Sunday, September 04, 2016

Framed: A True Story - Chapter 4

Prosecutor Christopher Duff believed he had more than
enough evidence to convict Jill and Kent Easter of
framing Kelli Peters. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

She was the PTA mom everyone knew. Who would want to harm her?

Framed: Chapter 4

The Orange County D.A.’s Special Prosecutions unit dealt with crimes of particular sensitivity — high-profile cases involving doctors and cops, lawyers and politicians.

Christopher Duff, a career prosecutor in his early 40s, joined the team in the spring of 2012. Among the files that landed on his desk was a bizarre caper involving a pair of married Irvine attorneys suspected of planting drugs in a neighbor’s car.

Kent Easter's strategy at trial was to depict
himself as the pawn of a scheming spouse.
Defense lawyer Thomas Bienert Jr., left,
told the jury that Easter “didn't have a
backbone when it came to his wife.”
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Duff was struck by how thoroughly the Irvine police had investigated a crime in which the victim had suffered no physical harm. They had put 20 detectives on the case against Kent and Jill Easter at one time or another, and the lead investigator had spent six months on it exclusively.

Duff considered the possibilities. In so many places, he thought, it would have gone differently. If the attempted frame-up had happened in one of the gang neighborhoods of Los Angeles where he used to prosecute shootings, rather than in a rich, placid city in Orange County ... if the cop who found the stash of drugs in Kelli Peters’ car had been a rookie, rather than a sharp-eyed veteran … if she had been slightly less believable ...

It was easy to picture. Peters, the PTA president at her daughter’s elementary school, would have left the campus in the back of a patrol car, a piercing sight for the teachers who loved her and relied on her, for the parents who had entrusted their kids to her for years. It would have stolen not just her freedom but her name.

When Duff met Peters, she seemed raw-nerved and brittle, the kind of person who would be traumatized by a trip through jail. “It would have broken Kelli Peters,” he said. “I just know it.”

Read the rest at the LA Times.

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