel