A judge refused to declare a mistrial Tuesday in the case of a Lodi man accused of murder after the defense attorney said she failed to remove potentially incriminating statements from an audio recording.
Deputy District Attorney Janet Smith played the recording of an interview Lodi police conducted with the girlfriend of 18-year-old Miguel Araiza Jr. Araiza is accused of murdering 18-year-old Angelica Osorio and wounding her boyfriend in Lodi last year.
Roughly five minutes into the interview, defense attorney Jennifer Perkins stopped the audio, saying a statement made by Lodi Police Cpl. Ricardo Garcia to the girlfriend could have insinuated Araiza made an admission of guilt while speaking with police. Perkins requested a mistrial, which would have terminated the trial before a verdict could be reached.
Araiza faces several criminal charges, including murder, attempted murder, possession of methamphetamine and a special enhancement of committing murder for the benefit of a street gang, stemming from a shooting near the intersection of Pine and Garfield streets in March 2012. He has pleaded not guilty.
After Perkins asked for the audio to be stopped, the jury was led out of the courtroom. Perkins proceeded to tell San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge William Johnson that she had received a copy of the transcript prior to Tuesday, but failed to see the statement called into question.
“It’s not Ms. Smith’s fault,” Perkins said. “It’s my fault ... I messed up.”
Attorneys have a legal right to examine and question evidence before it is presented in open court.
Perkins said Garcia’s statement could lead jurors to conclude Araiza admitted to the crime. Smith argued against Perkins’ request for a mistrial, saying the statement didn’t include an admission of guilt.
Johnson ruled he would reclaim copies of the transcript from the jury, tell them an error was made and reissue corrected transcripts at a later date. However, Johnson declined to declare a mistrial.
While explaining his ruling, Johnson said Garcia’s statement only indicated Araiza spoke with police, not that he admitted guilt.
Following the interview, Garcia took the stand, and in response to a question from Smith, said that sometimes officers present falsehoods during the course of an interview in order to extract information.
Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.