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Man Wanted in Slaying Faces Extradition From Arizona

Suspect in a June killing had been released a month earlier during procedural dispute.

September 03, 2003|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

A gang member freed from custody because of a procedural squabble who allegedly committed a murder a month later has been arrested in Arizona, authorities said Tuesday.

Jerrell Patrick, 23, a member of the Rollin' 60s Crips, will be returned to Los Angeles to face capital murder charges.

Patrick is charged in the June 26 slaying of Lawrence Middleton, a month after Patrick, who had faced carjacking charges, was released and disappeared.

Patrick was taken into custody Sunday afternoon after his vehicle was stopped because of expired registration.

When Officer Louie Davila of the Arizona Department of Public Safety began to check Patrick's identity, the fugitive took off on foot.

"The chase lasted about 10 minutes. They ran for about a quarter-mile before Patrick was captured," said Steve Volden, a Department of Public Safety spokesman.

Inside the vehicle, Volden said, officers recovered a small amount of marijuana. Patrick was held in Maricopa County pending his return to California.

Patrick became the center of a war of words between Los Angeles County prosecutors and judges over his release, and that of dozens of other suspects, on May 28 during a post-holiday snafu.

Charged in a carjacking, he was released when supervising judges, citing budget restraints, refused to keep court open later than 4:30 p.m. to accommodate prosecutors.

Those arrested must have an arraignment -- a court hearing at which charges are explained to them -- within 48 hours. If not, they are freed.

Three times as many defendants as usual were backed up for arraignment on May 28, reflecting a larger number of arrests over the Memorial Day weekend. For several months, judges had warned prosecutors that they needed to file cases more promptly, and not wait until late in the day.

Four weeks after his release, and as police still sought to rearrest him, Patrick was parked at a popular barbershop at 43rd Street and Crenshaw Boulevard, where Middleton and friends were talking.

"The suspect began mad-dogging Middleton -- that's the street term for staring him down -- then an argument ensued and a fight," said Los Angeles police Det. Stanley Evans.

"Patrick pulled out a .45 [caliber] handgun and shot Middleton with three rounds," said Evans, who added that Patrick is also a suspect in a series of bank robberies.

"This was some good basic police work by this Arizona officer," Evans said.

Patrick is charged with one count of murder with the special circumstance of using a firearm, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. A decision on whether to seek the death penalty will be made later, prosecutors said.

He has also been charged in a March 8 carjacking and robbery as well as with receiving stolen goods in April.

Patrick's arrest renewed the debate over who is to blame for his release.

The Assn. of Deputy District Attorneys has asked the California Commission on Judicial Performance to review the decision by Judges Dan Oki; David Wesley, who now heads the Superior Court's criminal division; and Carol Rehm.

Wesley told The Times recently that Patrick could have been rearrested on an outstanding traffic warrant or on the same charge May 28. Wesley said prosecutors did not submit the new case against Patrick until after 3:30 p.m.

Steven Ipsen, president of Assn. of Deputy District Attorneys, said he was happy that Patrick had been captured, but said the judges may want to consider the cost of releasing Patrick, in terms of lives and police work.

Former prosecutor Sterling Norris of Judicial Watch said his group will ask the Legislature to impeach the judges involved.

Roy Burns, president of the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, said the judges' action May 28 has cost the Middleton family dearly. Burns said his union would support an election challenge to the judges.

Court spokesman Alan Parachini said Tuesday that it would be inappropriate for judicial officials to comment further on the Patrick case.

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