Monday, November 17, 2014

Lawyer lied during Kirstin Lobato’s Nevada Supreme Court arguments

by Special to the Las Vegas Tribune November 13, 2014

A minimum-wage convenience store clerk who lies under oath in court can be convicted of perjury and sentenced to prison. In contrast, a highly paid lawyer can fearlessly lie his or her head off when publicly appearing before the Nevada Supreme Court.

We know that because of what occurred during oral arguments before the full Nevada Supreme Court on September 9, 2014 concerning Kirstin Blaise Lobato’s habeas corpus appeal. The attorney representing the
State of Nevada — Clark County Assistant District Attorney Steven S. Owens — repeatedly lied about issues related to Ms. Lobato’s case.

The Supreme Court’s response has been deafening silence. Owens’ dishonest assertions include:

1) Owens lied twice that Ms. Lobato made a “confession” related to Duran Bailey’s homicide in Las Vegas on July 8, 2001. (Oral Arguments [OA] at 9, 13. See note at end.) The truth is that during Ms. Lobato’s trial the State didn’t assert in its opening statement, closing argument, or present trial testimony she made a “confession” to Bailey’s homicide. It exists only in Owens’ imagination.

2) Owens lied, “She was convicted by her own words at the trial, and her own words belie the argument that she is actually innocent.” (OA at 7-8.) The truth is there is nothing incriminating regarding Bailey’s homicide in her police Statement or comments attributed to her — none of which even include the date, location, or manner of Bailey’s death from a head injury. Furthermore, Ms. Lobato’s habeas petition details her conviction was due to Metro Det. Thomas Thowsen’s extensive false testimony regarding her Statement and comments, and his alleged investigations; and more than 275 unrebutted instances of prejudicial prosecutor misconduct during her trial — none of which were objected to by her lawyer.

3) Owens lied, “Shortly thereafter [Bailey’s homicide], Kirstin Lobato in Panaca, Nevada, started talking about a severed penis.” (OA at 7)
The truth is Ms. Lobato mentioned in her Statement that prior to June 20, 2001 she had a conversation with a woman about the Las Vegas rape attempt she fended off with her pocket knife. Also, her habeas
petition includes unrebutted new evidence by nine alibi witnesses who were informed by her beginning in May 2001 that she used her pocket knife to fend off a would-be rapist in Las Vegas.

4) Owens lied that Ms. Lobato’s vague comment referring to a conversation with her father is evidence of a guilty mind to Bailey’s homicide. (OA at 8) The truth is her comment refers to a conversation with her father in June 2001 — weeks prior to Bailey’s homicide.

5) Owens lied, “But nothing at the crime scene is going to help them because the jury already knew that evidence there pointed away from Kirstin.” (OA at 13) The truth is Ms. Lobato’s unrebutted new exculpatory crime scene evidence establishes among other things that Bailey’s killer made all the shoeprints imprinted in blood and they don’t match Ms. Lobato; Bailey’s cutting and stab wounds were not inflicted by her pocket knife; and Bailey was alive when his rectum injury occurred, proving she was convicted of a non-existent violation of NRS 201.450. Furthermore, two jurors determined after reviewing all the new evidence that “it could have possibly resulted in either a hung jury or Ms. Lobato’s acquittal.”

6) Owens lied Bailey’s time of death isn’t “critical.” (OA at 10) The truth is the State’s theory of Ms. Lobato’s guilt depended on convincing the jury Bailey died before 7 a.m.

7) Owens lied the jury “rejected” Ms. Lobato’s alibi evidence she was in Panaca the evening of July 8. (OA at 10) The truth is the State conceded during its closing argument it is factually true she was in Panaca from at least “11:30 a.m. through the night.”
8) Owens lied in his assertions Ms. Lobato’s unrebutted new expert forensic evidence Bailey died after 8 p.m. isn’t important. (OA at 10)  The truth is the State conceded at trial she was in Panaca 165 miles from Las Vegas at that time, so it is impossible she committed his homicide.

9) Owens lied, “We have here a couple statutory remedies that Ms. Lobato could avail herself of. … and the other is a motion for DNA testing…” (OA at 12) The truth is Ms. Lobato’s petition for post-conviction DNA testing of crime scene evidence — including semen recovered from Bailey’s rectum — was vigorously opposed by the Clark County D.A. and denied by Judge Valorie Vega. The Nevada Supreme Court dismissed her appeal, “Because the order is not appealable.”

The foregoing is only a partial litany of Owens’ gross dishonesty throughout his argument. It was a continuation of Owens’ dishonesty related to Ms. Lobato’s case. His false public statements to KLAS-TV (Las Vegas), the Associated Press, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and in documents filed in the Nevada Supreme Court, are detailed in a letter sent to Clark County District Attorney Steven Wolfson dated July 3, 2012. That letter states: “Mr. Owens’ pervasive dishonesty is a gravely serious matter.” (p. 11) (The letter is online at, Wolfson’s inaction is evidence he expects less honesty from his deputies than responsible parents expect from their four-year-old child.

The Supreme Court has the authority to hold Owens in contempt of court for his dishonest and deceptive conduct and impose sanctions, and to refer him to the State Bar of Nevada for investigation. Owens’ unrestrained dishonesty that denied Ms. Lobato her right to a fair hearing is “good cause” for the Court to exercise its authority to sua sponte strike his arguments from consideration of her appeal.
The Nevada Supreme Court should hold Steven S. Owens accountable for his contemptible conduct and take the most extreme actions possible to protect Ms. Lobato’s rights, and the integrity of the Court and its deliberation process.
* * *
Hans Sherrer is President of the Justice Institute based in Seattle, Washington, that promotes awareness of wrongful conviction and conducted a post-conviction investigation of Ms. Lobato’s case. Its website is,

Friday, November 14, 2014

I Feared I’d Die in Prison for Maintaining My Innocence

The following article by Fernando Bermudez was published by the New York Times on November 13, 2014.

Fernando Bermudez spent 18 years prison after being convicted of murder in 1991, before being found innocent. Married with three children, he earned a bachelor's degree in behavioral science and is considering going to law school. As a speaker, he has given more than 250 talks in the United States and overseas.

Imagine yourself happy, on the verge of a career, promotion or meaningful relationship, then suddenly trapped in prison, fighting for freedom and your sanity over a crime you did not commit.
In 1991 I never imagined this would happen to me when I was arrested, convicted and incarcerated for murder. My wrongful conviction stole over 18 years of happiness for my family and I until Justice John Cataldo of State Supreme Court in Manhattan dismissed the charges and declared me actually innocent in 2009. He ruled that the police and prosecutors had used perjured testimony and illegal identification.

I wrestled with many fears during my incarceration, surrounded by violence. But my greatest fear was that I could die in prison maintaining my innocence. Year after year, I witnessed the parole board deny release to inmates who maintained their innocence, like one friend who died in prison after being denied parole every two years. Others used drugs to numb the painful reality of being trapped while innocent.

If I had stayed in prison, I would have been eligible for an appearance before the board this year. How would I have passed through the eye of that legal needle? I often thought. Exonerating evidence had long been accumulating since 1992. As an innocent man I would have poured my heart out to them with the truth that I was willing to die for. Daily, I was mentally and physically tortured with thoughts that a parole board would consider me in denial and reject my freedom.

Luckily , after years of fighting, with the help of pro bono lawyers, I won my case, which prosecutors never appealed. But the horrible, looming dilemma I faced still pains me.