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Parolee's Lawyer Argues Case of Wrong Identity

March 09, 1994|THOM MROZEK | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

VAN NUYS — Arguing mistaken identity, the lawyer for a prison parolee accused of murdering an armored-car guard asked a jury to reject the testimony of an eyewitness and acquit his client.

Bruce Hill, who is defending Sean Darnell Slade, compared his case to that of a sensational 1989 slaying in which an innocent man was arrested.

Slade, accused in the 1992 slaying of a security guard in a robbery of a Home Depot store in San Fernando, was "fingered" by the mother of a man who Slade killed in 1987, Hill said.

Convicted of manslaughter in the killing of Howard Baker, Slade, now 27, was paroled from prison only 25 days before guard Edwin Maldonado was killed. He faces the death penalty if convicted in the guard's slaying.

Slade was arrested after investigators developed a composite drawing, and Elizabeth Floyd, Baker's mother, called police to report that Slade was the man wanted in the killing.

Hill used the slaying of an affluent Boston attorney and her unborn baby as an example of the injustice he says his client suffers.

Charles Stuart initially told police that a black male had shot his wife, Carol, an attorney, in the head and him in the stomach.

William Bennett was arrested after a massive manhunt. Bennett had a criminal record, but he maintained that he was framed. Bennett was never formally charged in the killing and was vindicated when Stuart's brother gave information to police indicating Stuart was the killer.

Slade and Bennett both have criminal records, and in each case, police were under intense pressure from a "public clamoring for justice," Hill said.

Hill emphasized Slade's claim that he was running errands at the time of the crime.

The defense attorney also attacked the sole eyewitness to the crime, an employee of the hardware store. The clerk told police the gunman was 5-foot-9, 5 inches shorter than Slade, Hill told jurors.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeff Jonas called Slade and his alibi witnesses a group of liars. "Don't let yourself be haunted by the ghost of a man wrongly convicted," Jonas said. "In this case, it's an unreal dream."

The jury will begin deliberations today.

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