Judge Says Lee Baca Can't Wear His Lapel Pin During Retrial
Lee Baca is going back to court. This comes after a previous trial that ended in a 11-1 deadlock among jurors, which led U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson to declare a mistrial.
As attorneys geared up for the second round, one peculiar topic cropped up: Baca's lapel pin. During a hearing on Monday, prosecutors said that Baca shouldn't be allowed to wear the star-shaped pin that he'd worn during the first trial, reports the Los Angeles Daily News. The pin honors the Sheriff's department, the agency that Baca formerly helmed. In a 19-page motion, prosecutors said that this sartorial detail could have influence over the jurors.
The motion went on to say that, "in wearing the Sheriff’s 'star' every day of trial, [Baca] was cloaking himself in the aura of credibility and respectability that comes with holding that office. Moreover, defendant’s pin signaled to the jury that he and the Sheriff’s Department are one and the same, even today, and that the County and the Sheriff’s Department sanction his acts that are charged as obstruction (which they do not)."
While Baca didn't take the witness stand at the first trial, prosecutors said that he "essentially testified" by wearing the pin.
Baca's attorney Nathan Hochman, according to City News Service, countered with a motion saying that prosecutors were grasping for a reason for their inability to convict in the first trial, saying that they were ascribing the jury's indecision to "the almost mystical and talismanic power" of "a one-inch sheriff’s star." The motion added that the allegations were "paranoid." Hochman, during the hearing, also argued that the pin was too small for jurors to see from their seats. “I do not believe a one-inch lapel pin in any way prejudices his right to a fair trial,” said Hochman, according to the Daily News
Also brought up in discussion were Baca's cufflinks.
Anderson, who presided over the hearing, sided with the prosecutors by ruling that the lapel pin won't be making its way into the courtroom. The cufflinks are still being mulled over.
Jury selection for the new trial is expected to begin on February 21. Baca, in case you forgot, is being charged with obstruction of justice charges. Prosecutors say that he'd made attempts to impede a 2011 federal investigation into allegations of abuse in the county's jails.