The Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled unanimously Friday that Orange County prosecutors withheld evidence from defense lawyers and misused a jailhouse informant to win a conviction against Henry Rodriguez, who in 2000 was sentenced to life in prison for dumping the body of a Fullerton woman and her unborn daughter in the Long Beach Harbor.
The ruling will prompt a third trial for Rodriguez, county prosecutors said Friday. He has been convicted twice previously, but both cases were overturned on appeal.
The ruling Friday also upholds a 2016 decision that shed light on the organized use of jailhouse informants by local prosecutors and the Orange County Sheriff’s Dept. It comes about a week after the Orange County Grand Jury issued a report that found deputies in the jails worked to put informants next to some inmates in a few cases, but that the effort was not endorsed by the Orange County District Attorney’s office or high ranking sheriff’s officials.
The three judge panel from the Fourth District offered a different version on informant use in the county, describing jailers working to use an informant in concert with other police agencies and county prosecutors, and prosecutors later concealing that work from the court and defense counsel.
At issue was the failure by prosecutors to disclose several records that showed the movement and actions of an informant to Rodriguez’s lawyer, James Crawford.
Rodriguez’s first conviction, in 2000, was overturned because investigators violated his Miranda rights against interrogation without a lawyer. That prompted a second trial, in 2005, that relied heavily on the testimony of a jailhouse informant, Michael James Garrity.
Prosecutors in that case portrayed Garrity as a fellow inmate who happened to overhear Rodriguez discuss the case, a legal use of an informant.
What prosecutors did not disclose at the time was the fact Garrity was a seasoned jailhouse informant working with several police agencies and the…