Judge who once prosecuted murder defendant fails to get colleague kicked off the case

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Judge Patrick Connolly of Los Angeles County won’t be able to disqualify a colleague from considering the resentencing of a defendant Connolly once prosecuted.

Connolly’s motion failed when Orange County Superior Court Judge Cheri Pham said Connolly did not have standing, the Los Angeles Times reports. But Connolly’s motion nonetheless “raised alarm bells with ethics experts,” the article says.

Connolly argued that Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Daniel Lowenthal should be disqualified because he prejudged the case and showed bias against law enforcement in Facebook posts that called for criminal justice reform.

Connolly’s filing also said that any ruling suggesting that evidence was mishandled at trial would be tantamount to a finding of misconduct against him, according to the Los Angeles Times.

At issue in the case is whether a confidential informant’s statement should have been admitted at the trial of defendant Justin Flint, who was convicted of murder, even though he didn’t fire the shot that killed an off-duty sheriff’s deputy. The conviction was based on Flint’s participation in the deputy’s robbery.

Lowenthal had written in March that it appeared that the fairness of the trial was compromised by the failure to turn over the statement.

The informant said his conversation with a co-defendant indicated that Flint was acting as a lookout “down the street,” which could indicate that Flint didn’t see the badge that the deputy was wearing. Flint wouldn’t be eligible for resentencing if he was aware that the victim was a law enforcement officer, the newspaper article says.

While prosecuting the case, Connolly had presented the witness statement to the trial judge, who said it should not be admitted. Because he submitted the information to the judge, Connolly wouldn’t be responsible for failing to turn over exculpatory evidence, ethics experts told the newspaper.

But experts did raise concern about Connolly’s disqualification motion.

Laurie Levenson, a professor at the Loyola Law School at Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times that Connolly is a sitting judge, and he’s not allowed to comment on a pending case.

“I’m having a really hard time getting around the fact that one judge is trying to interfere with another judge’s cases, and it brushes up against the ethical rules,” Levenson said.

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