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Family of Officer Richard May furious about leak

Original post made on Jan 7, 2010

The family of slain East Palo Police Officer Richard May is outraged that the defense attorneys for May's admitted killer, Alberto Alvarez, have leaked documents to a reporter that try to impugn May's personal and professional character. One relative called the leak a "despicable" act.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, January 6, 2010, 10:51 PM

Comments (34)

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Posted by resident
a resident of Atherton
on Jan 7, 2010 at 7:29 am

That's why SOME lawyers are no better than used car salesmen !!


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 7, 2010 at 9:22 am

Rest in peace Officer May- End of watch: Jan 07, 2006


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Posted by Interesting
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 9:43 am

Many people are aware of his murky past in Lompc and his rep in EPA - both good and bad. Those issues don't justify his murder, of course. Really dodgy actions by the defense - perhaps their behavior was worse than what they allege May's to have been.


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 7, 2010 at 10:34 am

The claim was that May was an out of control violent person, I believe. I heard some claims to that effect in postings here in PAO. If what I heard was true it seem to bear on the case and the on the finding of the jury, that is if they were not told all the facts. I am skeptical, but I also know that there are cases where all or part of some police departments are rotten.

If I was fighting for my life as a death-penality defendant I would want my lawyer to explore all avenues. Explore though, not lie or make up facts.

These facts if true may not justify murder, what does, but it may make the defendants sentence seem too harsh.

"interesting", to speculate that they defense's behavior was worse than claimed for May is a really complicated and meaningless thing to say.

I have to say I don't know that much about the case, but I do think there are witnesses that claimed the defendant was acting in self-defense and the shooting was not an execution. I have no idea who or what the motivation of those witnesses might be. The average person I see hanging out on the street in EPA does not usually appear to me to be a stellar witness for the police.

Did any of these witnesses take lie detector tests?

I am pro-death penalty, but what I think gives death penalty cases such a bad rap is that this ultimate punishment is often demanded when the known facts are not strong enough to justify it. When in doubt life in prison seems called for in my opinion, whether we like it or not.


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Posted by Informed
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 7, 2010 at 11:31 am

This comment is addressed to Anon's posting - I agree with much of what you said about expecting defense attorneys to pursue all avenues and that there are many cases in which the death penalty is requested by the government but the facts are not strong enough to justify it. So WHY do you support the death penalty? Life imprisonment (without possibility of parole) is sure, swift and avoids killing people who (even if they are guilty of the crime) might actually be not guilty of the aggravating circumstances that result in a death sentence. Remember Rick Walker of East Palo Alto???? He was cleared of murder charges after spending 12 years in prison. He could easily have been put to death and no one would ever have known that he was wrongfully convicted because the prosecution relied on a lying witness who got a deal in exchange for his testimony!!


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Posted by babysoft
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2010 at 11:54 am

Good point, Informed! We should all take pause. In the CA Commision on the Fair Administration of Justice review on the death penalty (CCFAJ) they found the following:

While it is widely assumed that delays benefit those confined on death row by prolonging their lives, it should be noted that California inmates with meritorious claims are also denied prompt disposition of those claims. In cases where the judgment of guilt and/or the sentence were vacated between 1987 and 2005, the average delay was 11 years. California death row inmates whose convictions or sentences were vacated by a federal court waited an average of 16.75 years.
*************
In our assumption of truth, we forget that the prosecutor has a theory of prosecution, and only argues the facts that support that theory, and the defense attorney has a theory of defense, and only access to the discovery turned over by the prosecution or facts charged much later (after arrest and charging so access has grown cold) to develop facts for their theory . . . bottom line, the jury only hears fragments of the truth/big picture. With a death sentence on the line . . . defense attorneys are appointed to do what is in the best interest of their client. If you were in the accuseds position, you too would hope your attorney took that responsibility seriously.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 7, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Charles Robinson and the rest of Alvarez's defense team should be disbarred for their behavior.


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Posted by Wondering
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 7, 2010 at 12:11 pm

> Charles Robinson and the rest of Alvarez's defense
> team should be disbarred for their behavior

What did they do that was illegal, or even "unethical"? According to the story, this information was disallowed in court proceedings, not sequestered. It the information is in fact true, how is it defamatory?

If the information were to somehow affect the jury, because it somehow got to them--then maybe some sort of action is warranted. Otherwise, wasn't this just publicly available information that was considered not relevant to the case by the Court?


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Posted by One-Sided
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Like "Wondering", I'm also unclear as to what was illegal or unethical. If this is public information, I see no problem in the defense attorneys releasing it to the press. I have no idea whether it's public information or not, but I notice that Mr. Wagstaffe stops short of suggesting the defense did anything illegal.

At the very least, this article seems incomplete in that it hints at criminal wrongdoing by the defense without really addressing the critical question of whether this was public information or not. It also does not appear that the author gave the defense attorneys a chance to give their side of the story.

As an aside, I'm surprised the judge excluded this evidence. It seems obviously relevant to the defense case. That's not to say that ultimately it would or should have changed the verdict, but you'd think the judge would let the jury hear the evidence and come to their own decision on its significance.


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Posted by Tara Stein
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 7, 2010 at 12:43 pm

I didn't follow the trial, but it seems to me that if the defendant had a self-defense claim, then evidence of past violent behavior on the part of the officer would be relevant to supporting his claim. I'm outraged that the judge considered such evidence too inflammatory--after all, this is a death penalty case. We all know that many many people are wrongly convicted, especially where the evidence hinged on witness testimony. As for leaking these facts to a reporter, isn't this evidence all on public record anyway? (restraining order and any complaints made against the officer in the past)


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Posted by Enough
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jan 7, 2010 at 1:03 pm

@Tara Stein... I laugh at comments that begin "I didn't follow the trial, but"...then you go on to opine.

Bottom line: Once May was down from the first shot, Alvarez had a chance to run. He instead, chose to stay, approach the officer and fire a kill shot into his head.

As to his attorneys, remember, water seeks its own level.


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Posted by Jim
a resident of University South
on Jan 7, 2010 at 1:12 pm

People, this convicted felon killed a police officer. He certainly deserves the death penalty. The attorney who leaked this information should be disbarred.


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Posted by bobo
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 7, 2010 at 1:26 pm

sounds like a true case of a very poor attorney trying to right his poor performance.


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Posted by Interesting
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2010 at 1:28 pm

I still see this as a situation in which Alvarez, no matter what May's past, was a felon with a gun, who chose to use that gun to kill a police officer. Frankly, even if he was getting the stuffing beaten out of him by Officer May, he still committed murder - and he wasn't gettign the stuffing beaten out of him.

To Anon., you may not have liked my comment, but it was relevant. It's ironic, also, that attorneys displayed such lousy behavior in their antics to get out the info about May's lousy behavior.


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Posted by Frank
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 7, 2010 at 1:42 pm

According to the article "There is no record of any prosecution of the allegations."

This means the incident should be excluded from an unrelated court case. The idea is since there was no trial there can be no finding of guilt or innocence. Judges and Defense Attorneys will routinely remind the jury that simply being arrested for something should not be considered an indication of guilt - so why isn't Officer May given the same consideration?

Smearing his reputation now seems vindictive and hard on his family.


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Posted by One-Sided
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2010 at 2:03 pm

"According to the article "There is no record of any prosecution of the allegations."

This means the incident should be excluded from an unrelated court case."

Not true. I've been on a jury before, and evidence about bad behavior of the victim was presented by the defense - even behavior that was never prosecuted.


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 7, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Hi "informed", it is my personal decision to support the idea of a death
penalty based on my considered belief that there are some people that
are too dangerous and evil, to exist. Some of the horrific crimes that
have been committed by monsters are too awful to allow the continued
existence of said monster to exist and the mere existence of that monster
is an insult and crime to anyone connected to the murder and everyone
else.

I understand the difficulties in sorting that out, but I think there are cases
that demand the death penalty. Hitler, Saddam Hussein, others. Humanity
has a long way to go before being wise enough to apply any kind of justice
fairly including traffic tickets. My estimation is that there are very few cases
where the death penalty is deserved and proven. From what I have heard
I am not sure this case is one of them.

I do agree that after some amount of time the person being put to death
is not the same person, but they are not provably different people either.
The point is that an injustice is also done by trying to foist a one size fits
all sentimental attitude on some of these cases that belies our ability as
people to think and differentiate.

So far death penalty implementation is problematic for any society, as are
lots of things. That does not mean there is not one case that a vast majority
could agree on and be right about.


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 7, 2010 at 2:17 pm

resident said:
> Charles Robinson and the rest of Alvarez's defense team should be disbarred for their behavior.

On what reasonable grounds please?


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 7, 2010 at 2:23 pm

one-sided said"
> It also does not appear that the author gave the defense attorneys a chance to give their side of the story.

The thing that makes me wonder about this (and I support the Police strongly in almost every case) is the department involved, EPA, the corrupted publicly claimed and reported on. The opaqueness of Police departments in general. For example Oakland after the shootings of 4 officers implied there was a go and get the perp attitude that caused negligence leading to the deaths of most of those officers who did not follow good procedure ... a cowboy attitude if you will.

I think it is important in cases where there is something in question that this be explored and given lattitude - but that does not include making groundless hyperbolic claims. What does it hurt for some authority to audit the claims in this case, and if it gets reported to the public - the mere idea of looking at some evidence or proof does not ever seem like a bad idea to me.


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 7, 2010 at 2:32 pm

One thing that was alleged by comments printed on another board like this was that the powder evidence and trajectory of the bullet indicated that it was not an execution style shot? I don't know what that means since it is not detailed in the comment of the news as far as I know. Other allegations about the officer's behavior to some citizens, unknown who or of what credibillity, said that the officer assaulted people.

Is some cases I don't care if an officer loses their temper, though it cannot be condoned or standard practive human beings who face the pressures of certain challenges are going to be human beings, we cannot legislate supermen when we give someone a badge.

If our media put as much emphasis on showing the realities of both sides of life relative to law enforcement instead of violent timewasting fantasies maybe people might be more understanding of both sides.

Question: All other things being equal, does the mere occupation of law enforcement officer demand that any punishment be greater, up to and including death? Is this what the law says? Does that discriminate against the rest of us non-law-enforcement citizens?


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Posted by stretch
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2010 at 3:38 pm

If a policeman's life doesn't mean just a little more because of the danger he puts himself in just to protect your whining butt, then we're all in trouble.


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Posted by anon
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 7, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Perhaps thoses who believe Police Officers are the same as everyone else should call one of the defense attorneys when there houses are being robbed.


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Posted by Unsetteled
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Alvarez was convicted of 1st Degree Murder. That has nothing to do with the "history" of Officer May but is bases solely on the circumstances of the event. In NO way was the self defense claim justified at all. 6 hours is all it took for the jury to unanimously deliver the 1st degree verdict.

As for the death penalty verdict, Officer May's "history" again was not what was at stake. It was Alvarez's history. In my opinion these allegations would have made no difference to the jury. Alberto had choices, and he chose the wrong ones. He had many many chances to turn his life around. Instead he deliberately and intentionally killed a police officer. And for that he deserves the highest punishment.

It is sad and disheartening that Officer May would be slandered. It is my hope that the judge will uphold the death verdict.


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Posted by missing no 33
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2010 at 3:59 pm

As a member of the May family who sat in court everyday I highly suggest you read the court transcripts prior to passing judgement. With all of the information given in a single court day there is no way any news article or story can give an accurate description of the day's events.

Court transcripts are public records, including pre-trial motions. Please read about this "abuse" by Officer May. I personally can't wait for the defense to bring it to the court AGAIN. They will be laughed at once more by the legal community for their obvious lack of understanding of the law.

As you read the court transcripts make sure you pay specific attention to the number of times the defense misquoted case law and was corrected by the judge. My favorite "flub" by the defense is when Robinson jumped up in complete anger saying he had not been provided with some discovery documents. Both Mr. Wagstaffe and the judge reminded Robinson he had this information for over a year. He even had it on the table in front of him during the objection.

Regardless of your opinions on the death penalty, it is the highest penalty possible in the state of California. The justice system takes emotion out of the decision. Anything less than the highest penalty possible would have diminished the hiddeousness of the crime.

I invite you to sit in the courtroom during any and all future motions and hearings so that you can make an informed opinion.


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Posted by missing no 33
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Thank you to those of who remembered that today was the fourth anniversay of the worst day in my family's life.

Maybe the next time someone is murdered, law enforcement or not, the killer will realize that 12 people and a judge decide his fate - not one person in a matter of minutes.


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Posted by Justice
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 7, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Rest in peace Officer May - EOW Jan 07, 2006. To the May family, such a good man, taken way too soon, he now soars with the angels and watches over every one of you. Close this horrible chapter in your lives and move forward, refuse to be victims, rise above and make him proud. Do not let this tragedy define you. God's speed.

To all of you haters out there....walk a mile in someone elses shoes before you so hastely pass judgment.


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Posted by Mr Fischer
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 8, 2010 at 12:07 am

I honestly believe if Officer May were still here he would live up to his incouraging way he had for the youth in East Palo Alto. This city has few leaders that are interested in his dream. I applaud his stepdad though!!! May was in position to talk to,..."the good","the bad", and,"the ugly",.,He did not differ. Oh, and I am an ex-con. I now have respect for our laws and lawmen. They are not the enemies. R.I.P. Officer May!!!


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Posted by babysoft
a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2010 at 7:56 am

Also found in the CA Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice was this fact:

Federal courts are granting relief in 70% of
the California death judgments they review, most often because of
ineffective assistance of counsel at the trial level
************************************
Judges often make incorrect decisions that are later overturned by higher courts. Courts often have a propensity to side with law enforcement, though just like in every other line of work, prosecutors and law enforcement officers are human beings and as subject to the failings of human beings in their behavior as every other human being. Judges are elected in the state courts, which is a probable reason why most cases are not overturned until federal courts where appointments are lifetime . . .and making unpopular decisions will not cost you your job [ruling fairly does not take you off the bench]

If a reviewing court decides this information or other information which was kept from the jury, should have been provided, and it is more than harmless error; the result of the trial or penalty may have been different, we will be back to square one.

In the mean time, the client of the defense attorneys will have been wrongfully held for years (it will take the prisoner over five years before counsel is even appointed for the direct appeal in our current system). It is the defense attorneys job to do everything they can for their client to prevent that from happening. They represent the client. The prosecutor's office represents the victim.

What this should tell everyone is this case is so far from over . . . .because the death penalty was charged, there will be no end to legal litigation for decades; which does not bring justice to the defendant or the victim.

We should have the courage to say what the American Law Institute (ALI) just said (who wrote the model penal codes for the death penalty); it is an unworkable system, whether or not you support the death penalty, we can no longer be a part of it and they withdrew the model penal code for this sentencing/charging structure!

There is no benefit to public safety to execute a convicted defendant, and not only do we spend millions of dollars of money that is desperately needed elsewhere to carry out a sentence without any purpose than serving a base human emotion for revenge that has no place in actual public policy . . .we often get it wrong; which makes us much more like the very people we condemn than we should be willing to accept.


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Posted by David Taylor
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 9, 2010 at 12:34 am

Posted by missing no 33:

> I personally can't wait for the defense to bring it to the court
> AGAIN. They will be laughed at once more by the legal community for
> their obvious lack of understanding of the law...
> As you read the court transcripts make sure you pay specific
> attention to the number of times the defense misquoted case law and
> was corrected by the judge. My favorite "flub" by the defense is
> when Robinson jumped up in complete anger saying he had not been
> provided with some discovery documents. Both Mr. Wagstaffe and the
> judge reminded Robinson he had this information for over a year. He
> even had it on the table in front of him during the objection.

Yet these claims of incompetent defense were immediately followed by:

> Regardless of your opinions on the death penalty, it is the highest
> penalty possible in the state of California. The justice system
> takes emotion out of the decision.

How can one call it "justice" while claiming that the state appointed the least competent lawyers to defend against the highest penalty possible?

Posted by babysoft:

> Federal courts are granting relief in 70% of
> the California death judgments they review, most often because of
> ineffective assistance of counsel at the trial level

If the federal courts agree with "missing no 33", then this death sentence will join the 70%.


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Posted by David Taylor
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 9, 2010 at 1:37 am

Wagstaffe is a prosecutor. If the defense lawyers broke a law, Wagstaffe could prosecute. If the defense lawyers were unethical, he could complain to the State Bar. Instead he is merely making defamatory statements to the press, by accusing the defense lawyers of making defamatory statements to the press. That's called "hypocrisy".

"It's an interesting way to practice law", says Wagstaffe. He has his own "interesting" practices, that led to more than mere press banter. In July the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals slammed Wagstaffe's covert racial bias in jury selection, while overturning a high-profile murder conviction he obtained. In an unusually sharp rebuke, the Court pointed to "overwhelming evidence indicating that the prosecutor [Wagstaffe]...acted with discriminatory intent when he struck M.C. [an African-American juror]". It called Wagstaffe's justifications "pretexts", "make-weight" and "logically implausible". And the ruling provided a 43-page detailed analysis in support of these statements: see Web Link

In addition to showing that Wagstaffe undeniably struck one juror for race, the Court found that Wagstaffe struck the only other African-American juror in the jury pool and provided at least two implausible reasons.

Trashing the Constitution's guarantee to a trial by a fair and impartial jury is an interesting way for a prosecutor to uphold the law.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 9, 2010 at 9:38 am

"In addition to showing that Wagstaffe undeniably struck one juror for race, the Court found that Wagstaffe struck the only other African-American juror in the jury pool and provided at least two implausible reasons.

Trashing the Constitution's guarantee to a trial by a fair and impartial jury is an interesting way for a prosecutor to uphold the law."

Really now?? Then why was there 2 black people in the jury, male and female?


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 9, 2010 at 9:43 am

And half or if not more than half of the jury pool were made up of minorities (Hispanic, black, and asians).


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Posted by David Taylor
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 14, 2010 at 9:20 pm

"Really now?? Then why was there 2 black people in the jury, male and female?"

Because Wagstaffe was still stinging from the smackdown by the Feds for racial jury rigging: the 9th Circuit ruling came down on 7 July 2009, jury selection in Alvarez's case began 7 Sep 2009. Wagstaffe knows that his risk of getting busted again is higher now that he's got a record for unconstitutional jury selection. If Wagstaffe didn't scrupulously follow the rules in jury selection in the Alvarez case, the conviction would stand a good chance of being thrown out.


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Posted by David Taylor
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 14, 2010 at 9:40 pm

"And half or if not more than half of the jury pool were made up of minorities (Hispanic, black, and asians)."

That's irrelevant. Wagstaffe was found guilty of racial discrimination in selecting jurors from the jury pool. There's no claim that he tampered with the jury pool.

But, since we're on the subject, in response to a defense motion in the Alvarez case, Wagstaffe implied that the jury pool system is tamper-proof. Yet, in past cases, he has wailed to the press about so-called "stealth jurors" (in one case a defendant's brother was in the jury pool). But if, in Wagstaffe's mind, ordinary folks can become "stealth jurors", i.e. somehow manipulate the county's jury pool system, then certainly manipulating the system would be child's play for the county's top prosecutor. He's caught in a contradiction: he can't have it both ways.


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