A judge halved the bail for a 39-year-old man twice convicted of killing a pregnant woman and her unborn child in Fullerton, but who has been granted a new trial based on a ruling that the defendant’s attorney was denied evidence he was entitled to have before trial.

Judge Thomas Goethals of Orange County Superior Court. Photo via muckrack.com
Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals lowered the $1 million bail for Henry Rodriguez to $500,000.

Rodriguez’s attorney, James Crawford, said he was not sure if the defendant’s family could raise the amount needed to free him. Crawford argued for $100,000 bail.

“He’s already been in custody for 18 years,” Crawford said. “People convicted of murder have gotten out in that time frame, and it’s not as if he just went into custody. He’s already done a lot, if not most, of that time.”

Also, since Rodriguez was 22 when the crime happened he may be eligible for a juvenile parole hearing because of recent legal precedent, Crawford said.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Troy Pino objected to lowering the bail, arguing that Rodriguez was a threat to public safety and a flight risk. He also said the victims’ family objected and there have been no change in circumstances since his arrest that would warrant a lesser bail.

The legal standard for bail for a murder is $1 million, Pino said. Goethals had discretion under the “change in circumstances” aspect of the standard.

Crawford argued that the “change in circumstances” is the Orange County District Attorney’s appeal of Goethals’ ruling granting a new trial for Rodriguez.

“The DA has filed an appeal and that could cause further delays,” Crawford said.

Crawford also said his client is not a flight risk because he would not want to jeopardize his chance for parole if he is caught and convicted again. The attorney said he would have supported some sort of electronic monitoring for his client, but the judge did not require it.

Rodriguez is not a threat to public safety, Crawford said.

“He’s been a model inmate, so I don’t think there’s any legitimate argument the public could be endangered by the release of Henry Rodriguez,” Crawford said.

Rodriguez was convicted in 2000 of first-degree murder and a count of second-degree murder as well as a count of conspiracy to commit murder under a legal theory of aiding and abetting. In 2003, appellate court justices reversed the conviction based on the way authorities obtained a confession from the defendant.

In 2006, he was put on trial again and convicted and sentenced to 40 years to life.

Crawford, sought a writ of habeas corpus in Orange County Superior Court to seek a new trial based on newly uncovered information about how Orange County sheriff’s deputies track the placement of inmates in the jail.

The so-called TRED records were first made public in allegations of governmental misconduct in the handling of the case against Scott Dekraai, the worst mass killer in Orange County history, who is awaiting the death penalty phase of his trial.

At issue is whether Rodriguez was denied a fair trial in 2006 when retired Orange County Superior Court Judge Frank Fasel allowed the testimony of jailhouse informant Michael Garrity.

An attorney for the county argued in March 2005 that there were no records on Garrity’s work as a confidential informant. Later that day, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department produced the TRED records and Fasel looked them over in private and ruled they should be turned over to Rodriguez’s attorney.

Those records, however, were never given to Crawford, Goethals ruled.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Cameron Talley argued during Rodriguez’s retrial that Garrity told authorities about the July 17, 1998, murder of eight-months-pregnant Jeanette Espeleta because it was the right thing to do, not because he had a longstanding agreement to inform and was receiving benefits from prosecutors to do so.

Goethals ruled that Crawford should have had the information about Garrity’s work as a snitch so he could, first of all, try to get him eliminated as a witness in the trial for possibly violating Rodriguez’s constitutional rights or impeach his credibility at trial.

Also at issue is if Garrity solicited information from Rodriguez while in custody, which would have been illegal because he had an attorney at that time.

Garrity, however, could legally relay bragging by Rodriguez or some other unprompted statement about the crimes to authorities.

The legal theory in the case is that Rodriguez helped a friend, the father of the unborn child, kill the victim so he wouldn’t have to pay child support.

Investigators believe Espeleta was killed and then her body, which was never recovered, was dumped in the ocean from a boat.

Talley — now a defense attorney — told City News Service that he kept nothing away from Crawford during the trial.

— City News Service

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