ALL CHARGES DROPPED AGAINST HUGHES IN THE ALVAREZ EXECUTIONS
by Virginia McCullough © 7/5/10
On July 1, 2010 Deputy Attorney General Michael Murphy addressed Judge Dale R. Wells and all those present in the Riverside County Superior Court in Indio California. Murphy made a motion on behalf the people of the State of California and California State Attorney General Jerry Brown to dismiss all charges against James (Jimmy) G. Hughes Jr. in the executions of Fred Alvarez, Ralph Boger and Patty Castro in 1981. Hughes always maintained his innocence during the ten months he was jailed awaiting his preliminary hearing. Hughes, through his attorneys, waived his rights to a speedy trial during two previous hearings. Murphy cited Penal Code Section 1385 requesting a dismissal in the interest of justice. (California Penal Code Section 1385, et. seq.) Murphy told Judge Wells that the case "went cold" multiple times since the 1981 killings and he recited a procedural history of the 29 year old case. Murphy then explained that in 2009 the Riverside County Sheriff's Department presented evidence that led the prosecutors to believe was sufficient to charge Hughes.
As a result Hughes, the former security chief for the Cabazon tribe, was arrested on September 26, 2009 as he sat on a Honduras bound plane on a Miami tarmac with his wife of 19 years Jessica. The arresting officer was Riverside County Sheriff's office "cold case" detective John Powers who had spearheaded the two-years investigation that resulted in Hughes' arrest. Powers repeatedly gave credit for the success of his investigation to Rachel Begley who media reports identify as victim Ralph Boger's daughter. Begley recounted her three year investigation into the triple execution on her web site DesertFae - Expose the Octopus.
In Judge Wells' courtroom Murphy elaborated on the reasons for the decision of the Attorney General's office to dismiss the case. He said, "new information our office discovered materially changed our assessment of the nature and quality of the evidence, the legal issues implicated by the facts and the procedural history of the case." Following the arrest of Hughes, Murphy's office conducted its own investigation re-interviewing witnesses, reviewing files and, in so doing, uncovered new information that caused the prosecutors to lose "confidence in our ability to proceed with the prosecution of this case" in a court of law.
After the hearing Powers reaffirmed his belief that Hughes is guilty and he said, "I'll resubmit the case every day, to anyone who'll be willing to hear it and take it to prosecution. I'm just trying to find out who that is".
An article that ran in the Los Angeles Times on July 2, 2010 suggested one possible avenue for detective Powers:
The attorney general's office had been prosecuting the case because Hughes is a distant cousin of Riverside County Dist. Atty. Rod Pacheco. Pacheco lost a bid for reelection in June to Riverside County Superior Court Judge Paul Zellerbach, however, creating the possibility that the new district attorney could take over the case.
During the hearing co-investigator Rachel Begley was described by The Desert Sun as "seething". Begley addressed the court exercising her rights under Marsy's Law, a statute expanding victim's rights passed by California voters in 2008. Her statement was highly critical of the Attorney General's office and is posted as a press release on the Internet and contains the excerpts that follow:
I don't know the law, Your Honor, but I pray that you will do the right and honorable thing in this court today, regardless of whether Mr. Mike Murphy of the Dept of Justice in San Diego chooses not to prosecute this case for personal reasons, or because of a technicality relating to due process that occurred 29 years ago, or because this case is complicated and could be an embarrassment to the Justice Department at this late date.
I request, Your Honor, that the record state that I believe there should be a preliminary hearing so that the court can determine the evidence in this case.
Nothing has changed since the filing of this case, so either it was an unethical filing or an unethical dismissal - even according to Mr. Murphy's own words, this case should have been tried 25 years ago. Due to the diligence of Det. John Powers and my own independent investigations, and lack of the statute of limitations there has been no due process violation. Instead, only an abuse of the statute of limitations, only an abuse of prosecutorial discretion. This case is not just a personal setback, but a setback for the system as a whole.
I do not understand how Attorney General Jerry Brown could support the release of Mr. Hughes. How can he be elected Governor of California if he can't manage his staff competently in San Diego