CRIME STORY has received permission to feature profiles of exonerees represented by the California Innocence Project (CIP). The CIP reviews more than 2,000 claims of innocence each year and since its founding in 1999 has secured the release of dozens of innocent people who may otherwise have spent the rest of their lives wrongfully incarcerated.
On the evening of January 10, 2000, 18-year-old Raymundo Chagolla was at home, watching The Simpsons and recovering from the flu. Meanwhile, at the Stardust Motel in Riverside, California, Billy Medlin was standing by the soda machine, helping a fellow resident get a drink. A man approached, yelled at Medlin, “Hey, you, white boy homie,” then shot and killed him. The man ran away toward a back alley, but turned and fired another shot in the direction of the building before witnesses lost sight of him.
The prosecution admittedly could not provide a motive for the shooting. Yet, based only on questionable eyewitness identification and unrecorded hearsay, Raymundo was charged and convicted of the crime. Raymundo cooperated with police throughout the investigation, and has never wavered in his explanation that he was at home when the shooting occurred.
Unbeknownst to the defense at the time of Raymundo’s trial, Medlin had been a witness to a gang-related kidnapping, murder, and attempted murder in neighboring San Bernardino County. Medlin had been related to one of the main players in the case, and was murdered days before the preliminary hearing was set to begin. Although the same detectives who investigated Medlin’s murder also investigated the San Bernardino case, this information regarding Medlin as a witness was never turned over to the defense. Compounding the error, Raymundo’s defense attorney conducted no investigation into the problematic eyewitness statements, or whether someone else might have had a motive for Medlin’s murder.
In October of 2019, the California Innocence Project filed a habeas petition raising both a Brady claim and an ineffective assistance of counsel claim in the Riverside Superior Court. In December 2019, the Riverside Superior court ordered an informal briefing.
Both sides have submitted their briefs and anticipate a ruling from the court in the near future.