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State Again Says No on Mitchelson Case

June 19, 1987|TED ROHRLICH | Times Staff Writer

The state attorney general's office has again rebuffed the Los Angeles County Grand Jury, rejecting for a second time the panel's request for an attorney to help it investigate a woman's complaint that palimony lawyer Marvin Mitchelson raped her, a state official said Thursday.

Chief Assistant Atty. Gen. Steve White said in an interview that "there is no need" for the attorney general's office to become involved.

"The district attorney is advising the grand jury," he said. "There is no need for the attorney general to do so as well."

White said that the attorney general's office had been "in touch with the district attorney's office and with the grand jury's adviser, (Superior Court) Judge (Aurelio) Munoz. We are informed by both the district attorney and Judge Munoz that the district attorney will meet with and advise the grand jury, and I understand that a meeting for that purpose has been scheduled . . . next week."

Edward E. Roseman, the grand jury foreman who signed both requests on behalf of the full panel, said Thursday that he had not been told of the attorney general's decision.

Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Gilbert Garcetti confirmed, however, that a meeting between prosecutors from the district attorney's office and the grand jury had been scheduled for next week.

He said prosecutors from his office intend to explain to grand jurors why they believe Mitchelson should not be investigated further, and to answer any grand jury questions.

The district attorney's office has already investigated the allegation that Mitchelson raped a client in his office in 1985 and announced last January that it found "insufficient evidence to establish that any crime was committed."

"Our decision remains firm--that we shall not be prosecuting Mr. Mitchelson," Garcetti said Thursday.

Preferential Treatment Claimed

State prosecutors got involved in the case when the alleged victim claimed the district attorney's office had accorded Mitchelson preferential treatment.

State prosecutors took a narrow view in evaluating the evidence, focusing only on whether the district attorney's decision not to prosecute Mitchelson was unreasonable. They decided it was not.

Mitchelson has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

When state prosecutors declined to become involved, the complainant, Kristen Barrett-Whitney, asked the grand jury for help.

Grand jurors on March 31 requested that the state attorney general's office provide a lawyer so that they could conduct an investigation. They cited Penal Code Section 923, which states that the attorney general's office "may, with or without the concurrence of the district attorney, direct the grand jury to convene for the investigation and consideration of such matters of a criminal nature as he desires to submit to it . . . whenever (he) considers the public interest requires."

District Attorney Role

Normally, that role is left to the district attorney's office, which assigns a lawyer to help the grand jury--a panel of 23 lay people appointed by judges of the Superior Court to serve for a year.

White responded to the grand jury's request for a lawyer on April 14, telling them to make the request first of the district attorney's office. "Even though Dist. Atty. (Ira) Reiner earlier exercised his discretion not to file charges . . . that office never received a formal request from you to proceed under Penal Code Section 923," he said.

The grand jury on April 27 asked Reiner to provide a lawyer. The district attorney's office declined. Grand jurors then renewed their request of the state attorney general's office.

The grand jury's term expires June 30.

White said, however, that the case was not necessarily dead. "On a matter of such public interest, it would not be at all unusual for the incoming grand jury to look at it," he said.

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