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Has D.A. Dropped the Ball on Boyd Case?

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By Bruce Bean

19-year-old Tarrell Boyd of Perris has been in jail in Murrieta for almost five months. Boyd is charged with a strong-arm robbery that he said was just a misunderstanding.

His alleged victim, 18-year-old Luther Price, said that he didn’t want to see things go as far as they have. Both young men said that the whole thing is a mistake and that no robbery ever happened, but Boyd goes on trial next week and faces up to 12 years in prison. Now, both young men are trapped by a system that seems inflexible to what they say are the realities of this case.
Part of his problem, Boyd says, is his court appointed attorney whom he says is trying to push him to take six years in prison. Boyd said that Lisa Mattern, who was appointed to his case, seems disinterested in taking his case to trial and seems only interested in getting him to take a plea bargain.
The problem started in February of this year when Price who dated Boyd’s sister briefly was seen cheating with another girl. Boyd’s sister had purchased a ring, a watch and a necklace for Price. When Boyd asked Price for the jewelry back an argument ensued.
“I told him that I didn’t want him speaking to my sister anymore,” Boyd said in a taped conversation from the Murrieta jail. “I told him to give me back the jewelry and we got into a confrontation about that.”
Boyd said that Price eventually agreed to give him the jewelry and he left. Five months later on July 3, he was arrested and charged for allegedly pulling a gun on Price and taking everything that he had. If he is convicted Boyd will have to serve up to 85% of his sentence even though he has never been arrested. The only evidence that a crime was committed is Price’s word against Boyd’s. One alleged witness has disappeared and her mother forbids the other from taking part in the trial because she is a juvenile, Boyd said.
Price spoke briefly with a Black Voice News reporter and said that he really just wanted the whole thing to be over with. He also said that he tried to drop the charges with the District Attorney’s office, but was told that it was the DA’s office who was filing charges and that he would be compelled to testify or face perjury charges. During a later conversation, he refused to talk with a reporter.
The DA’s office would not comment on this case, but said that they review evidence and based on a police report decide if a crime has been committed.
Boyd said his desire is to change lawyers, but that he cannot get Mattern to return phone calls or to visit him if he is not going to court. Mattern did not return calls from BVN.
“The first time we met she told me she had business cards, but that she didn’t have one with her,” Boyd said. “We don’t come into contact with each other. The only time I see her is when we are in court.”
Mattern was appointed to Boyd’s case by the conflicts council, which is a group of private attorneys who handle cases the county’s public defender office cannot. Although the public defenders office is given first shot at indigent cases says Gary Windom, the Chief Public Defender, an attorney can never represent more than one client in a case.
“When I declare a conflict of interest that excludes my entire office from representing a client,” he said.
Attorney Steve Harmon, who is on the panel here in Riverside said that Boyd has to ask for a Marsden hearing if he wants to change his attorney.
“In a general way, if a client is unhappy with his attorney he can ask for a Marsden hearing and during that hearing in the judge’s chamber he is allowed to tell why he does not want this particular attorney,” he said.
In recent months, the Press Enterprise reported that the conflicts panel has been audited and it was alleged that some members had misappropriated funds and used them for their personal use. The attorneys involved denied any wrong doing, but the Board of Supervisors is looking for them to return close to a million dollars that the audit alleges was used for personal items.
The panel has also been criticized for pleading out too many cases, the Press Enterprise reported. Despite problems, the Board of Supervisors recently approved close to $8 million dollars for use in representing indigent clients.
Boyd’s mother, Florine Ivory said that she feels that her son is being railroaded into a plea bargain and that they have no chance against a system that is so stacked against people of color.
“When we go to court it seems that his lawyer and the DA are on the same page,” she said. “I just feel that he has no chance in a system where the everyone from the judge to the police officer doesn’t seem to care about the truth.” Boyd is scheduled to go to trial tomorrow. Mattern is the third attorney that he has seen.
“They are kind of jerking my chain because every time I go court I have a different attorney,” he said. “When I first met Lisa she said that she had just gotten my paper work 15 minutes before.”
“So my attorney and I are never on the same page because my attorney always ends up getting switched. I have only been able to talk to one attorney about my case and with Lisa she only wants to talk to me about taking the deal.”
“She doesn’t tell me anything that she talked to the DA about, she says that she can’t remember. She can’t give me my paperwork because she has to ask the sheriff’s department and the judge and all the paid attorneys that I talk to keep telling me that I’m suppose to be able to get my police report. She keeps telling me that she doesn’t know if she is going to be able to give it to me.
“I don’t know what’s going on and she tries to talk my mom into talking me into taking the six years and they start to get into it. The last time I went to court, I sat in the holding tank because I was going to fire her and they never took me out of the holding tank. I don’t even know what’s going on in my case right now.”
“I told them that if they were to offer me probation that I might sign, but I am not going to sign for five, or three or even one year for a crime I didn’t commit. I have a brand new baby and I want to see him, and if I had committed this crime I would take full responsibility for it, but I didn’t commit it.”
“My lawyer basically tells me that we are going to lose this case and that’s why I don’t want her on my case.”

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