One of the men accused of killing and robbing a San Francisco man in Southern Humboldt seven years ago is asking a federal judge to dismiss the case against him, arguing that repeated delays have violated his rights and his ability to mount a defense.
Ryan Carroll has been behind bars since his January 2010 arrest, accused of murdering Reetpaul Singh Rana on Sept. 10, 2008 in a marijuana deal gone bad on Dyerville Loop Road outside of Garberville. His case plodded along in Humboldt County Superior Court until September 2013, when he and another defendant — Robert Lee — were indicted federally.
Last month, federal District Court Judge Edward Chen ruled
that detectives violated Lee and Carroll’s rights during their interrogations, meaning incriminating statements both defendants made to investigators can’t be used against them at trial. (Chen’s ruling has been appealed by federal prosecutors.)
Now, in a
filed earlier this month, Carroll’s attorney, Severa Keith, is asking Chen to dismiss the case against her client, alleging that the slow pace of the case, combined with prosecutors’ repeated failures to turn over evidence, has hampered her ability to defend her client. Specifically, Keith alleges that — in addition to causing undue stress and anxiety to Carroll — the delays prevented her from interviewing a confidential informant with information favorable to her client before he suffered a brain injury in a motorcycle accident, leaving him with substantial memory loss.
Keith’s argument is complicated but the gist is that while Carroll’s case was moving slowly through state court, federal investigators started working hand-in-hand with local law enforcement with an eye on taking the case federal. Meanwhile, former District Attorney Paul Gallegos — who was prosecuting the state case — repeatedly ignored requests, and then court orders, to turn over evidence in the case to the defense in a pre-trial process known as discovery. This, Keith alleges, kept her from learning of a confidential informant — identified in court documents as J.C. — who told investigators that he overheard Ryan Floyd, the SoHum man found with a cave full of guns
and stolen property in 2013, talking about Rana’s murder with another man and instructing him to get rid of the murder weapon.
About a year after talking with investigators in the case, J.C. was involved in a motorcycle crash, which Keith alleges left him with substantial memory loss. Consequently, Keith argues, prosecutors’ delays in turning over evidence in the case prevented her from investigating and exploring J.C.’s statements and contacting other witnesses. “The indictment must be dismissed,” Keith writes. “There is no other remedy.”
, the U.S. Attorney’s Office counters that J.C. still remembers talking with investigators in the case, and some of what he told them. “Rather than suffering from complete memory loss, it appears that J.C. is now simply changing his story,” the response states. Further, the U.S. Attorney’s Office argues Keith should have learned of J.C.’s existence in the federal discovery process months in advance of his accident and, if the defense failed to interview him, that’s Keith’s problem.
Further, the U.S. Attorney’s Office argues that there was no “conspiracy” between Gallegos’ office and federal prosecutors to conceal or delay discovery in the case and that, essentially, whatever happened in Humboldt has no bearing on the federal case. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is not responsible for the purported refusal or inability of the Humboldt County DA’s Office to provide discovery,” the response states. “The material was turned over by the U.S. Attorney’s Office as soon as the office received it. … The defendant’s theory is defective.”
Oral arguments on the motion are scheduled for July 1.