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The Sleepy Lagoon Murder and trial - Research Paper Example

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The Sleepy Lagoon Murder and Trial The unconscious body of Jose Gallardo Diaz was found at a local swimming hole locally known as the Sleepy Lagoon on August 2, 1942. He died at the hospital as he was being treated. Never having regained consciousness, the police were at a loss as to where to start their investigation…
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The Sleepy Lagoon Murder and trial
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The Sleepy Lagoon Murder and Trial The unconscious body of Jose Gallardo Diaz was found at a local swimming hole locally known as the Sleepy Lagoon on August 2, 1942. He died at the hospital as he was being treated. Never having regained consciousness, the police were at a loss as to where to start their investigation. The official autopsy reports indicated that Diaz was drunk at the time of death and has suffered a fracture at the base of his skull which caused his death. How he acquired the injury remains unclear to this very day although there are some theories as to how it might have occurred such as a repeated fall or a car accident. It is believed that Diaz was an unfortunate victim of circumstance in this instance. Earlier the night before, a group of Caucasian men disrupted a party being thrown by a a rival group known as the 28th Street Gang at the Sleepy Lagoon. After mayhem broke out at the party, events continued to transpire that resulted in the death of 22 year old Diaz. (Sleepy Lagoon Case, 1942). The events leading up to his death forced the Los Angeles police department to round up a sizable number of Mexican youths, around 600 of them who were commonly referred to as “Zoot- suiters” because of their knack for dressing in balloon pants and long coats. 24 of the youths were charged with the murder of Diaz and taken into custody and made to stand trial for varying degrees of murder. (“Zoot Suit Riots”). Being a high profile murder case, then Gov. Cuthbert L. Olson (Democrat) demanded that the case be given a speedy trial and a conviction be turned over as soon as possible to serve as an example to the growing number of juvenile delinquents in the area. (“Zoot Suit Riots”) The case was assigned to Judge Fricke who seemed to be presiding over a kangaroo court because of the way the case was treated in his court room. History books that carry detailed information about the case indicates a group of accused men whose right to due process was violated by the proceedings that there allowed to take place in the court room of Judge Fricke. The accused were seated apart from their lawyers, limiting their ability to communicate and consult with their legal counsel, every defendant whose name was mentioned during the course of the trial was forced to present himself before the jury, and most disrespectful of all, the district attorney managed to convince the judge that it would be best to prevent the accused from changing their clothes so that the jury would always see them in what the public perceived to be their normal mode of dress. The court room was in other words, biased and everyone involved in the prosecution did everything they could in order to influence the outcome of the trial. Needless to say, the jury came back with a guilty verdict on all of the accused based upon charges ranging from assault to murder. (Sleepy Lagoon) However, not everyone was convinced that the young Mexican men were guilty of the crime they were accused of. Seeing them mostly as scapegoats in this instance, the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals and eventually, the group managed to get the decision of Judge Fricke's court over turned since it was proven that there was a real instance of miscarriage of justice in this instance. (Sleepy Lagoon) The 2nd District Court of Appeals overturned the decision in October 1944 based upon the fact that there was insufficient evidence to convict the defendants based upon a conspiracy theory. Judge Fricke was also found to have been “ guilty of prejudicial misconduct in making undignified and intemperate remarks" to the defendants' counsel and admonished the judge for providing inadequate seating arrangements that isolated the defendants” (McLellan, Dennis “Defendant in Notorious '42 Sleepy Lagoon Murder Case was Unjustly Convicted). It is actually quite hard to gather enough valid and accurate information about the events that led up to this wrongful conviction case. However, the existing documents and records does leave a shadow of a doubt pertaining to the guilt of the accused. Since there were so many events that happened between the time of the party and the time that the body of Diaz was discovered, it is hard to say if the same people who were involved in the rowdy party actually had a hand in the death of Diaz. That is why I find it hard to believe that a solid guilty verdict was returned by the jury in this instance. All of the evidence presented by the prosecution in the case could be deemed to be circumstantial and therefore, leaves a benefit of doubt in the minds of those who study the evidence used by the prosecution. As everybody knows, one cannot be convicted unless he is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, reasonable doubt existed in the case. Therefore the accused should have been found not guilty rather than guilty. Works Cited McLellan, Dennis. “Defendant in Notorious '42 Sleepy Lagoon Murder Case was Unjustly Convicted”. 7 Mar. 2008. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. “Sleepy Lagoon Case, 1942”. mtholyoke.edu.mthiolyoke.edu. n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2013. “Sleepy Lagoon”. sleepylagoon.com. sleepylagoon.com. n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2013. “Zuit Suits Riots”. American Experience. pbs.org. 2001. Web. 20 Apr. 2013. Read More
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