The Scoop on [Jackson’s] Judge By Matthew Heller The Santa Barbara Superior Court judge named to handle the Michael Jackson case had his hands full some years ago with another sex-crimes case — one that involved race. Defendant James Herring was convicted before Judge Rodney S. Melville of attempting to rape a Lompoc woman in 1991. But the 2nd District Court of Appeal reversed because of prosecutorial misconduct. People v. Herring, 20 Cal.App.4th 1066 (1993). Melville apparently was not able to restrain the prosecutor from engaging in what the appeal court mildly described as “improper prejudicial rhetoric.” Among other things, the DA told the jury that Herring was “primal man in his most basic level.” Such statements “about a biracial defendant are, at the very least, in bad taste,” the appeal court said. Although Melville did admonish the jury to disregard the prosecutor’s rhetoric, the 2nd District concluded that the admonition did not cure the prejudice to the defendant. Herring is Melville’s only reversal in a published criminal case. In In Re Quackenbush, 41 Cal.App.4th 1301 (1996), an appellate panel upheld his decision to grant habeas relief to a man convicted of failing to release a vicious dog to animal control officers. In civil cases, Melville has been reversed for: * Dismissing the spoliation of evidence case of the widow of a man who died while operating construction equipment. * Wrongly instructing the jury in a defamation case filed by a show-horse breeder. * Ruling that Santa Barbara County did not violate the civil rights of a landowner who alleged that planning officials falsely designated part of his property as wetlands. 12/27/03 Source: http://courthousenews.com/BlogArchive/jacko1.htm // MJJF

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