On September 19, 1995, Los Angeles police officer Gustavo Raya was working as an undercover narcotics officer when he reported that he saw a man buy drugs from 38-year-old James Bryant in a building in the 7800 block of Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood, California.
Other officers later searched the building and discovered a small amount of heroin. Bryant was charged with selling narcotics.
At trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court in October 1997, Raya, who was assigned to the police department’s San Fernando Valley unit, testified that he saw Bryant conduct the sale of drugs.
Bryant’s attorney argued that it was physically impossible for Raya to have witnessed the drug sale because the layout of the building obstructed his view.
Bryant was convicted on October 10, 1997 and he was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
In June 2000, Bryant read a newspaper article that detailed how Raya had been fired from the department for using drugs, stealing drugs and framing defendants on drug charges.
Bryant wrote a letter to the judge who sentenced him and to his defense attorney at trial. The defense lawyer filed a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus seeking to vacate the conviction.
The petition stated that Raya testified against Bryant four days after he had been relieved of his duties by the police department.
“Had the defense known that Officer Raya was suspended, of the charges leading to his suspension, and of the evidence supporting them, I would have brought it forward for impeachment purposes,” the attorney argued in the petition.
The prosecutor said he was unaware that Raya had been suspended.
On August 7, 2000, Judge Darlene Schempp said that jurors probably would have acquitted Bryant “had the truth been known about Officer Gustavo Raya.” Schempp then vacated the conviction and the prosecution dismissed the case.
– Maurice Possley