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Glenn Barner

Other Los Angeles Exonerations
On June 18, 1992, two men robbed a Bank of America in El Segundo, California. Witnesses said one man held a silver revolver and ordered everyone to get down on the floor. The second man jumped over the counter and took money from the tellers.

The witnesses gave widely disparate descriptions of the gunman: a grey hooded sweat shirt; a white long-sleeved shirt; a plaid shirt with orange, yellow brown and cream colors; a dark shirt; and a dark green and brown shirt.

Some witnesses said the second man had a gun as well, while others said he did not. He was described by several witnesses as wearing dark clothes, while other witnesses recalled a blue flannel shirt and another said he was wearing a faded yellow shirt.

Video images of the robbery were captured by a surveillance camera and photographs created from the video were printed in a local newspaper.

About a month later, in mid-July, 1992, a confidential informant told El Segundo Police detectives that he recognized one of the men in the photographs as a man known as “Rusty.” The informant gave a description and the man’s address. He said Rusty lived in Los Angeles with a woman named Violet, sold crack cocaine out of his apartment and had committed armed robberies in the past.

El Segundo police met with a Los Angeles police detective who located a booking photograph of Rusty and identified him as 31-year-old Glenn Barner. The El Segundo police later showed the booking photograph of Barner to the informant who confirmed that Barner was the man he knew as Rusty.

Barner’s photograph was put into a photographic lineup and shown to one of the bank robbery witnesses. A detective later testified that the witness “immediately, within three seconds, pointed at Barner’s photo and said, ‘That’s him, that’s definitely him. He’s the one that had the gun.’”

Another witness also viewed the photo lineup and within 15 to 20 seconds pointed to Barner and said, “That’s him, that was the one,” the detective said. The lineup was shown to several other witnesses, but none identified Barner.

On August 14, 1992, Barner was arrested and charged with armed robbery.

Not long after, the El Segundo detectives received information from an FBI agent that a confidential FBI informant identified one of the two robbers from the surveillance photos printed in the newspaper. An FBI memo dated August 26, 1992, said that the man in the “light-colored clothing” was Raymond Bell of Los Angeles.

One of the detectives prepared a supplemental report describing the FBI report. The supplemental report also said that a photo analysis of the surveillance film and photographs of Bell and Barner had been conducted, but was inconclusive. The report said that neither Bell nor Barner could be identified or eliminated as the man with the gun.

The detective obtained a photograph of Bell, put it in a photographic lineup and showed it to one of the witnesses who had previously identified Barner. The witness’s response to the lineup with Bell was “You’ve got to be kidding, there’s no way any of these subjects robbed the bank.”

Barner was represented by assistant public defender Debra Cole until nine days prior to trial. Cole would later say that her file did not contain any information about the FBI informant identifying Bell as a suspect in the robbery.

The case was transferred to assistant public defender Julie Leeds and both Leeds and Cole met with Barner on November 4, 1992. There was no dispute that the meeting did not go well. Leeds said Barner was hostile, cursing at them and ordering them out of the lockup. Barner later said the lawyers were laughing about the case and denied using an obscenity, saying that he told them: “My life is at stake and by no means a joke, [you are] playing with my life, you bimbo knuckleheads.”

Leeds, in preparing for trial, saw the report from the informant who identified Barner as “Rusty.” She also saw an FBI memo regarding the informant who said the robber was Raymond Bell. The memo also said the information was unverified and speculation.

The file did not contain the El Segundo detective’s supplementary memo in which the detective described the photo analysis. That memo also recounted a conversation with the FBI agent during which the agent said Bell had seen the photo in the newspaper and admitted to the informant that it was him and that he had robbed the bank.

Leeds assumed that one informant was describing Barner as the man with the gun and the other informant was describing the second robber involved in the crime. Based on that assumption, Leeds believed there was little point in filing a motion to identify the informant. She made her decision in part because her predecessor on the case, Cole, had decided against filing such a motion, and in part because the trial was only days away and Barner refused to agree to a continuance, so there was not enough time to prepare and file such a motion.

The day before the trial began in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Barner told Leeds that his common-law wife and her son would be alibi witnesses. Leeds, however, knew that Cole had already talked to them and both said they would refuse to testify.

After the jury was selected, three witnesses identified Barner as the man with the gun. The witnesses also said that Barner resembled the man in the surveillance photos.

Barner complained that Leeds was not properly representing him, but the judge rejected his complaints. The judge said that Barner had a problem because in fact he did look like the gunman in the surveillance photos. The judge commented outside the presence of the jury, “I could see where the jury might think that you’re the person in the picture.”

On November 20, 1992, Barner was convicted of armed robbery. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

A few weeks later, Rebecca Madrid, the trial prosecutor, contacted Leeds and reported that the FBI had informed her that Raymond Bell was in fact the gunman—not Barner. Leeds met with Madrid and compared her file to the prosecutor’s file and discovered that the supplemental report prepared by the El Segundo detective was not in the defense file. At that point Leeds realized the two separate informants each identified a different person as the gunman. One informant said it was Barner (Rusty) and the other said it was Bell, suggesting that the informant who identified Barner was wrong. Such evidence would have been extremely useful to the defense in Barner’s trial.

Leeds contacted Barner’s appellate lawyer who filed a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The prosecution did not oppose it and on June 4, 1993, the petition as granted and Barner’s conviction was vacated.

Facing a retrial, Barner’s new attorney—his former appellate attorney—filed a motion to disclose the identities of the two confidential informants. At a hearing on the motion on July 21, 1993, two FBI agents testified that the identity of their informant had to remain confidential. The judge denied the motion for disclosure of the federal informant, but granted Barner’s motion to dismiss the armed robbery charge as a sanction for the failure of the prosecution to disclose the other informant’s identity. Barner was then released.

Six days later, the FBI arrested Bell for several robberies. On September 14, 1993, Bell agreed to plead guilty to three robberies and to admit he participated in four other robberies, including the Bank of America robbery in El Segundo. Barner then filed a motion seeking a determination of factual innocence. The motion was granted and the judge found Barner to be “factually innocent” of the Bank of America robbery.

Barner subsequently filed a civil lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court seeking damages from the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, as well as Los Angeles County, various employees of the District Attorney’s Office, and the city of El Segundo and two of its police officers. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2002.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 7/12/2016
County:Los Angeles
Most Serious Crime:Robbery
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1992
Sentence:16 years
Age at the date of reported crime:31
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No