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Kirstin Blaise Lobato Freed After 15 Years in Prison for Las Vegas Murder Prosecutors Knew She Couldn’t Have Committed

Wrongful Murder Conviction Overturned Kirstin Blaise Lobato

In spite of evidence of her innocence, the Clark County DA’s Office did everything they could to prevent Kirstin Blaise Lobato from being freed after over 15 years in prison for a murder she didn’t commit.

After spending her entire adult life in prison for a murder she didn’t commit, a Las Vegas woman has finally been released. Kristin Blaise Lobato spent over 15 years behind bars in spite of evidence that she was over 150 miles away at the time the killing took place. However, she was finally able to walk out of the Clark County Detention Center a free woman for the first time since she was 18 years old on January 3rd.

Meanwhile, even after a judge had declared her innocent and ordered her release, prosecutors with the Clark County District Attorney’s Office refused to acknowledge the improprieties carried out during her trial(s). In fact, they even briefly had plans to force her to spend another year in the county jail for having been caught having sex with another inmate during the time that she was wrongfully imprisoned.

Fortunately, Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez also dismissed that case, instead ruling that the time she had already spent in prison for a crime she didn’t commit was sufficient punishment for that as well and giving her credit for time served. Judge Gonzalez then ordered that Lobato be released from custody immediately.

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District Attorney Steve Wolfson and Chief Deputy District Attorney Sandra DiGiacomo have attempted to justify their efforts to keep an innocent woman in prison by contending that the fact she was found guilty at trial by two juries means she is. However, the case against Lobato was very much flawed from the start and those verdicts were more a product of what was kept from the juries than the strength of the evidence actually presented to them.

Kirstin Blaise Lobato Released From Prison

There was virtually no physical evidence tying Lobato to the murder of Duran Bailey, a homeless man who was found beaten to death and castrated in a Downtown Las Vegas dumpster in 2001. The only real justification for her to even be a suspect was a story that she told to several people that she had fended off a rape attempt by cutting her attacker’s penis with a knife.

She had told that story weeks prior to the murder, though, and had identified the location where that incident happened as a different area of town. In spite of that, police investigators characterized her description of stabbing a man attempting to sexually assault her in the groin during an interrogation as a confession of Bailey’s murder.

More importantly, Lobato was positively verified to have been at her parents’ house in Panaca, Nevada, nearly 200 miles from Las Vegas on July 8, when Bailey was murdered. Based on that and other inconsistencies in the physical evidence, experts brought in by her defense attorneys testified that it would have been impossible for her to have carried out the murder.

However, that testimony was suppressed by Judge Valorie Vega during the original trial. Meanwhile, the prosecution was allowed to present a expert witnesses that made the ridiculous claim that flies in Las Vegas act completely different than flies anywhere else in the world do.

In addition, the district attorney’s office actively fought to prevent additional DNA testing on the physical evidence recovered at the scene, even after the Innocence Project offered to pay any costs involved. All previous DNA testing had excluded Lobato and, due to the violent method of Bailey’s death, it’s unlikely the person who murdered him could have done so without leaving their own DNA behind (such evidence from an unknown source was in fact found).

Of course, if Lobato was guilty those tests would more than likely definitively prove she was present at the crime scene. So realistically the district attorneys should have had their own incentive to cooperate with the DNA tests.

Regardless of that, Judge Vega ruled against allowing the testing. Shortly after, Vega chose not to run for reelection following an (unrelated) official reprimand against her by the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline. In what’s probably not a coincidence, almost exactly three years after Judge Vega left the bench Kristin Blaise Lobato walked out of the front door of the Clark County Detention Center.

Background on the Case and False Convictions

Not Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson and his underlings at the DA’s office have gone to great lengths to keep someone who was obviously innocent in prison. Not too long ago, I reported on the case of Demarlo Berry, who was falsely convicted of murder based on testimony from a witness that was coached and paid off by detectives from the LVMPD.

Not only were the prosecutors in the case complicit in manufacturing evidence against Berry, they also delayed his release for four years after that witness recanted his testimony and the real murderer had confessed. Then, once they finally realized that they couldn’t prevent his release, they portrayed it as if they were responsible for freeing him.

In another case, Fred Steese was issued a pardon last month in order to clear his record of a murder he was falsely convicted of and spent twenty-one years in prison for after he was beaten and coerced into confessing. Prosecutors also hid evidence that definitively proved he was in another state at the time and photo lineup results that pointed to his innocence.

Instead of releasing him after he was declared “actually innocent” by a judge, they threatened to refile the charges and drag out the process coercing Steese into accepting a plea deal for second degree murder to ensure he wouldn’t have to stay in prison for years while fighting those new charges.

Numerous other convictions in Clark County have been overturned recently, including several death penalty cases, due to racial discrimination by prosecutors during jury selection. Obviously, for Wolfson and his prosecutors the important issue isn’t guilt or innocence, but rather simply whether they can get a conviction, even if it they know it’s a false conviction.

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False Imprisonment: Its Increasing Frequency and the Huge Cost It Imposes on Society

The following post was shared with the CopBlock Network anonymously by a reader, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page.

If you have a video, personal story involving police misconduct and/or abuse, or commentary about a law enforcement related news story, we would be happy to have you submit it. You can find some advice on how to get your submission published on the CopBlock Network within this post.

Police Abuses on the Rise

It’s no secret that police brutality and misconduct has been on the rise recently with cases in the news like Eric Garner who was suffocated in a choke hold by police and killed for illegally selling cigarettes. Similarly, a 12-year-old boy Tamir Rice was shot and killed after playing with a toy gun in the park. The level of uneasiness between police officers and citizens has hit an all-time high and we see this unrest play out in society. Police brutality is not the only form of police misconduct- false arrest of citizens can be an excruciating experience that sends innocent people to prison for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

For example, Chicago’s taxpayers have had to pay over $120 million for the racial torture committed by one police commander, Jon Burge. Part of the disconnect between officers and citizens is the unfairness in power and how that power is used. To add on to this, police are offered different treatment when it comes to false arrests or misconduct. Although Burge oversaw the torture of over 118 black men – which would typically lead to decades in prison – he was released in three-and-a-half years and sent to a halfway house. All the men he tortured remain behind bars.

Police officers were granted a Qualified Immunity Doctrine by the Supreme Court which essentially states that police officers are innocent of harm towards their suspects in most cases due to their risky and honorable line of work. The best intentions are seen to be associated with most police officers, but has that been the case recently?

Typically, false arrest from police officers falls into the police misconduct category, which can also encompass police brutality and wrongful death. According to the University of Michigan Law School’s National Registry of Exonerations report, 75% of homicide exonerations involved police misconduct. One widely publicized example of a wrongful arrest was James Bain, who was convicted of kidnapping and rape at the age of 18. He served 35 years for a vicious crime he did not commit. Although DNA evidence was tested and presented prior, he was refused further DNA testing from the courts until his fifth try in 2006. Although misidentification from eyewitnesses account for 75% of all convictions that are overturned by DNA evidence, Bain was wrongfully arrested and incarcerated by police.

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How Does False Imprisonment Affect the Public?

Some people may think that the police arrest people who they think are guilty of a crime, and if they are wrongfully arrested, they are quickly released and go about their happy lives. That is far from the truth in most cases where the arrest was outright wrong and unlawful. Many people who are falsely arrested fight back and sue the police officer who wronged them and because of this, the public is responsible for paying that fee.

Amount of Money City Taxpayers Have Paid for Police Misconduct:

  • Chicago: $521 million from 2004-2014
  • Cleveland: $8.2 million between 2004-2014
  • Denver: $12 million since 2011
  • Dallas: $6.6 million between 2011-2014
  • Los Angeles: $101 million between 2002-2011

For example, Robert Graham was arrested for disorderly conduct by a police officer who was stuck in traffic behind him. Due to the gridlock traffic in New York City, Graham was also stuck in traffic and unable to move. The police officers wrongfully arrested Graham due to the circumstances of the situation. Graham’s wrongfully arrested cases was one of the ones that contributed to New York taxpayers paying $18 million to pay back people who were wrongfully arrested by officers.

According to Jon Norinsberg, a false imprisonment attorney, New York city police may only legally arrest citizens if:

  1. The police have an arrest warrant.
  2. The police have probable cause that you committed a crime.
  3. You are interfering with a police investigation or arrest.
  4. The police believe you are a criminal attempting to flee a crime scene.

Why are Police Officers Getting Away with False Imprisonment?

The number of innocent people behind bars is the highest number it has ever been historically, so it is only natural to question the source – the police. Why has it become okay to so quickly convict people and rarely face punishment as a police officer for wrongfully arresting someone? The issue gets stickier when videos of police officers using excessive force and even killing citizens when they appeared to pose no threat. Are there consequences for that? Rarely.

Unfortunately, false arrests happen and can be scary to argue your case in front of a judge – especially because police are most often shielded by the Qualified Immunity Doctrine exercised by the Supreme Court. This is a protective order that is designed to protect police officers from facing punishments from their mistakes or unlawful actions. In theory, this Qualified Immunity Doctrine was originally designed to shield officers who are properly bringing justice to criminals and who handle situations appropriately – if someone is upset for getting arrested if they deserve it, well this doctrine will protect the police from this potential complaint or lawsuit. Since videos have been released of police officers using unnecessary excessive force on unarmed people, citizens are growing scared that officers are abusing this immunity from the Supreme Court to get away with their unjust behavior. This is where a disconnect lies between police officers and citizens.

Where is the Accountability From the Police?

Why is it that as a society we only started paying attention to police misconduct and false arrests when Netflix featured programs like Making a Murderer?

Police officers are designed to keep our communities safe. While most cops are heroes and upstanding citizens who work hard to protect our safety, those who entered the police force to unlawfully assert power over others and take advantage of their badge are getting more press in recent news. Although it’s an unfortunate circumstance, it is important to stay educated on what is happening in society to better educate yourself and to hopefully make a positive change.

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