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Criminal Justice, Victims and Guarantees of the Constitution

February 27, 1991

In your story (Feb. 7, Dianne Klein column) you left out a few minor "facts" that your readers may wish to know.

You claim that Juan Rodriguez got "lucky" by being found not guilty. Luck has nothing to do with it. This was not a close case. The 12 members of the jury reached a unanimous decision in a very short time; about 2 1/2 hours (including a half-hour break). They based their decision on the evidence in the case--not on sympathy for Larry Hatch or concerns about the war in the Gulf.

Under California law, if a person believes that he is in danger, he can take action to protect himself/herself even if the danger is only apparent and not real. It is without question that when this entire incident erupted, Juan Rodriguez believed he was about to be hit and reacted based on those beliefs. It is also without question that Juan is extremely remorseful and saddened over this event.

Sgt. Rodriguez is an honorable man. He was not looking for trouble that morning when he approached the group drinking beer in the truck at 10 a.m. He wanted to talk with these young men about joining the Marine Corps. That's his job. That's how he serves his country.

Juan never intended for Larry to be injured so severely. Even the prosecution conceded this point.

You imply that it is not fair that the state can't appeal a not-guilty verdict. I find it ironic that you use your free press/speech rights to attack Juan's constitutional right to only be held once in jeopardy for these allegations. Don't all the rights guaranteed to each one of us under the Constitution apply to us all equally?

DENNIS O'CONNELL, City of Industry

( O'Connell was Rodriguez's defense attorney in this case. )

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