A mistrial was declared in the trial of former Los Angeles County Sheriff, Lee Baca. The prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office will now decide whether – or not – to retry Baca.
Baca – who has allegedly been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease – was charged with conspiracy to obstruct a federal grand jury investigation, obstruction of justice and making false statements to federal officials in regard to a wide spread abuse of prisoners in L.A. County’s jail. He originally pled guilty and accepted a plea deal that granted him 6 months or less in prison. Only after a federal judge rejected the plea deal, Baca changed his plea and chose to face trial.
From the beginning of the case, former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca shrugged off allegations of concealing the beatings of peaceful and compliant inmates by his staff from federal investigators, denied knowledge of such acts by the sheriff’s department and blamed the civil rights’ violations on his “disorderly” subordinates.
Baca was not the only one charged. Nine sheriff department’s officials have already been convicted in connection with the case. Baca “retired” – after the scandal came to light – in 2014.
According to reports the 12 person jury deadlocked. While 11 jurors leaned toward acquittal, one could not be swayed, hence the mistrial. It seems that so far, the Alzheimer’s disease-based defense elicits sympathy from jurors and is effective. (How else to explain the fact that in a case in which many other sheriff department’s officials have been charged, found guilty and convicted, the head of the department – who at least knew and at most ordered violence against prisoners and then tried to conceal it from investigators – gets off scot-free?)
It isn’t quite over yet, prosecutors may still decide to retry the current case. In addition, Lee Baca faces a separate trial for making false statements to federal officials.