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Name: People v. Vasquez
Case #: B159379
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 09/29/2004
Subsequent History: 1/12/05: Rev. GRANTED: S128854
Summary

Prior to appellants’ trials for murder, they moved to recuse the district attorney’s office because appellant Vasquez’s stepfather had been a prosecutor in the office for many years. Initially the district attorney had requested that the attorney general’s office take over prosecution, but when they declined the request, the district attorney instead assigned a prosecutor who had never worked with the stepfather. At first defense counsel perceived no discrimination from the office, but then was advised by the prosecutor that they could not discuss waiving a jury because it might be perceived as favoritism towards Vasquez. The subsequent motion to recuse was denied, and appellants appealed. The appellate court here found that it was error to have denied the recusal motion. The conflict of interest created the likelihood of unfair treatment and thus was sufficiently grave so that the trial court should have granted the motion to recuse the district attorney’s office. Evidence that the prosecutor would not consider a plea to voluntary manslaughter was further evidence that Vasquez was being treated differently than another defendant. However, the erroneous denial of the recusal motion was not prejudicial, and therefore reversal was not required. Vasquez could not demonstrate that he was actually harmed from the district attorney’s alleged inability to make reasonable offers because of the conflict. Because the record establishes that Vasquez received fair if not favorable treatment during the proceedings, he has not demonstrated the requisite prejudice.