home

HBO Show Helps Free Innocent Man

Our favorite story of the day, by far. A man in Miami who spent 5 1/2 months in jail on a murder charge for which he could have faced the death penalty if convicted was freed when an HBO filming of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" established his alibi--he had been at a baseball game with his daughter eating a hot dog at the time of the murder. Kudos to defense attorney Todd Melnick whose persistence for his client paid off. Really, read the article, it's heartwarming.

Police arrested Catalan in August, alleging he killed Martha Puebla, 16, in the San Fernando Valley on May 12, 2003, because she had testified against his brother in another case. Catalan insisted he and his 6-year-old daughter were watching the Los Angeles Dodgers lose to the Atlanta Braves, 11-4, minutes before Puebla was killed about 20 miles north of the stadium.

He said he had ticket stubs from the game and testimony from his family as to his whereabouts the night Puebla was killed. But police still believed he was responsible, saying they had a witness who placed Catalan at the scene of the slaying. Catalan said he asked to take a lie detector test, but was refused.

Defense attorney Todd Melnik subpoenaed the Dodgers and Fox Networks, which owned the team then, to scan videotape of the televised baseball game and footage from its "Dodger Vision" cameras. Some of the videotapes showed where Catalan was sitting but Melnik couldn't make him out. Melnik later learned that HBO had been at the stadium the night of the killing to tape an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," a self-deprecating comedy starring "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David. The lawyer found what he was looking for in footage that had not made the final cut.

The tapes had time codes that allowed Melnik to find out exactly when Catalan was at the ballpark. Melnik also obtained cell phone records that placed his client near the stadium later that night, about 20 minutes before the murder. The attorney said it would have been impossible for Catalan to get out of the parking lot, change vehicles and clothing and play with his daughter as well as kill Puebla during that span.

Catalan, who could have faced the death penalty had he been convicted of murder, was released in January because a judge ruled there was no evidence to try him. "To hear the words from the judge's mouth, I just broke down in tears," Catalan, 26, said Tuesday. "It was the happiest moment in my life."

< Kerry Intern Speaks Out | America: The Gulag Nation >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft