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Luster Is Seeking Right to Appeal

June 21, 2003|Jenifer Ragland | Times Staff Writer

Now that former fugitive rapist Andrew Luster is in custody, his Santa Monica attorney is attempting to win back his client's right to appeal his Ventura County conviction.

A California appellate court on June 10 dismissed an earlier appeal request by attorney Roger Jon Diamond, concluding that Luster forfeited his right to challenge the jury's decision when he jumped bail and fled during his trial in January. Diamond said he is asking the appellate court to reconsider its decision.

Luster, 39, great-grandson of cosmetics company founder Max Factor, was caught by bounty hunters this week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

He was taken to Wasco State Prison in Kern County on Thursday by federal authorities, who said they also had been trying to find him in Mexico.

Diamond also filed a request Friday with the California Supreme Court in Los Angeles, but the clerk noted that the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Ventura still has jurisdiction of the case because the June 10 decision does not become final for 30 days.

Luster fled Jan. 3, in the middle of his Ventura County trial. Eighteen days later, jurors found Luster guilty on 86 counts of drugging and raping three women at his Mussel Shoals beach house.

He was sentenced to 124 years in state prison.

Deputy Atty. Gen. Joseph Lee said he would oppose any effort to reinstate the appeal, regardless of the fact that Luster is no longer a fugitive.

"It's our position that Luster has forfeited his right to appeal," Lee said. He declined to elaborate.

Maeve Fox, the Ventura County deputy district attorney who prosecuted Luster, said in cases where a convicted fugitive is returned to custody, the appellate court must find it would be a "gross miscarriage of justice" to keep the appeal dismissed.

Fox said she believes there are no appellate issues in the Luster case. But even if mistakes were found, she said, "any small error is going to be way overshadowed by the absolutely massive quantity of evidence showing his guilt."

"No reasonable juror would have made a different decision given the facts of the case," Fox said.

Diamond contends that Luster did not receive a fair trial, and that led to his flight. He said he wants to challenge Luster's conviction on two dozen issues, ranging from testimony made at his trial to the police search of his beachside home that turned up videotapes he made of his victims.

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