Convicted Killer’s Civil Rights Suit Reinstated

A convicted murderer has the right to sue a Ventura County sheriff’s deputy for violation of the killer’s constitutional rights against self incrimination, a federal appeals court held Tuesday.

Even the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals admits the case is unusual because Frederick Lee Jackson was convicted of rape and murder in state court in 1995 but the murder conviction was overturned based on use of a taped interview with Jackson despite failure to give Jackson the required Miranda warning against self-incrimination. [The court upheld the rape conviction.]

The Crime

Jackson, of Oxnard, was convicted of raping a mother of four then pushed her out of a car and into the arms of Jackson’s one-time co-defendant, Christopher Sattiewhite, who carried her to a ditch and shot her in the head, according to court records.  Sattiewhite was convicted and sentenced to death separately for the shooting.

Second Conviction

At a second trial in 2005 Jackson was again convicted of murder but without use of the incriminating un-Mirandized tape in which Jackson said he “just happened to be” at the scene of the crime.

But before the second trial began, Jackson sued VenturaCounty and deputy Michael Barnes alleging use of the illegal un-Mirandized tape violated his Fifth Amendment Rights, that VenturaCounty failed to properly supervise Barnes and that the district attorney’s office engaged in illegal acts during his prosecution.  He wanted millions of dollars in damages.

The trial judge tossed out the case.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, writing for the three-judge panel, reversed and reinstated the lawsuit.

Reinhardt said that this is a case in which a guilty plaintiff’s claim is not barred by his conviction because the case was pending at the time the suit was filed and the first conviction had been overturned.

The court also rejected Ventura’s assertion that Jackson’s case was filed too late.  “They are incorrect,” Reinhardt said.  Jackson filed six months before the statute of limitations.

Ventura’s final argument that Jackson was not entitled to damages because he did not get any additional prison time as a result of Barnes’ actions.  In 1995, Jackson had already begun a 29 year sentence for various unrelated convictions and the rape.  His earliest release date was 2007, but before that date he was convicted a second time of murder.

Reinhardt agreed Jackson could not get damages for any time he spent in prison, that “does not mean, however, that he would not be entitled to any damages were he to prevail on the merits of his action.”

The court also allowed the claim that Ventura failed to supervise Barnes, based on the allegations in the lawsuit that “Barnes routinely declined to read Miranda warnings.”

Jackson lost in his final claim against the Ventura district attorney’s office.  The panel held that the DA and the prosecutor in Jackson’s case has prosecutorial immunity from the claims as Jackson presented them, but the appeals court allowed Jackson to amend the claims and refile them.

Joining Reinhardt in the decision were Judges William Canby and Kim Wardlaw.

Case: Jackson v. Barnes, No. 09-55763



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