A hearing was delayed Monday on a motion to dismiss a murder charge against a former Riverside County sheriff’s deputy accused of killing a man he viewed as a romantic rival in Coachella.
Oscar Rodriguez, 38, will return to court May 1, when a judge is expected to consider whether to dismiss the charge stemming from the Jan. 27, 2014, shooting death of Luis Carlos Morin outside his family’s Coachella home. Morin’s ex-girlfriend, Diana Perez, 41, is charged with being an accessory.
The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office initially cleared Rodriguez in the shooting, but a lawsuit filed against the county by Morin’s family led to a reopening of the investigation. The suit detailed the lawman’s alleged dating relationship with Perez, who had two children with the victim.
Rodriguez allegedly went to the home under the guise of arresting Morin for outstanding warrants, then grappled with him and shot him once in the upper body. Family members claim Rodriguez hid in some bushes, then ambushed Morin when he and relatives returned from a birthday celebration.
In February 2018, a judge ordered transcripts of the grand jury proceedings that led to the murder indictment of Rodriguez to remain sealed, adding that certain portions could be made public at a later time.
The defendant’s attorney, Mark W. Fredrick, argued at the time that releasing the transcripts to the public would be unduly prejudicial to his client.
After Rodriguez was indicted in December 2017, transcripts of the grand jury proceedings were originally ordered sealed for 10 days. Fredrick moved to have the order extended for a month, then sought to have the transcripts sealed through the end of the trial.
At the February 2018 hearing, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Harold Hopp agreed to keep the transcripts sealed, though he said testimony from certain witnesses may be released at some point prior to the trial.
Fredrick argued in court papers that news coverage of the indictment has been “extremely unfavorable to Mr. Rodriguez, convicting him of murder before a trial.” He said that in contrast, Morin has been “painted through news outlets as a loving and peaceful man.”
Fredrick also criticized District Attorney Mike Hestrin, saying the county’s top prosecutor “convicted Mr. Rodriguez in the press” and described him as a “rogue deputy” who was “taking care of personal things.”
Perez is also due to appear in court May 1.
Rodriguez, who remains out of custody after posting $1 million bail, faces life imprisonment if convicted, while Perez would face up to three years.
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