The state Court of Appeal on Monday asked a Superior Court judge to determine if Edward H. Reardon, a television actor whose stage name is Eddie Fontaine, should be granted a new trial on charges of soliciting someone to murder his estranged wife. Reardon was convicted of the charge last year.
Because of a recent higher court ruling, the appeal court ruled that a review of the case was necessary because of a potential error by the trial judge.
During the trial in San Fernando Superior Court, Judge Robert H. O'Brien decided that Reardon's two previous convictions for child molestation and grand larceny could be introduced as evidence if Reardon testified in his own defense. After the judge's ruling, Reardon did not testify.
Convictions Called Prejudicial
Defense attorney David Manning Chodos argued at the time that the convictions, one 18 years old and the other 34 years old, would prejudice the jury, outweighing any evidentiary value.
The jury convicted Reardon of attempting to hire David Faircloth, a part-time country and western singer and former bull rider, to kill his estranged wife, Pamela Reardon, in 1983. Reardon was sentenced to four years in prison. According to Faircloth's testimony, the two men met at a Valencia nightclub and Reardon asked Faircloth to steal a truck and then run his wife off the road to make it look like an accident.
Faircloth told authorities about the alleged plot.
The appellate court instructed O'Brien to review whether Reardon's previous convictions should have been excluded from the trial based on a 1985 California Supreme Court ruling on the admissibility of such evidence.
Admissibility of Convictions
If O'Brien concludes that the two convictions should have been excluded, Reardon will receive a new trial. If O'Brien decides that the convictions are still admissible, the conviction will stand.
Chodos said he wanted the convictions kept out of the trial because they prevented Reardon from testifying. The convictions, Chodos said, were "so damaging it prevented him from getting on the stand."
Because Reardon did not take the stand, the jury never learned about the convictions. But the development, Chodos said, also prevented his client from convincing the jury he was innocent.
Reardon has appeared in such television series as "Happy Days," "Quincy," "Dukes of Hazzard," "Starsky and Hutch," "Six-Million-Dollar Man," "The Rockford Files," "Medical Center" and "Kojak."