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Sticking By Ajay Dev

Sticking By Ajay Dev is an article written by Matt Kramer from The Sacramento News & Review examining why so many people are sticking by Ajay Dev after his conviction in 2009. Please read the article and feel free to make a comment. 

Click here to read Matt Kramer's article in The Sacramento News & Review

 

Dev Appeal Heard, Waiting Game Begins

This article was written by David Greenwald and has been reprinted fromThe Davis VanGuard

It has been seven years since Ajay Dev was sentenced to 378 years for the rape of his adopted daughter, and finally the Third District Appellate Court of California heard oral arguments on Wednesday.  The three-justice panel, comprised of Presiding Justice Vance Raye and Associate Justices Louis Mauro and Harry Hull, is expected to render a decision within 90 days.

Experienced court observers have told the Vanguard that such hearings are far from comprehensive and that justices simply want clarification on certain matters.  TheVanguard also learned that the overturn of convictions occurs only very rarely at this level – perhaps as little as 3 percent of the time.

Ajay Dev’s appellate attorney, Lauren Eskenazi, opened with the question as to why the complaining witness would falsely accuse Mr. Dev of rape.  She was quickly cut off by one of the justices who asked whether these were not facts that had been before the jury.

She countered that this is consequential evidence fundamental to the case that was not allowed in, and that the court erred by failing to allow key facts in about the Nepali proceedings and the complaining witness’s lies about her date of birth – with the threat to reverse her adoption and therefore her right to be in the country.

The evidence got in, but the jury was told they could not weigh the evidence.

Ms. Eskenazi also highlighted the fact that the prosecution fabricated an admission of guilt, which she called a misstatement of facts by Deputy DA Steve Mount during his closing comments, where he argued that he had overheard Mr. Dev admit guilt to his attorney during the preliminary hearing.  She called this speculative at best.

Deputy Attorney General Michael Dolida defended the conviction, with Steve Mount in attendance.  Dolida noted that the jury found Mr. Dev guilty of over 80 crimes, based on his admission (which was disputed) in the pretext phone calls.

He addressed the issue of the failure to admit the Nepali documents as an “authentication issue” that was properly resolved by the judge.  He said that the attorneys for Mr. Dev attempted improper use of judicial notice and that Judge Fall had legitimate questions about the nature of the Nepali proceedings and whether they were civil or criminal.

With respect to the improper closing argument or the Griffin Error (wherein a prosecutor violates a defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights by commenting to the jury on the defendant’s failure to testify), he said that this is not what happened here.  He explained that the defense laid a trap to get the complaining witness to make inconsistent statements, but in so doing they left the door open for the prosecution to question how they would know to ask such a question if the incidents did not occur.

Mr. Dolida laid out the pretext admission as being the fact that Mr. Dev acknowledged (in the disputed portion in the translation of the pretext call) that  he had sex with her when she was an adult, therefore she consented.  Ms. Eskenazi never challenged this  – though she laid it out quite exhaustively in the brief, as one of the justices acknowledged and called it quite thorough and compelling.

Mr. Dolida also raised the issue of why, when the complaining witness had three abortions, she called her father each time rather than her boyfriend.  However, Mr. Dolida misstated the record here (although it was never addressed in court), as she only had one abortion and the family has shown the timeline of the abortion to be at the same time she was sexually active with her boyfriend.

The appellate brief is over 200 pages of argument and, clearly, in the 15 minutes allotted to each side, the justices were not expecting a thorough recounting of the issues.

The Vanguard spoke with Peggy Dev, who told the Vanguard following the hearing that she had never been to oral arguments, so she did not know what to expect.  “My hope is that they deeply look at the case and decide in Ajay’s favor, because he is innocent.”

She told the Vanguard that the last seven years have been very difficult.  “When I think we made it seven years, I’m shocked, it’s been really difficult.  The hardest is to see my children grow up without their dad.  They know him through a phone, they know him through letters behind a glass, but they never get to interact with him.”

She said, “That’s the most difficult part and yet that’s the part that keeps us moving forward at the same time.”

Peggy Dev said that, from her perspective, the fact that the alleged victim accused her of being a witness to a rape in the same bed was the piece of evidence that weighs on her most heavily, and she said, “I know that did not happen.”

From the justices’ perspective, she thinks they will see “that she (the complaining witness) fabricated an admission.”  She added, “I feel all of the ten claims are really strong.”

Ajay’s brother, Sanjay Dev, had to fight back the tears during his interview with theVanguard.  “My stomach was in knots and still is,” he said.  “Right now I feel a little confused as the process goes.”

Mr. Dev said he looked at the judges’ faces to see if he could see reaction, “They were great in holding their stature, not letting anyone know how they were feeling.”  He was not the only one to make that note.  For him, he said, “I was hoping, please God, give me some sign.”

For him, he worried that some issues were missed.  “For instance, the translation issue was a huge issue.”

Sanjay Dev said it was “without a doubt the translation” that convinced him his brother is innocent of these charges.  “The only piece of evidence that they pointed to saying he admitted, and that itself is flawed.”

Patty Pursell, Peggy’s sister, told the Vanguard she believes that the appellate attorney had already focused so heavily on the pretext phone call in her brief, that she was trying to bring in other issues like the Nepali documents “because it talked about motive and motive really didn’t get talked about at the trial.”

She noted that the Deputy AG “had no problem lying to the appellate judge” about the three abortions and Ajay attending them, “because that’s not in the transcripts, that’s not what she testified to.”  She said she hopes the judges pick up on that.

She believes that a strong point that the AG had previously conceded had to do with the lack of authenticated translation from Nepali to English on the admission.

Patty Pursell noted that the percentage of overturning at this level is really low.  “I think we have a really strong case, but it’s probably one to three percent that overturn at this level,” she said.

She said this is a big case, and it’s tough for judges to overturn, “but I hope they do what’s right and they look at the case closely.”

The case, if not overturned, would be sent to the Supreme Court and eventually the Ninth (Federal) District Court of Appeals.  Eventually, they could take it to a habeas corpus hearing to determine whether the prisoner is lawfully incarcerated.  All of this we will find out within 90 days.

 

After Seven Years, Dev Appeal To Be Heard

This is reprinted from the Davis Vanguard (part 1 here and part 2 here)

(From Press Release) – 378 Years Gone in the Blink of an Eye!

That is what hundreds of people are hoping to witness.  For seven years, Advocates for Ajay have marched, demonstrated, petitioned, written letters, given radio and television interviews regarding the wrongful conviction of Ajay Dev who was sentenced to 378 years.  On Wednesday, October 19th, the Third Appellate Court has requested oral arguments in Ajay’s appeal (a very rare request by the judges) and hundreds of supporters will be there to witness this significant event.

The oral arguments are at 9:30am. followed by a march and vigil to be held outside the Third Appellate Court at 11:45-1:00pm.  Appellate Court, 914 Capitol Mall, Sacramento, CA.  We invite you to come and report on this event.

Have you ever come across a case where over 1,000 people are supporting a convicted rapist who has been sentenced to 378 years?  Probably never.

The wrongful conviction of Ajay Dev is a tragedy of catastrophic proportions. A young woman from Nepal chose to make false claims against her adopted father, Ajay Dev, in order to stay in the United States.

The accuser’s testimony was full of inconsistencies. Her doctor and social worker revealed that there was no evidence of rape or other sexual assaults, even though she claims the alleged rapes happened approximately every other day for a period of 5 years (over 750 rapes). The crime of rape usually has no witnesses, but this case is different because she claims that some of these rapes happened while other people were present. Those people unanimously agree that this never happened.

The trial court allowed the accuser to translate a pretext call spoken in Nepali in which she inserted an alleged admission used to convict Ajay, even though an accredited translator disagreed.

Ajay Dev’s appellate lawyer writes in the brief: “In sum, Ajay’s trial was wrought with grievous errors at every stage of the trial – during the presentation of evidence, during closing argument, and during deliberations. That is, at every turn Ajay’s trial was severely compromised.” denying him of his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to a fundamentally fair trial.


The following is Vanguard Analysis of Ajay Dev’s Appeal, Part I from March 2013:

Three years after the conviction of Ajay Dev for the multiple counts of rape of his adoptive daughter and his sentence of 378 years to state prison, he and his attorney have filed their appeal.

Their appeal attacks both the facts of the case as well as the legal rulings used by Yolo County Judge Timothy Fall that the defense claims denied Ajay Dev of his right to a fair trial.  This includes most notably the inclusion of the alleged victim’s interpretation of a 50-minute pretext call that meandered between English and Nepalese, the judge’s failure to properly instruct the jury on the law, and the judge’s refusal to allow potentially exculpatory evidence.

What follows is a three-part series.  The first part, today’s article, covers the defense’s account of the facts of the case, including critical areas that the court got wrong in the original 2009 trial.  The second part, later this week, will cover the defense’s legal arguments.  And the third part will analyze the case in full.

In the opening salvo, the defense argues that it was a series of events stemming from the Devs’ lack of approval of the adoptive daughter’s sexually active lifestyle and a false date of birth on immigration and adoption forms that ultimately led  the alleged victim in this case to file false rape allegations against Mr. Dev – the day after he interceded, leading to the break-up between the alleged victim (referred to henceforth as AV) and her boyfriend.

The appellate attorney writes:  “At trial, neither AV nor the prosecution were able to explain how AV only got pregnant or had pregnancy scares within a narrow window of time which perfectly coincided with her dating and having sex with older boys behind” the parents’ back.  “Similarly, neither AV nor the prosecution could explain why, given AV’s allegation that Ajay [Dev] raped her approximately 300 to 340 times from ages 15 to 18, AV never got pregnant nor had any pregnancy scares.”

The appeal argues, “The facts highly suggest that AV’s allegations were false.  Had Ajay [Dev] been given a fair trial, these facts would have clearly come to light.   Since he was not given a fair trial, reversal and a new trial are required.”

THE FACTS IN DISPUTE

In the appeal, the defense represents a long interplay where we see mounting tensions between AV and the Devs over her lifestyle and cultural expectations.  In an email, Mrs. Dev wrote to her family back in Nepal: “Ajay and I expect [AV] to follow our rules of not dating or having sex before marriage..”  Moreover, AV violated Nepali cultural expectations, as AV herself noted at trial “in our culture kids don’t get out of the house, especially girls, until they get married.”

Tensions led at that time to allegations of physical abuse by the Devs toward AV, and she accused them of slapping her and being unable to control themselves physically during periods of anger.

This confrontation, building for some time apparently, came to a head on January 31, 2004, as Mr. Dev emailed AV’s current boyfriend and “told him that he must respect the family’s cultural values if he wants to be involved with [AV] romantically.”

The following day, the boyfriend told AV “that he broke up with her because of” Mr. Dev’s email and AV was outraged.

A day after the break up, AV went to the police and, for the first time, accused Mr. Dev of rape.

THE PRETEXT CALL

Of all the issues facing the appeal, one of the most central is that of the pretext call.  Two jurors claim that the phone call was central to their guilt verdict.

Two jurors posted information on a website in response to the article.  One said, “Yes, her testimony was difficult to swallow. If for her testimony alone, he would be a free man. The phone call is what put him where he is now. I am confident that we made the correct decision.”

Another said, “In the pretext call, Ajay admitted to having sex with the victim after she was 18. The exact quote is ‘You f***ed me after age 18, that means you gave consent.’ The entire defense was that no sexual relationship occurred and that it was a story made up by the victim. With his admission, that defense was completely disregarded.”

The family has always disagreed with this interpretation.   According to the family, the phone conversation, recorded on behest of Davis Police Detective Mark Hermann, was partially in English and partially in Nepalese. They believe that that phone conversation was misinterpreted.

According to the family,  “The DA’s interpretation of what Ajay was saying to the accuser… was totally and completely false. Any misunderstanding is due to language and cultural issues which are often times lost in the translation process. Ajay was trying to explain to the accuser how our legal system works demonstrating that if a statement like this was made it could possibly ruin both her life and his. He was NOT admitting to rape.”

The family contends that the phone conversation lasted 50 minutes, during which the defendant denies the charges at least 27  times.

The Vanguard has never been able to have the recording independently evaluated.  However, the appellate brief provides the most detailed information to date.

The appeal argues that on the evening of February 4, 2004, AV supervised by Davis Police Detective Mark Hermann initiated “the pretext upon which they hoped to obtain a recorded admission from Ajay [Dev] corroborating [AV’s] that Ajay had raped her two to three times a week for five years from ages 15 to 20 years of age.”

“No such admission was obtained,” the appellate attorney writes.

According to the brief: “‘The Pretext for the call, devised by Detective Hermann, involved a lie that [AV] went to her school counselor and admitted she had three abortions, but refused to tell the school counselor who the father was.  [AV] intimated that  Ajay was the father and hesitantly told Ajay, “l did not really tell her anything about us should I tell her, about you and me daddy?”

Apparently, Mr. Dev did not know what to think of these new allegation and believed AV “was attempting to frame him because she was so enraged about the break up…”

What would follow is roughly thirty minutes of back and forth.  AV’s “accusations became more direct: ‘You had sex with me, ever since I was 15.’ “

Mr. Dev would repeatedly deny these allegation responding, “[AV] it’s wrongly accused.”  She responded, “How is that wrongly accused?  Didn’t you do that to me, when..”  He responded, “I did not.”

“Are you lying?” she asked.  “No, I am telling the truth.”

It is a strange conversation.

Writes the attorney: “Throughout the call, Ajay implored [AV] not to frame him out of revenge…”  At approximately 30 minutes into the call, “Ajay’s parents, who could overhear Ajay’s side of the call, told Ajay to speak Nepali…  They did not trust [AV] and feared she was trying to frame him.”

The critical moment comes when she asked, “How is my life re… ruining daddy?”  To which he angrily responded that her life could be ruined “because you have fucked me after 18 years of your age.”  AV replied, equally indignant, “Ok so?”  After a long pause, Mr. Dev stated, “That means you have given me consent,” which AV denied.

Writes the defense: “The prosecution and defense disputed the meaning of this highly ambiguous exchange at trial.”

They continued, “What was not in dispute however was [AV’s] comment made seconds later:  that she was angry at Ajay because he would not admit that any of her allegations were true.”

Mr. Dev: “Talk softly, why are you talking so angrily?”

AV: “Because I want you to talk to me. I want you to say it.”

The defense is arguing here that if he had just admitted to having sex with her earlier in the phone call, what need does she have to continue to attempt to convince him to admit to having sex later in the conversation.

They point to an ambiguous statement where AV alleges that Ajay purportedly said, “But you had sex with me when you were 18.”

At trial, “The defense expert who translated the pretext call testified that Ajay’s statement was inaudible, but was able to decisively rule out [AV’s] translation because, although mostly inaudible, the expert could unmistakably hear the first syllable of the word in dispute which was incompatible with any Nepali word connoting ‘sex.’ “

The defense notes AV’s frustration as she continues to push him, “Why don’t you admit?”

Mr. Dev would push back, arguing that “her allegation would eventually be disproved by medical records which would surely expose the real person who impregnated her.”

Mr. Dev would argue, “You had abortion when you were 18 years old and they have the record.  When they have the record, they will understand with which boy did you go with to give name.”

AV would only respond that “the boy’s name is not there” – she did not dispute that she had been impregnated by the boyfriend.

NEPALI  LEGAL TROUBLE AS MOTIVATION TO PRESS CHARGES

Following this call, the Devs would hire legal counsel and, at the behest of counsel, they initiated their own investigation of AV’s life in Nepal.

In May of 2004, AV wrote a letter to the DA requesting that the police “withdraw the case against” Ajay Dev.  A month later, AV was arrested in Nepal attending her sister’s wedding on charges that she had lied about her date of birth on her 1998 passport.  She would be charged with passport fraud and jailed for 19 days.

Writes the defense, “Without her passport [AV] would have no way of re-entering the United States and, as a result, risked losing her legal residency status and her path to American citizenship.”

In June 2005, AV was convicted of passport fraud in Nepal and she would not be allowed to re-enter the United States without a waiver of police certificate.”  In October, at the behest of Detective Hermann, “The U S. Embassy in Nepal issued a waiver of police certificate allowing [AV] to re-enter the country.”

The Embassy did so because [AV] planned to testify in the Ajay Dev criminal case.

ALLEGED RAPES

During the trial of Ajay Dev, AV testified that Mr. Dev raped her two to three times a week for five years from the age of 15 to 20.  She testified that he first inappropriately touched her in early February 1999, within weeks of her arrival.

AV testified that Mr. Dev laid down behind her while she was on the couch, pressed his pelvis into her backside, touched her breasts over her clothes.  After a few minutes, she got up and walked away.  Mr. Dev allegedly instructed her not to tell anyone.

A month later, Mr. Dev carried her to his bedroom, and attempted to undress her as she tried to escape.  She said he held her down, undressed her, and proceeded to have intercourse with her.

From this point on, she testified that Mr. Dev raped her “without fail, two to three times a week for five years.”

She testified that for the first six months, he raped her only when his wife was out of the house, but thereafter he would rape her while his wife was asleep.

AV alleged that Mr. Dev forced her to watch a pornographic video, “Eighteen and Confused.”  She claimed it was shown on Mr. Dev’s laptop but there were serious discrepancies with the story.

She claimed she was shown it when she was 15 in 1999, but evidence at trial showed the video did not exist until January 2000 and the laptop was not purchased until November 2001.

During trial, AV estimated Mr. Dev forced her to have oral sex about three times a month or 30 to 50 times over the course of three years.  She testified, “All I remember is resisting him and feeling disgusted.”

However, when she spoke with Detective Hermann in February 2004, she adamantly denied that Mr. Dev ever forced her to perform oral sex on him.  She explained during the videotaped interview, “[b]cecause I just thought it was disgusting to do – put his thing in.  I never – I mean, it’s disgusting to put that thing in my mouth… I wouldn’t do it.”

The defense notes, “Officer Briesenick testified that when [AV] reported the charges against Ajay on February 2, 2004, she never included any allegation relating to oral copulation.”

AV would testify that a number of rapes and assaults occurred outside of the Dev home and in the homes of relatives including one where she testified that she slept on the living room floor with her cousins and was raped while they were in the same room.

She also testified that she was raped on the floor at a relative’s home near Monterey as Mrs. Dev slept in the bed adjacent to them.

In both incidents, AV “could not remember other details of the incident.”

The defense notes, “At the preliminary hearing, [AV] testified that no rapes ever occurred when she was sleeping in the same bed as Peggy [Dev].”  However, “At trial… [AV] testified that Ajay was able to rape her in the same bed as Peggy on two occasions without waking up Peggy…”

The defense notes that AV told Detective Hermann that the rapes stopped once she moved out.  However, during the trial she testified that Mr. Dev raped her at Motel 6 after she moved out of the Dev home.

The defense writes, “Specifically, she testified that Ajay picked her up at her apartment, and although she thought they were going to the park, he took her to the motel.  [AV] testified that she voluntarily followed Ajay into the motel room as she believed they would just talk.”

The defense continues, “Despite having been raped 500 to 700 times, [AV] stated she gave Ajay the ‘benefit of the doubt.’ “

The defense adds, “[AV] testified she had nightmares about this experience and, it was so traumatic, she would never forget it.”  They note, “Although the rape occurred January 12, 2004, [AV] admitted she did not initially tell the reporting officer, Officer Breisnick, about this rape on February 2, 2004 or Detective Hermann February 3, 2004 because she didn’t remember it.”

The defense notes that the prosecution attempted to explain delays in reporting a number of the rapes along with her inconsistencies through expert testimony from Dr. Anthony Urqiza.  Dr. Urquiza argued that children suffering from Child Sex Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS) “may experience entrapment, accommodation and delayed and unconvincing disclosure.”

However, the defense’s expert countered that, noting that CSAAS is not recognized by the AMA or psychological or psychiatric associations and that research has undermined its legitimacy.

PREGNANCIES

AV testified during trial that Mr. Dev impregnated her three times as the result of the 500 to 700 times he raped her during the five-year period.  The defense argues that these pregnancies occurred during an 11-month window when AV was between 18 and 19 years of age.  She insisted during trial that the pregnancies could have only occurred due to Mr. Dev since she was not having sex with anyone else.

However, this contention was directly contradicted by one of her boyfriends who testified that they were having sex at least once a week at his mother’s home during the fall of 2003.  “The defense argues, “The evidence also showed that [AV] was dating ‘Sid’ during her first two pregnancies, from November 2002 through May 2003, and dating ‘Araz’ during the third pregnancy scare in November 2003.”

The defense notes, “[AV] offered no explanation as to why she only got pregnant during times in which she was dating older males [that] Ajay and Peggy forbade her to see or why she never got pregnant from ages 15 to 17 even though she was fertile and claimed that Ajay rarely wore condoms during these alleged rapes.”

The following is Vanguard Analysis of Ajay Dev’s Appeal, Part II from March 2013:

Three years after the conviction of Ajay Dev for the multiple counts of rape of his adoptive daughter and his sentence of 378 years to state prison, he and his attorney have filed their appeal.

Their appeal attacks both the facts of the case as well as the legal rulings used by Yolo County Judge Timothy Fall that the defense claims denied Ajay Dev of his right to a fair trial.  This includes, most notably, the inclusion of the alleged victim’s interpretation of a 50-minute pretext call that meandered between English and Nepali, the judge’s failure to properly instruct the jury on the law, and the judge’s refusal to allow potentially exculpatory evidence.

This is the second of a three-part series.  The first part, Sunday’s article, covers the defense’s account of the facts of the case, including critical areas that the defense says the court got wrong in the original 2009 trial.  This second part will cover the defense’s legal arguments.  And the third part will analyze the case in full.

In their legal arguments for the appeal, Mr. Dev’s legal team alleges that he was “denied due process and a fair trial by the trial court’s failure to instruct, sua sponte, on corpus delecti.”

The defense argues that the prosecution relied on three pieces of evidence to convict Mr. Dev: the pretext call, the victim’s allegations, and pornographic evidence “which was used to support the intent elements of the sex-related crimes and two separately charged pornography charges.”

The defense notes that the pretext call involved a one-hour conversation between AV (the alleged victim) and Ajay, spoken in both English and Nepali.  While Ajay explicitly denied having sex and/or raping AV on this recorded call, there were two highly disputed statements in the call, spoken in Nepali, which the prosecution argued were admissions of sex with AV after she reached the age of 18 and, in closing, “relied on these statements in an attempt to persuade the jury that these ‘admissions’ somehow retroactively applied to ages 15 through 18 as well.”

“In contrast, the defense translator gave expert testimony that the statements were not necessarily admissions of sex,” they write.  Mr. Dev’s statements made during the pretext call “were admitted as non-hearsay pursuant to Evidence Code section 1220.”

However, the defense argues, “The trial court, however, failed to instruct the jury pursuant to CALCRIM No. 359.”  This jury instruction says that the jury may only rely upon out-of-court statements by the defendant if there is also other evidence showing the crime was committed.  As a consequence, they argue, “the jury was improperly permitted to rely solely on the pretext claim to convict” Mr. Dev.

The defense here notes, “The prosecution cannot satisfy” the burden of proving “the body of the crime itself” by relying exclusively upon the extrajudicial statements, confessions, or admissions of the defendant.”

The defense continues, “It is also reasonably probable that the jury solely relied on the pretext call evidence because the other evidence, primarily [AV’s] testimony and the pornographic evidence, were extremely weak and wrought with inconsistencies.”

Two jurors posted information on a website in response to the article.  One said, “Yes, her testimony was difficult to swallow. If [not] for her testimony alone, he would be a free man. The phone call is what put him where he is now. I am confident that we made the correct decision.”

Another said, “In the pretext call, Ajay admitted to having sex with the victim after she was 18. The exact quote is ‘You f$#*ed me after age 18, that means you gave consent.’ The entire defense was that no sexual relationship occurred and that it was a story made up by the victim. With his admission, that defense was completely disregarded.”

The defense notes that “the prosecution found the pretext call so significant it devoted most of its closing argument to Ajay’s out of court statements made during the pretext call” and the prosecution argued that deliberations “needed to start with the pretext call … you start with what he admits to, you start with the threats and the discussion.”

The defense argues, “The evidence presented against Ajay was nowhere near overwhelming.  Rather, taken as a whole, the evidence was equally consistent with his innocence.”

The defense notes, for example, that a victim of serial rape would not develop sincere feelings of familial love, if her abuser started raping her two weeks into the relationship.

LOVE

The defense establishes evidence presented at trial showing AV in a happy home living with the Devs.  They note the prosecution conceded this love in their closing argument, but the defense argues that the loving father-daughter bond that naturally develops starts at birth or early childhood and they argue, “It  seems almost impossible to develop where, as here, the father and daughter relationship did not start until the daughter was 15 years old and, two weeks into the relationship, the father allegedly started molesting and raping his daughter two to three times a week for five years.”

The defense argues, “Therefore, since the evidence indisputably shows how much [AV] sincerely loved Ajay and Peggy, it seems less likely that her allegations could be true.”

PROFESSIONAL SCRUTINY

The defense establishes that the relationship of the Devs with AV was scrutinized by numerous professionals, starting with the Adoption Support Unit of the Department of Social Services (DSS) which instituted a 1999 home-study of the Dev home along with “required psychological and medical examinations of AV to determine whether AV suffered abuse or neglect.”

Writes the defense, “Based on these thorough examinations completed prior to the adoption, the Department determined there was no evidence of abuse and the Devs were suitable parents.”

They add, “Unlike other rape cases, the relationship between Ajay and AV, the alleged perpetrator and victim in this case, was scrutinized for potential sexual abuse by professionals specifically trained to identify this very type of misconduct.”

The defense notes, “Both the defense and prosecution experts… testified at trial that persons who have experienced trauma, such as being raped two to three times a week for five years, would most likely exhibit treatable symptoms.”

“Therefore the lack of evidence indicating any kind of abuse… supports the defense theory of the case that AV’s allegations were false.”

INCONSISTENCIES IN AV’s ACCOUNTS

The defense goes through the evidence on a number of the specific allegations showing them to be questionable and arguing that the AV’s “underlying truthfulness was highly questionable further supporting the defense theory that her allegations were, in fact, false.”

A prime example of this was her testimony that Mr. Dev forced her to watch the pornographic video on his computer when she was 15 years of age.

She testified that “it was particularly traumatic because he forced her to perform oral sex on him while watching the video which she had never done before and found incredibly disgusting.”

However, as previously noted, the defense produced evidence that demonstrated that the movie was not produced at the time that she alleged the incident to occur.  There were a number of timeline problems here, as she alleged the attack to occur in one home when, in fact, the timing was such that it would have had to have occurred in another.

Moreover, the laptop was not purchased until November 2001, two years after the alleged incident occurred, when the victim was 17, not 15.  Furthermore, the evidence from a forensic evaluation of the Dev computer shows that the video in question, as well as other porn videos, did not appear on their computer until 2003, when AV was an adult.

Here the defense relies on testimony from the two experts that “a rape victim would remember ‘core details’ of a ‘marker’ event, such as the first time an abuser forced her to watch pornography and perform oral sex, and would report the details of such events consistently.”

The defense argues, “Concrete evidence established that [AV’s] memory of the core details of this traumatic event were both incorrect and/or inconsistent.”

The defense argues that AV “claimed that Ajay was showing her pornography from age 15 through age 19.  However, the forensic evidence showed that the pornography had been downloaded onto the Dev computers and was viewed between April 2003 and November 2003.”

This period of time coincides with the period where the Devs suspected AV was having sexual relations behind their backs.

PRETEXT CALL TRIAL DISPUTE

The defense further alleges that the trial court erred by allowing the victim herself to translate the pretext call as her own expert. They argue this resulted in a violation of Mr. Dev’s “due process rights as the victim attributed admissions to appellant in direct conflict with the defense expert’s translation.”

Following the conversation between Mr. Dev and AV, the FBI was sent a copy of the tape to translate the conversation which was held in both English and Nepali.

“On March 20, 2009, the defense filed a motion opposing the translation arguing that it was inaccurate, based on opinions and speculation, and was not a literal translation of the recording,” the defense wrote, noting that the defense had attached an independent translation to demonstrate inaccuracies in the FBI translation.

During a pre-trial hearing, the attorneys advised the court that they were close to a stipulation regarding the discrepancies in the translations.  However, writes the defense, “At the start of the trial, the parties’ attorneys advised the court that, while they had come to agreement with most of the translation, there remained one disputed phrase.”

Both sides requested that the trial court appoint a court-certified Nepali interpreter.  Judge Fall told counsel, “We may be able to get somebody in.  I don’t know.”  However, the next day, Judge Fall reported that one translator was reluctant to be called into court to translate a document as opposed to interpreting oral testimony from one language to another.

The defense notes, “Without concrete resolution of the translation issue, the trial continued.”

Outside the presence of the jury, the trial court then asked both counsel whether “the transcript issue is straightened out enough to where we can go forward with this part of it?”

The defense would object to the use of the translation which now contained AV’s corrections, calling it “inaccurate.”

Judge Fall overruled the defense’s request: “I’ve never had a completely accurate transcript ever on – anytime I’ve had a transcript used.  I will admonish the jury appropriately as I always do… but I’m going to let [the prosecution] go ahead and use the transcript.”

The defense argues that, given the discrepancies, Judge Fall ruled that the jury would get a copy of both translations, but when the pretext call was played during the trial, the jury was only given the prosecution’s version.

“A trial refusal to appoint a certified interpreter pursuant to Evidence Code section 752 and its alternative decision to allow a biased uncertified interpreter testify, resulting in the admission of a transcript submitted to the jury during trial and deliberation… is reviewed for abuse of discretion.”

Evidence Code section 752 states, “When a witness is incapable of understanding the English language or is incapable of expressing himself or herself in the English language so as to be understood directly by counsel, court, and jury, an interpreter whom the witness can understand and who can understand the witness shall be sworn to interpret for the witness.”

The defense argues that, while Mr. Dev could understand the statements made in Nepali, they were “incapable of being understood by counsel, court, and jury without expert interpretation.”

In fact, the defense notes California law that clearly provides that “where there is uncontradicted evidence that the witness does not speak or understand English, it would be an abuse of discretion to fail to appoint an interpreter.”  The defense adds that in this case, the recorded statement spoken in a language other than English, introduced at trial, and the failure to appoint an interpreter is also an abuse of discretion.

Furthermore, the defense argues, “The trial court abused its discretion by permitting [AV], a highly biased interpreter, to translate the portions of the pretext call spoke in Nepali.”

The defense notes that Judge Fall  went so far as to advise the jury that AV qualified as an expert translator, justifying it with: “She.. speaks English and Nepali.  She says that – and can tell you what was on there, and apparently she reviewed it, and this is part of her testimony now that this is what she heard, and it’s accurate under her understanding of the two languages as far as the translation goes, so that’s the state of the evidence we are now.”

The defense cites case law that suggests that, while the court can appoint “an uncertified interpreter at its discretion when a certified interpreter cannot be located, it cannot appoint a biased interpreter.”

They cite California Rules of Court, rule 2.890(c), “An interpreter must be impartial and unbiased and must refrain from conduct that may give an appearance of bias.”  They note that there is no doubt in this case that AV was a biased interpreter.

The defense adds that this error was highly prejudicial as “the most significant disagreement” between the defense and prosecution, was “whether Ajay admitted having sex with [AV] when she was 18 years old.”

Thus, AV interpreted the disputed sentence as, “But you had sex with me when you were 18,” but the defense contests that this “was an impossible translation,” and the defense translator explained how the beginning sounds of what he heard are not the beginning sounds of any sexual word in Nepali.

The defense translator argues, “It was very difficult to hear this portion of the audiotape because there was a gap in the tape… Therefore, for all intents and purposes the word was unintelligible.”

The defense further notes that jury instruction CALCRIM No. 358 misstated the law by advising the jury to view ambiguous statements made by the defendant on a recorded pretext call without caution.

“This is an incorrect statement of the law,” the defense argues.  “Only unambiguous or undisputed recorded statements should be viewed without caution.”

CALCRIM jury instruction 358 states, “Consider with caution any statement made by the defendant tending to show his/her guilt unless the statement was written or otherwise recorded.”

The defense argues, “This is an overbroad statement of the law.  The exemption for writings and recordings is not a blanket exemption.”  Rather, the defense argues, citing case law, such statements “may not have to be viewed with caution if they are unequivocal or undisputed reproductions of a defendant’s out of court statements.”

The defense adds, “Writings and recordings can only justify the elimination of the cautionary requirement where they embody faithful reproduction of  a defendant’s out of court statement.”

The defense argues that, in this case, there is a legitimate dispute as to what the defendant said and, therefore, the cautionary language of the jury instruction “misstates the law by allowing jurors to abandon caution in any and all cases where a defendant’s statement is written or recorded.”

EXCLUSION OF AV’s 2005 RECORD OF CONVICTION

Defense writes, “In an effort to present a defense to the charges alleged against Ajay and explain why AV would falsely accuse him of rape, trial counsel attempted, on numerous occasions, to admit evidence of a 2005 conviction against AV from Nepal for using a false date of birth to obtain her 1998 passport.”

The defense argues here that this conviction is critical to Mr. Dev’s defense because it showed not only AV’s propensity to lie, but it showed that she knew the Devs could reverse her adoption, which would result in her deportation to Nepal.

AV had a legitimate fear that the Devs could disinherit her, thus reversing her adoption.  The defense argues this fear came to a head the day before she went to the police after she severed ties with the Devs over a heated argument about the break-up with her boyfriend.

Defense argues that the exclusion of the Nepali documents constitutes an abuse of discretion.  The conviction affirms that AV was convicted of obtaining a passport with a false date of birth.

On March 20, 2009, before trial, the defense filed two motions to have the Nepali documents admitted as evidence.  The first motion called for the trial court to take judicial notice of the two documents.  The second requested that the court admit all of the Nepali documents for the jury’s consideration.

The prosecution never filed a formal motion in opposition to the admission of the documents, but nevertheless argued that the defense failed to properly authenticate the Nepali documents because there lacked attestation that the documents were the true and correct copy of the original Nepali court documents.

“Despite the defense rebuttal argument,” the defense writes, “the trial court denied the motions finding the defense failed to properly authenticate the documents because no declaration, stamp, or seal rendered the word ‘correct’ copy as part of its certification.”

Moreover, the trial court added the denial on the basis that it was “inappropriate to allow the defense to use the fact” that the victim had “lied about her birth to support its case-in-chief as opposed to simply impeaching her with a crime of moral turpitude.”

Here the defense cites Evidence Code section 452.5(b), “An official record of conviction certified in accordance with subdivision (a) of Section 1530 is admissible pursuant to Section 1280 to prove the commission, attempted commission, or solicitation of a criminal offense, prior conviction, service of a prison term, or other act, condition, or event recorded by the record.”

The defense argues here that Judge Fall abused his discretion by determining that Mr. Dev’s defense failed to provide a proper “chain of certification” pursuant to Evidence Code section 1530(a)(3).

They present a long argument based on the Evidence Code and case law on this point, and conclude that the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to take judicial notice of AV’s entire record of conviction.

“With proper authentication under Evidence Code section 1530, the trial court should have taken judicial notice of the verdict… and the appellate decision… under Evidence Code section 452.5.”

“The trial court also refused to take judicial notice of the Nepali record of conviction because it found there was no evidence the Nepali judgment resulted from a criminal versus civil proceeding,” they write.  “The Nepali court documents however, make it very clear that the verdict came from a criminal proceeding.”

The defense argues that this failure prejudiced Mr. Dev and thus warrants reversal under both state and federal standards of prejudice.

COURT ERRED IN ADMITTING EVIDENCE OF ADULT PORN

The defense argued that the evidence of adult pornography to prove Mr. Dev was attracted to minors was completely irrelevant evidence that inflamed and confused the jury, and thereby caused reversible error.

In addition to three videos that AV claimed Mr. Dev showed her, forensic experts found a plethora of pornography on the Dev home computer.  The prosecution, during pre-trial arguments, argued that the pornography, including the adult pornography, “was relevant to prove ‘intent to touch a minor.’”

The court would admit the three videos AV claimed Mr. Dev showed her as a minor, and further “ruled that the remaining pornography, including adult pornography, would be admitted by title, description, and date.”

“With the exception of the ’18 & Confused’ movie,” the defense argues, “the adult pornography should have been excluded from trial because it had no bearing on whether Ajay was sexually attracted to minors.”

The defense goes on to argue that “even if the adult pornography could be attributed to Ajay, which is unclear from the evidence, it should have been excluded from the trial because it lacked a meaningful nexus to the crimes charged, as required by the California Supreme Court and United States Supreme Court.”

In fact, there is evidence offered by a defense expert that most of what the prosecution was calling porn, “were most likely the product of a ‘porn storm’ wherein unwanted and unsolicited porn advertising ‘pops-up’ appear on the computer without prompting from the user.”

The expert further argues that much of it came from a virus called “QcBar” which creates unwanted pop-up images related to pornography and that “there was no evidence that a user ever clicked on the icon images… to download them on Ajay’s laptop computer.”

“Many of the adult pornography movie titles did not accurately describe the content of the pornography,” the defense adds.  “Consequently, Detective Hermann was permitted to submit a list to the jury describing the content of the adult pornography in detail.  He was also permitted to testify on the content of the pornography where the defense disputed his written summaries.”

In general, the defense argues, “Character evidence like possession of legal pornography, is inadmissible against a defendant when ‘offered to prove his or her conduct on a specified occasion.’”

The defense adds that the adult pornography found on Mr. Dev’s computers, even if attributable to him, had no bearing on the charges and therefore should have been excluded as irrelevant evidence.

The probative value of the evidence is substantially, they argue, outweighed by its prejudice.

The defense adds that the failure of Judge Fall to give a limiting instruction on the relevance of the adult pornography is further evidence of the prejudicial effect.

However, Judge Fall declined to do so, arguing, “There could be limiting instructions, if necessary, about the use of the pornography evidence for particular charges. Typically the attorney who is opposing the evidence argues that limiting instructions don’t work.  I’ve heard that from prosecutors and I’ve heard that from the defense side as well.  But the Courts of Appeal tell us they do work and that they’re appropriate to give.”

The defense never objected to such an instruction, and the defense argues, “Without any limiting instruction, the jury was permitted to draw whatever inference it wanted with regard to Ajay’s guilt.”

The defense further demonstrates that evidence showed that this pornography was viewed while Ajay was at work, therefore he could not have been the one to have shown the AV the pornography.

The bottom line for the defense, here, is that while Mr. Dev was acquitted on the pornography charges, allowing the evidence into the court had a prejudicial effect on the jury.

Later this week, we will have an analysis/commentary on the appeal.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Letter: Ajay Dev Appeal

Ajay Dev Appeal

In the past few years, cases such as Brendan Dassey (Making a Murderer) and Adnan Syed (Serial) have gone from the courtroom to become pop culture phenomena with millions of Americans Monday morning quarterbacking every turn of their trial. Our first inclination is often to say that these are the extreme outliers. That 99% of the time our justice system gets it right. The sad truth, however, is for every Brendan Dassey or Adnan Syed there are dozens of people wrongfully convicted of crimes whose stories will never see the spotlight.

I learned of Ajay Dev and his rape conviction years before I would meet him or his family. The crime seemed horrendous. However, after reading about the gross inconsistencies in the investigation and trial, mostly through www.advocatesforajay.com and the Davis Vanguard, I began to believe that Ajay was innocent and a victim of a terrible miscarriage of justice.

I have since spent time not only with Ajay in prison, but also with his family members, and have been convinced 100% of his innocence. I have seen first hand the impact it has had among Ajay’s friends and family, as well as the Nepali-American community in California. They have done an amazing job at creating a grassroots awareness of Ajay’s case over the years and building support for an appeal.

With Ajay’s oral arguments for appeal scheduled for October 19, I hope and pray that his original verdict is reversed and he will finally be set free. Ajay’s case will never get the national attention of Dassey or Syed, but as a community we must demand that justice be carried out and an innocent man freed. Ajay is a proud family man. He is generous and kind. The scariest thing about his wrongful conviction is that if this could happen to him, it could very well happen to any of us.

This letter was originally published by The Davis Vanguard Court Watch

By Tom Williams

Attorney-Client Calls Recorded

Securus Technologies, a major contractor for prison phone calls has been recording over 70 million calls in 37 states including privileged attorney-client phone calls. This may violate prisoner's constitutional rights. 

 

Click here to read more from The Intercept.

Demilitarizing the Police

Police departments will finally look less like the military. The Department of Defense has finally notified police departments to give back military issued weapons and equipment implementing Executive Order 13688, which President Obama signed last January. 

 

Click here to read more.

False Sexual Allegations Filed Against 68 Year Old Woman

The Oregonian tells the story of how a chance encounter in a public restroom turned into a nightmare of false sexual abuse allegations against a 68 year old grandmother. 

Click here to read her story inThe Oregonian.

The Crime Of Being Poor

The Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the small Louisiana town of Ville Platte. The DOJ is looking into whether poor residents are being improperly jailed without cause as a way to financially benefit the city.

Click here to read the story in Frontline.

SF Officers Sent Racist Texts

San Francisco Police Chief, Greg Suhr said he is considering firing a captain, a sergeant and six officers for sending or receiving racist and homophobic text messages. According to Chief Suhr, “There were eight standing officers who engaged in such repulsive conversations via text messages. I have suspended them and they have been referred to the Police Commission with a recommendation of only termination — as it should be. Their conduct is incompatible with that of a police officer.” 

Click here to read more.

Public Defender Arrested For Doing Job

San Francisco public attorney Jami Tillotson, was handcuffed and arrested in front of the Hall of Justice when she explained to her client his rights, denied police officers’ attempts to take photos of her client without explanation and raised questions about police intimidation and harassment. 

Click here to read more

NY Police Reforms

The New York police commissioner, William Bratton has come out in opposition to criminalizing police chokeholds. A bill, sponsored by Council Member Rory Lancman (D-Queens), would make the use of chokeholds a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to a year in prison, a $2,500 fine, or both. Currently, chokeholds are only banned under NYPD guidelines. The bill would apply to all New Yorkers. 

To read more about the suggested reforms click here.

 

 

Hope For Legal Reform

President Obama thinks it may be time for sentencing reform. According to a top White House official, "It is on my list of things that are in the sphere of the possible. We are going to work hard at it ... Putting a bipartisan imprint on sentencing reform would be a big achievement." 

 
Click here to read The Huffington Post article.

Privatizing Prison Money Transfers

Before privatization, it used to cost less than $2 to send a money order to someone incarcerated: A $1.25 processing fee from the post office and the cost of a stamp. So if you wished to send $50 it would cost you just under $52. A private company named JPay began administering deposits for inmates of the Virginia Department of Corrections, as well as other state prisons. Now, depending on what state you live in, it can cost a family member up to $72 to send that same $50 ($22 in processing fees and $50 to the inmate).

Click here for The Center for Public Integrity article.

CA Prisons Expect To Show A Profit

The CA Prison Industry Authority expects its revenues to increase by 15.6% for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. The Prison Industry Authority uses prisoners to make items such as; furniture, pre-packaged meals, fire protection gear and modular buildings. Over 6,700 prisoners earning very little wages participate in their program. 

Click here to read the article.

CA Death Penalty Unconstitutional

Federal Judge Cormac J. Carney found the State of California's death penalty system is unconstitutional. The ruling states that the California death penalty system is in violation of the Constitution's 8th Amendment. The 8th Amendment prohibits the government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines or cruel and unusual punishments including torture.

 

For more on the story click here.

 

Police Militarization

NPR reports on a story from an ACLU investigation about the militarization of police departments. SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams were initially formed to aid police with high risk situations that fell outside regular police department capabilities. They were used for rare situations like hostage rescues, dealing with heavily armed criminal and/or entering barricaded buildings. Today, SWAT teams are used to combat even minor crimes on a daily basis.

Click here to read the article.

The Felony Murder Rule

Only in America could Ryan Holle serve a life sentence with no possibility of parole for loaning his car to a friend. Ryan, who had no prior record,  was convicted of pre-meditated murder because, before going to sleep for the night, he loaned a friend his car. While Ryan was sleeping his friend committed robbery involving murder. Everyone including the prosecutor agrees that Ryan was asleep in his bed at home at the time of the crime.

This could only happen in America because we are the only country that has a Felony Murder Rule. This rule states that if anyone has anything to do with a felony in which a murder takes place, such as a robbery, that person is as guilty as the person who has committed the murder. Every other country has gotten rid of the felony murder rule because of  unintended consequences.

Read the full story here.

Stuck In Jail

In county jails, 6 out of 10 inmates are stuck behind bars not because of any risk to the outside community or the likelihood they would fail to appear in court, but because they were unable to afford their bail bond.  

Click here to read the article.

Triple the Time For Court Trials

A new Human Rights Watch study of federal prosecutions and sentences has found a disturbing trend that Americans fighting drug charges in federal courts are given three times as long a sentence when compared to people accepting guilty pleas. 

Click here to read more.

Prosecutor Serves Jail Time

A former prosecutor and current judge in Texas will be the first to serve jail time for prosecutorial misconduct. Ken Anderson pled guilty to criminal contempt for intentionally failing to disclose evidence that could have cleared the defendant, Michael Morton in a case that sent Morton to prison for murder instead. Ken Anderson will have to spend 10 days in jail, surrender his law license and perform 500 hours of community service for his misconduct while Michael Morton served 25 years for a crime he did not commit.

Click here to read the story.

Prison Profiteers

An article written by Liliana Segura explains how corporations profit from both the prison system and those incarcerated in it. From telephone companies charging over $1 per minute for phone calls, the refusal to give treatment and/or medication from healthcare companies and the billion dollar profits from corporations that run privatized prisons. You can watch the new video series, a collaboration between Beyond Bars, A Brave New Films project, and the ACLU, called "Prison Profiteers" by visiting the website: thenation.com/prison-profiteers

 

Click here to read the full article.