Orange County Home Invasion Robber: Judge Screwed Up So I Win, Right?

Anthony Vega mug robber.jpg
Orange County Superior Court Judge Gary S. Paer read an outdated jury instruction at the conclusion of Anthony Michael Vega's trial for a 2008 kidnapping and home invasion robbery in La Habra and the Commerce man got sent away to prison.

Vega appealed the 2011 convictions and this week learned that justices at a California Court of Appeal agreed Paer had erred.

But in a 12-page ruling written by Justice Eileen C. Moore for justices William Bedsworth and Richard Aronson, the panel declared the mistake wouldn't cause them to overturn the case.

Their rationale?

Paer had read an outdated version of a kidnapping statute, a version that actually was "to the advantage of the defendant" by requiring the Orange County District Attorney's office "to meet a higher burden of proof than that currently required under law."

According to Vega, he should have just been charged with robbery and not robbery and kidnapping after taking a female homeowner by force from her yard to inside her house.

Because Vega and his cohorts took the woman more than 60 feet from her garden, the justices weren't sympathetic to the argument.

Upshot: The 35-year-old will continue to serve his life plus 13-year sentence at California State Prison at Solano

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Here is the link to the actual opinion:


On page 10, Justice Moore wrote:

"We conclude that the instructions given to the jury were an accurate statement of the law."


What appears to have happened here is that Judge Paer gave the latest CalCrim 12.03 instruction, but the Court of Appeal is suggesting that the Judicial Council needs to rewrite 12.03 in light of case law interpretations.  But in no way did Judge Paer "screw up" as the headline indicates and the article for that reason is clearly misleading.  Indeed, every Judge continues to use the Cal Crim 12.03 instruction as presently written.  It has not been modified or declared unconstitutional.  The Court of Appeal was slightly misleading to state it was "outdated."  The latest set of instructions as of April 2012 was not even modified or reviewed and stays the same in its present edition.


If there was Instructional error, the Court would have reversed the case for creating such an error and been clear that the instruction needs to be rewritten for the entire state.




It's the Deputy DA who tries the case who provides the Jury Instructions to the Court.  The Court, the DDA and the defense attorney review the instructions before they are read to the Jury.  It's the DDA who explains the law and goes through the elements of the crime with the Jury as does the defense during each lawyer's closing argument.  The burden is on the prosecutor to get the instructions correct.  In the event of a reversal, its the DA's Office that has to expend the additional resources to re-try the case and find witnesses who may not be available or who may be difficult to locate once an appellate court reverses the case because of an error.  DDA's have to be meticulous in reviewing the instructions since its the DA's Office which has to re-try the case which is a waste of taxpayer resources.


While Judge Paer oversees the trial and reads the law to the Jury, it is the prosecutor whose job it is to make sure the Court has the correct law and proper instructions for the Jury.  What is unclear from Scott's article is whether the DDA failed to provide Judge Paer the proper instruction or if Judge Paer disagreed with the DDA's proposed instruction on the law and chose his own instruction (the alleged "old" law).


Clearly, all of these arguments are on the record and it would be helpful to have those points clarified by Scott M.


However, Judge Paer is one of the most experienced, dedicated and careful Judges who sits in the Criminal Trials Division.  To impugn the Judge without knowing whether the DDA actually dropped the ball makes it difficult to know who is responsible (or at least shares in the culpability).


Todd Spitzer

Victims Rights Attorney

Former Assistant District Attorney, Orange County

rscottmoxley topcommenter

@ToddSpitzer Hi Todd. I did not impugn Judge Paer. Three justices took issue with his action. But I am excited to test your assertion that judges are subservient to the demands of prosecutors on the instructions they read to juries. Please alert me in advance and then try that argument on Judge Froeberg.

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