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Defense in hate case criticizes ID process

January 19, 2007|Joe Mozingo | Times Staff Writer

In closing arguments, defense attorneys in the Long Beach hate-crime case Thursday assailed the police identification procedure that linked the 10 black minors on trial to the beating of three white women on Halloween night.

Defense attorneys noted that the victims and witnesses were never asked to describe the assailants until they were shown the 10 suspects, whom officers had detained in a Ralphs supermarket parking lot near the crime scene.

Attorney Mark Rothenberg said the field identification "was tainted from the get-go."

The 10 minors are charged with assault with intent to cause great bodily harm; eight of them face a hate crime enhancement because racial slurs were allegedly yelled during the assault.

Thursday consisted almost entirely of the defense dredging out details and picking apart bits of testimony that might exonerate their clients.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Andrea Bouas had made her closing argument Wednesday, vigorously defending the identification and the testimony of her star witness, Kiana Alford. She called the melee "a mauling" and the juveniles on trial a "large, vicious group of children."

Rothenberg's client, a 14-year-old girl, was identified only by Alford, who testified that she recognized her at the field show-up because the girl was wearing an orange sweatshirt, and that she remembered seeing an orange sweatshirt in the attack.

"She hit the girl with the red outfit with her closed fist," Alford told police, according to a police report. "The hood was up at the time."

Rothenberg said Alford subsequently testified that she had seen four or five orange sweatshirts that night. And he said Alford gave several versions of the attack in her testimony -- at one point testifying that she did not see an orange sweatshirt involved.

"That's woefully inadequate in meeting the burden of proof," he said.

Kathleen Moreno, representing the now 18-year-old Antoinette Ross, tried to pick away at the testimony of victim Loren Hyman. When Hyman, 21, was on the stand, looking at a photograph of Ross, she testified that she remembered the girl from her puffy, black, fur-lined jacket and heart-shaped bamboo earrings.

Moreno said Ross wasn't wearing the jacket when the attack occurred but had borrowed it from a friend during the field show-up because it was cold. She said this was bolstered by another defendant's testimony and the fact that the jacket was put in another minor's personal property locker at Juvenile Hall.

Moreno also said that both the jacket and the earrings are very popular now.

As Alford testified for six days, Moreno said, the witness herself "wore heart-shaped bamboo earrings and a black, puffy, fur-lined jacket."

Deputy Public Defender Stephanie Sauter said the prosecution has painted an artificial picture of "black and white, heroes and villains, devils and saints." She said the community wants "people held responsible" for the "three white girls beaten by a black mob."

"The easy thing to do is convict these kids because they are here," she said. "I ask the court to show courage and do what is possibly an unpopular thing, but the righteous thing."

The closing arguments continue today. When all 10 defense attorneys are finished -- there are five left -- Bouas will have a chance to rebut. Judge Gibson Lee will deliver a verdict.

joe.mozingo@latimes.com

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