Prosecutor’s error leads to reversal of Cambria child molester’s conviction

February 28, 2017

A California appellate court overturned the 2014 conviction of a Cambria man who allegedly molested a young boy. The court ruled the conviction invalid because a San Luis Obispo County prosecutor improperly told jurors that the Cambria man did not have a presumption of innocence. [Tribune]

In Aug. 2014, a San Luis Obispo jury convicted Ronald Cowan, 60, of sodomy, oral copulation and lewd acts with a child. Cowan allegedly molested the son of a girlfriend for a period of about two years. At the time, the boy was between the ages of 3 and 5.

Cowan became a grandfather-like figure to the boy and won the family’s trust with gifts and cash after the boy’s mother became addicted to drugs, prosecutors said in a court statement filed in 2014.

Despite having suffered a brain injury in the 1990s, Cowan received a maximum sentence of 65 years to life in prison. Cowan has been serving his sentence at the Kern Valley State Prison.

On Thursday, the Second District Court of Appeals reversed Cowan’s conviction, stating Manderino committed misconduct by misinforming the jury during her rebuttal of the defense’s closing argument. According to the ruling, Mandarino said the following to the jury:

“Let me tell you that presumption (of innocence) is over. Because that presumption is in place only when the charges are read. But now you have heard all the evidence. That presumption is gone.”

Manderino’s rebuttal of the defense’s closing argument was the final argument the jury heard before going to deliberation.

“It is misconduct to misinform the jury that the presumption of innocence is ‘gone’ prior to the jury’s deliberations,” the ruling states. “It strikes at the very heart of our system of criminal justice.”

The appellate court ruling also takes issue with San Luis Obispo County Judge Jacquelyn Duffy for not correcting Manderino’s misstatement. The ruling states it would have been proper for Duffy to have informed the jury that Manderino misstated the law and that jurors should instead rely on their instructions when considering the issue of reasonable doubt.

In response to the ruling, Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham defended Manderino, saying most prosecutors find it necessary to discuss presumption of innocence during their closing arguments. Prosecutors commenting on presumption of innocence has always been a mine field that appellate courts seem to scrutinize very closely, Cunningham said.

The court ruling requires that Manderino be reported to the California State Bar, but it is unclear if she will face any discipline.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is now awaiting a court order for Cowan’s release. It is unclear to where Cowan will be released.

Cunningham said he anticipates the district attorney’s office will refile charges.







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10 Comments

  1. kayaknut says:

    Guess DA Dow will have to remove this “win” from his tally. Another swamp that needs to be drained.

    (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down
  2. The Daily says:

    Talk about begging to get appealed, and an embarrassment to the DA’s office and the bench! And this case was probably strong enough on the evidence such that it didn’t need the inflammatory remarks at the end. Waste of taxpayer’s money for sure for the sake of ego and effect.

    (20) 24 Total Votes - 22 up - 2 down
  3. Pelican1 says:

    I guess two wrongs make a right.It’s just a matter of time before Cowan re-offends and destroys yet another life.

    (15) 25 Total Votes - 20 up - 5 down
    • L.A.RamsFan says:

      Thank your prosecutor and the judge for that, while remembering their only acting this way because the presumed empowerment the community gives them with their obvious apathy towards the “accused”.

      On a lighter note, he, the “chomo”, can be re-arrested as he is released and re-charged unless the court said he couldn’t be retried. If so, lets just hope we get a prosecutor and judge less in tune with this communities alt-def’ of the Consitution!

      Cowards…

      -Remember Andrew Holland-

      (-11) 23 Total Votes - 6 up - 17 down
      • r0y says:

        Double Jeopardy – not just a category on a game show.

        (2) 8 Total Votes - 5 up - 3 down
        • Pelican1 says:

          Wait just a minute…back up the justice mobile. Double jeopardy doesn’t apply, because the judge ruled the trial INVALID…it was NOT a guilty conviction. So, he can be tried a second time.and hopefully will be.

          (6) 6 Total Votes - 6 up - 0 down
  4. Stunned says:

    Can they just keep him until charges are refiled? I guess I know that answer but, to release such a parasite is far more ignorant than even Cunningham throwing the jury in such a minor league fashion.

    (15) 21 Total Votes - 18 up - 3 down
    • LAH says:

      I am Stunned! (too) What a needless waste of MY contributions $. Hopefully the DA will get on it quickly and not delay, waiting for this low life to create more evidence.

      I do not always agree with LARamsFan, but in this I do –

      – REMEMBER ANDREW HOLLAND-

      (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
  5. L.A.RamsFan says:

    “…a San Luis Obispo County prosecutor improperly told jurors that the Cambria man did not have a presumption of innocence.”

    Shit, really? Why so surprised? The “prosecutor” is just reflecting the general opinion of what the constitution should say according to SLO’s right-leaning population so why should that come to anyone’s surprise?

    I don’t care how the “prosecutor” showed this to be the case in our justice system, and the prevailing attitude of this country, it has been the “unspoken” FACT in my some forty years of dealing with being the ACCUSED!

    A bunch of thumbs up to the judge as well, RIGHT!

    “The appellate court ruling also takes issue with San Luis Obispo County Judge Jacquelyn Duffy for not correcting Manderino’s misstatement.”

    Don’t you worry about it though SLO, most of you are too scared to do shit to even have a cop look your way let alone anything that may make them get a little closer; just look how pathetically silent you’ve been since your county jail and started killin’ folks in the name of “protecting the public”! Especially the mentally ill, right?

    Cowards…

    https://today.law.harvard.edu/feature/guilty-proven-innocent/
    http://www.heritage.org/crime-and-justice/report/guilty-until-proven-innocent-undermining-the-criminal-intent-requirement

    -Remember Andrew Holland-

    (-24) 50 Total Votes - 13 up - 37 down
    • L.A.RamsFan says:

      It doesn’t matter if this guy was proven guilty the prosecutor and the judge screwed up, period! You can be as pissed of at the “chomo” as you want but your real ire should be pointed at the prosecutor and the judge! They knew better than this shit and did it anyway, costing you, the taxpayer, twice as much (maybe more) than the first conviction cost you.

      I’ll bet you’ll speak to that matter, loudly and clearly!

      Cowards….

      -Remember Andrew Holland-

      (-14) 34 Total Votes - 10 up - 24 down

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