Wednesday Feb 18 2009
Garcia’s appeal in hands of appellate court
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
Attorney argues evidence wrongfully seized, rights violated
A state court of appeals is deliberating whether or not it will give an Auburn man convicted of murder a new trial. The appeal filed on behalf of Mario Flavio Garcia is now in the hands of the California Court of Appeals Third District, which is expected to render its decision within 90 days. Garcia was convicted of first-degree murder in November 2006 for the death of 27-year-old Christie Wilson. Garcia was the last person seen with Wilson when the two were caught on tape leaving Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln in the early morning hours of Oct. 5, 2005. Wilson’s body has not yet been recovered despite massive searches during her initial disappearance and searches conducted after Garcia’s conviction. In a hearing held Tuesday, Garcia’s appellate attorney Mark Greenberg argued the case he detailed in a 149-page filing with supporting documents. In the Appellant’s Opening Brief filed by Greenberg, he argues why Garcia’s conviction should be reversed and the Auburn man given a new trial. In brief, Greenberg contends that some of the evidence used in the trial was wrongfully seized. For example, he says Placer County Sheriff’s detectives took Garcia’s Toyota Camry without Garcia’s consent and without probable cause. The Camry was the car Garcia was driving the night he was seen with Wilson at the casino. The trial court, however, ruled that Garcia consented to the search and seizure of his vehicle. Greenberg contested this ruling in his brief. The car factored heavily into the trial because investigators found strands of hair, blood and stains that matched Wilson’s DNA inside the vehicle. Garcia said Wilson was never inside his car. Cliff Murley, jury foreman, said evidence from the car was “compelling” when the jury was deciding its verdict. “The evidence found in the Camry was very important to the prosecution’s case and it was very meaningful in my mind and I believe for the rest of the jury members,” Murley said Wednesday. Greenberg also argued in his brief that Garcia’s Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights were violated. Greenberg wrote in detail why Garcia’s refusal to let investigators photograph scratches on his body during his initial Oct. 9, 2005 interview with them was improperly used against Garcia during the trial. “It’s not exactly an open and shut case as to Mario Garcia’s guilt,” Greenberg said Wednesday. The state Attorney General’s Office has filed a rebuttal and orally argued their case on Tuesday. Documents detailing their opposition to the defense’s position were not available Wednesday. When contacted, an Attorney General’s Office spokesman declined to comment on the case because the appeal decision is pending. Garcia was reportedly not in court for the hearing. He remains in custody at High Desert State Prison in Susanville. Wilson’s mother, Debbie Boyd, did attend the hearing. In a prepared statement, Boyd said the coming days “will be filled with anxiety as we await the appellate court’s decision.” She said she remains hopeful Garcia’s appeal will be denied. “Throughout trial, Judge Gaddis was very demanding in keeping the defense and prosecution in line with following proper judicial procedure,” Boyd wrote. “In fact, as the victim’s parents we often felt his rulings erred on the side of the defense. We now appreciate Judge Gaddis’s conservatism in the handling of the trial, as he obviously knew someone of Garcia’s character would file an appeal.” Boyd said she feels Garcia has “always intimidated or manipulated” his prior victims and the court system. “This is the first time he has lost,” Boyd wrote. “Garcia’s appeal is based on his refusal to accept this fact and his overwhelming desire for power and control.” The Journal’s Jenifer Gee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment.