The defense team for Matthew Turner--the Highland Park teen and confessed gang member who was last summer sentenced for a 2008 murder on Marmion Way--has submitted a request for a new trial to the California Second Appellate District Court of Appeals, alleging incompetence on behalf of his previous counsel.
In a statement submitted to the Court of Appeals last Friday, Turner's new attorney Christopher Darden argued that his client's conviction was based solely on witness statements, which should have been contested by Turner's previous counsel Arlene Binder.
Turner was convicted in the summer of 2010 for the murder of Adrian Betancor and the attempted murder of Joey Chavez. In July of 2011, the Turner defense team's first motion for a retrial was denied and Turner was sentenced to 90-years in prison.
Among the key arguments posed by Darden is that Binder failed to suppress "unduly" influenced witness statements that singled out Turner as the killer.
An except from Darden's statement alleges that LAPD detectives coerced witnesses into fingering Turner as the killer, despite failing to describe him in previous interviews.
At the heart of the defense's argument was witness Stephanie Renteria's failure to identify a distinctive mole on Turner's face until nine months after the shooting.
"Stephanie Renteria identified [Turner's] photograph from a photo six-pack nine months after the crime. During several police interviews, and a session with a police sketch artist, Renteria stated the shooter had no distinctive mark or mole on his face. It is only when Renteria was shown a photo six pack depicting [Turner] and the huge mole on his face that Renteria concluded that [he] was the shooter," Darden writes in the statement. "Even then, Renteria only stated [Turner] looked 'similar' until she was goaded by Detective Di Croce to use stronger [language] in identifying [his] photograph."
Among other arguments, The statement also singles out Binder's failure to "to move to strike or preclude any identification of appellant by a witness, who failed to ID [Turner] in a photo six pack two weeks prior to the trial, but who then identified him in court."
The Los Angeles Police Department Internal Affairs Division is also currently investigating the defense's claims.
Sergeant James Canales, of LAPD's Internal Investigations Division, said that LAPD policy requires that all complaints be investigated.
"Just because we're investigating the complaint doesn't necessarily mean there was wrongdoing; we're just doing an internal investigation," Canales told Patch in December. "Whatever we find we'll submit to the chief of police, and then the chief of police will decide what do with it."
The Court of Appeals ruling on the request is due by July 16.