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Lisa Pineda

Other California Cases with Female Exonerees
On March 11, 2004, a car stopped in front of the La Puente, California, home of 19-year-old Freddie Diaz, a member of the “Hurley Street” gang. Several shots were fired and Diaz was killed when a bullet pierced his heart.

As the car sped off, a man in the back seat yelled “Eastside Dukes,” the name of a rival gang in the same neighborhood, followed by an obscenity directed at the Hurley Street gang. A 15-year-old boy who had been riding his bike told police he saw the man in the front passenger seat point a handgun at Diaz and fire. He said he recognized the driver of the car as 26-year-old Lisa Pineda, who lived in the neighborhood.

Within hours, police came to Pineda’s house with a search warrant. They recovered ammunition, a police scanner, photographs of gang members and an address book with gang graffiti scrawled inside.

Police arrested Pineda inside the house. Police found Francisco Rodriguez hiding in a shed behind the home. Police conducted a field show-up in front of Pineda’s house and the 15-year-old identified Pineda as the driver of the car and Rodriguez as the man in the back seat.

Later, police showed a photographic lineup to the boy and he identified Adrian Gudino as the gunman. Gudino and Rodriguez were known members of the Eastside Dukes gang.

On May 25, 2004, police located Gudino in Ontario, California and took him into custody after a standoff that ended when police shot tear gas into the house.

Pineda, Gudino and Rodriguez were charged with murder with a firearm during gang activity. Rodriguez pled guilty and agreed to testify for the prosecution.

Gudino and Pineda went to trial in Los Angeles County Supreme Court in May 2005. The 15-year-old identified Pineda as the driver of the car and Gudino as the gunman.

Rodriguez testified that on the day of the shooting he went to see Gudino, who had moved into Pineda’s house. He said Gudino was cleaning and loading a handgun.

Rodriguez said he and Gudino both ingested methamphetamine and then they left in Pineda’s car to purchase a pipe. However, they quickly turned back after seeing police nearby. When they got home they discovered that Pineda had cut herself while trying to climb in a window because Gudino had locked her out.

At about 8 p.m., Gudino demanded that Pineda drive him and Rodriguez to a 99 Cent Store. She complied and as they were leaving the store, Gudino directed Pineda to drive to Hurley Street. Rodriguez said Pineda refused, saying, “I don’t feel good about this” and instead drove back to her home.

Rodriguez said he waited in the car while Gudino and Pineda went inside. When they returned a few minutes later, Pineda got behind the wheel and they drove around the neighborhood. When she turned onto Deepmeade Street, Gudino put his seat back and told Rodriguez to duck. Rodriguez testified that although he had not seen a gun in the car, Gudino then fired three shots. When Pineda suddenly sped up, Gudino told her to calm down and they drove back to her home.

Rodriguez said Gudino left after instructing Pineda to gather his belongings and meet him in Ontario, California. But Rodriguez testified that before he and Pineda could leave, police arrived and arrested them.

A police gang expert testified that the Hurley Street gang had formerly been part of the Eastside Dukes, but broke off and became a part of the Puente gang—an Eastside Dukes rival. Hurley Street and Eastside Dukes shared the same turf, which led to frequent fights and shootings because there were no areas that each gang controlled alone.

The prosecution presented ballistics evidence showing that the bullet removed from Diaz’s body was fired from a pistol found in a garage down the street from where Pineda lived. The bullet also was similar to ammunition found in Pineda’s home.

Pineda testified in her own defense that she had met Gudino three months prior to the shooting. She said a friend brought Gudino to her home and they became romantically involved. Three weeks later, Gudino showed up unannounced with his belongings and moved in while she was at the store, Pineda said. She said she “just allowed it.”

Pineda told the jury that she began using methamphetamine with Gudino and that he became “really mean” when he took the drug. She said he physically abused her numerous times and began carrying a gun.

She recalled several particular instances of abuse. On one occasion, when she went into the kitchen while guests were in the home, Gudino followed her into the kitchen and punched her in the face because walking out of the room was disrespectful to their guests. She said on another occasion when she failed to serve him lemonade, he punched her in the face and poured the pitcher of lemonade over her head.

Two or three weeks prior to the shooting, Gudino became angry when Pineda brought him fast food that was not what he had ordered, so Gudino locked her inside the house. She said he struck her with a stick and pistol-whipped her. Later that day, Pineda said he spray-painted “die, ho, die” on her back.

Approximately one week before the shooting, Pineda tried to hide her car keys from Gudino and a struggle ensued. She said Gudino knocked her to the ground and repeatedly kicked her and struck her in the head with a gun. Pineda said she wanted to go to the hospital, but Gudino refused and left with her car. She said she told him to move out, but he refused.

On the day before the shooting, Gudino left Pineda's home at about 10:00 p.m. The next morning, when Gudino telephoned Pineda and asked her for a ride, she refused because she believed he had spent the night with another woman. When Gudino arrived at Pineda's home later that afternoon, she tried to flee by jumping out a window, but Gudino caught her. She said he punched and kicked her in the face and struck her on the shoulder with an umbrella so hard it broke.

Pineda said that later that day, when Rodriguez came to the house, she slipped away because she did not want to be there. When she came back, the house was locked and her car was gone. When Gudino and Rodriguez returned, Gudino ordered her to drive them to the store to buy a pipe to smoke amphetamine. She agreed but when they were driving back home and Gudino told her to turn onto a particular street, she got a bad feeling and instead drove back to her home.

At that point, Gudino ordered her to drive Rodriguez home. She told the jury that Gudino was in the front passenger seat and was giving directions on where to turn. She said she did not know he had a gun and that when she heard three gunshots, she accelerated because she thought someone was shooting at them. She testified she had no idea that Gudino was going to shoot anyone.

Pineda’s roommate, Alexis Gonzales, testified that Gudino wrote the gang graffiti in the address books and that Gudino frequently threatened her and Pineda with his gun.

On May 20, 2005, the jury convicted Gudino of first-degree murder and Pineda was convicted of second-degree murder. Gudino was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Pineda was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison.

Pineda appealed the conviction and at the same time filed a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus. In the habeas petition, Pineda’s appellate attorney, Marcia Levine, claimed Pineda had received a constitutionally unfair trial because her trial lawyer had failed to call an expert to testify that Pineda had been so physically and emotionally abused by Gudino that she followed his orders for fear of being further abused.

In January 2007, the California Court of Appeals, ruling on the appeal of the conviction, reversed and ordered a new trial. The appeals court held that the trial judge had failed to instruct the jury on the lesser-included charge of involuntary manslaughter. There was no ruling on the habeas petition.

In October 2008, Pineda went to trial a second time. The prosecution testimony was similar to the first trial. Pineda again testified and described Gudino’s abuse. She told the jury she had no idea that Gudino was intending to shoot anyone.

Defense attorney Mark Shapiro called an expert witness on spousal abuse. Dr. Mindy Mechanic, a psychology professor at California State University at Fullerton and an expert on the psychosocial consequences of violence, trauma and victimization, particularly violence against women, testified that the extensive physical and emotional abuse Pineda had suffered almost daily had an adverse impact on Pineda’s ability to resist Gudino.

Mechanic told the jury that the abuse in the weeks prior to the shooting and particularly Gudino’s violent attack on Pineda on the day of the shooting, during which he kicked her and beat her with his gun, resulted in Pineda’s acquiescence to Gudino’s demand that she drive the car to take Rodriguez home. Mechanic said that based on her interviews with Pineda, she concluded that Pineda had no reason to know that Gudino would suddenly direct her to turn onto a particular street and that he would shoot Diaz—that Pineda agreed to drive the car rather than suffer what she believed would be the likely consequence if she refused—more physical abuse from Gudino.

On October 21, 2008, the jury acquitted Pineda of murder, but was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter. The judge declared a mistrial on that charge.

On November 25, 2008, Pineda was released on bond. On April 16, 2009, the prosecution dismissed the charge.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 2/21/2015
State:California
County:Los Angeles
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2004
Convicted:2005
Exonerated:2009
Sentence:40 years to life
Race:Hispanic
Sex:Female
Age at the date of crime:26
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No