Beating the (False) Rap: Life After Netflix’s ‘Long Shot’

Juan Catalan escaped a bogus murder rap with the help of Larry David’s ’Curb Your Enthusiasm.’ Will the cops and prosecutors who tried to put him away ever face consequences?
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Juan Catalan was riding to work at his father’s shop, like any other day. His girlfriend Alma was driving. Their four-year old daughter was in the back seat. He’d felt uneasy that week and couldn’t figure out why. He’d slept badly the night before, after a nightmare that he’d been abducted.

Alma thought they were being followed. She pulled into a parking spot outside the shop. A car pulled up behind them. Juan opened his car door and stepped out straight into the barrel of a gun. Soon there were many guns, many men, surrounding him, shouting: “Get down, get down, get down…”

Juan got on his knees. Alma screamed. His daughter cried. Neighbors inched out of their doors and stared. His father came outside. “Dad, look at what they’re doing to me,” said Juan.

The men yelled at his father: “Shut the damn door.” 

Juan heard the sound of radios and realized these were police. He’d been taken by the LAPD’s Special Investigation Section, alternatively known as the “Death Squad” for as many as 45 suspects who never made it to booking. It was a 20-man team with a multi-million dollar budget. Allegedly reserved for the most dangerous offenders, they arrested fewer than one suspect per week.

“Why’s this happening?” Juan asked everyone in earshot. California law requires police to tell suspects why they’re being arrested. Police told him nothing.

It was the peak of summer in the city. Juan was left alone in a freezing jail cell. His only clue came from an overheard conversation:

“Who’s that?”

“It’s our 187 suspect.” California Penal Code 187: Homicide. They were accusing him of murder? Murdering who? They left him there to think about it for the next six hours.

Finally, Juan was brought to an interrogation room with LAPD Detectives Martin Pinner and Juan Rodriguez.

“You’re getting me scared, dude. What’s going on?” said Juan.

They asked where he banked, got his hair cut, whether he’d ever worked at McDonald’s, was a member of a dance crew, the quality of his teeth.

“Do you have any idea why you’re here today?”

“I have no idea.”

“That’s you,” said Pinner, pointing at an artist’s sketch of the killer of Martha Puebla, a girl Juan didn’t even know.

“Please, that’s not me. That’s not me.”

The detectives lied and told him he’d been identified by numerous witnesses.

“Can’t believe you guys are doing this to me,” said Juan. “You guys are gonna’ take my whole life away…all I do is work and take care of my family. Please do not do this to me.”

“Okay, we think it is you,” said Pinner.

“Well, what can I do? Can I take a lie detector test or something?”

“No,” said Pinner.

Juan felt a chill. Why would they reject his offer? Unless they didn’t care whether he was innocent.

“Please. I’m begging you,” said Juan. “I had nothing to do with this.” Juan pleaded for his life as the detectives mocked him and made up evidence against him. “I swear to God, I have two daughters that I love so much, man. I did not do this.”

“Why did these people pick you out, Juan?”

“Well, you guys tell me. You guys are the detectives.”

“You killed somebody.”

“Wait a minute, those are very strong words right there. I would never kill nobody. And I’d never do anything to hurt anybody.” Juan told them: “Thought you went after the bad guys.”

Before he was sent back to his cell, Juan said: “Whoever picked me out…I really hope, deep in my heart, that God forgives them one day. ‘Cause I swear to God that I didn’t do that.”

In fact, Juan was the only one in that interrogation room who had nothing to do with the murder of Martha Puebla.


Juan credits the birth of his daughter, Melissa, for keeping him from gang life: “The love that I felt was like no other. I wanted to be the best dad, to protect her, to be there for her. I look at it as God sending an angel to save me.”

Juan had met Melissa’s mother, Alma, in high school biology, where he spent months working up the nerve to talk to her. They exchanged pager numbers and have been together since. That was Juan’s life: work at his father’s shop, family time with his girlfriend and daughters, and a love for Dodgers baseball. His unlikely road to a murder charge began on an unseasonably warm November day nearly a year earlier.

Juan’s brother, Mario Catalan Jr. was driving his Mustang with the top down. His passenger was Jose Ledesma, a member of the Vineland Boys gang. Lankershim Boulevard may be a major Valley thoroughfare, but north of Saticoy it’s claimed by the Vineland Boys. The Mustang pulled up to a stoplight next to an SUV.

“Where you from?” yelled Ledesma. It was a gang call out and he didn’t like the answer. He shot and killed the driver, Enrique Acosta, and wounded a passenger. Mario sped off, making himself an accomplice to murder. 

Days later, Martha Puebla waited by her window for a late-night visit from Jose Ledesma, who she was seeing. The rap on the glass came not from Ledesma, as she expected, but her friend Maribel.  She had arrived with Christian Vargas, another friend of theirs, who waited in the car. Ledesma arrived moments later and fired five shots into Christian. Maribel leapt into the house through Martha’s window. When she worked up the nerve to go outside she found Christian slumped over the steering wheel. He asked her for help. Then he died. It’s unclear whether Christian lost his life over misplaced jealousy or gang rivalry or some other reason, or no reason at all.

Investigators quickly connected the killings of Acosta and Vargas. The same 9-millimeter handgun committed both crimes. Someone had seen the Mustang’s license plate. Ledesma hid out in Tijuana with Mario Jr. and Mario’s girlfriend. The plan went sideways when they argued, and she told police that her companions were wanted for murder in LA. 

Ledesma sat in an interrogation room with LAPD Detectives Pinner and Rodriguez. They said Martha Puebla had identified him as Christian’s killer and showed him a “six pack” – a photo array of images used by witnesses to identify a suspect – with his face circled, and writing they claimed was hers. This deceit failed to shake Ledesma, but it painted a target on a sixteen year-old girl. 

Ledesma returned to his cell, picked up the phone, and ordered Martha’s murder: “You know the bitch who lives…by my house?” he said to Vineland member Javier Covarrubias. “…Her name starts with an M. I need her to disappear. She’s throwing dimes.”

Police recorded the call. But the CD sat in Detective Pinner’s desk, unheard. If he had listened within five months, he could have saved Martha’s life; within eight, he wouldn’t have arrested an innocent man for the crime; within a year, he could have freed the innocent man he arrested.

Mario Jr. was charged as Ledesma’s accomplice in the Acosta homicide. Police served a search warrant on the Catalan family home and found drugs.

“Whose is this?” asked the officer in charge. He threatened to take Juan’s father, Mario Sr., to jail.

“It was one of those moments that seemed like an eternity,” said Juan. He put his head down and raised his hand. “They’re mine.” They were Mario’s, and the officer looked at Juan as if they both knew it. But the police demanded someone at the scene accept blame, and Juan decided it would be him instead of his father.

“Cuff him,” said the officer, shaking his head.

Juan was charged with intent to distribute marijuana and faced up to five years in prison. He remembered a cousin who worked as a file clerk for defense lawyer Todd Melnik. “He thought Todd was the greatest lawyer in the world,” said Juan. “I agree with him now.”

Todd had been a second-year law student when he spotted LA District Attorney Ira Reiner on Rodeo Drive. Todd asked for a job. Reiner gave him a business card and told him to call when he’d passed the Bar.

Todd made a name for himself prosecuting a beauty parlor burglar who said he was playing pool at a bar during the break-in. Todd discovered that the bar had hosted a birthday party that night and found photographs of the pool table covered with presents. Todd left the office and became a defense lawyer nearly four years later.

Los Angeles County prosecutor Beth Silverman would try the Vargas and Acosta homicides as a single case. Mario Jr. begged his family to attend his preliminary hearing, set for May 1, 2003. His mother was so afraid of heights she couldn’t ride the courthouse elevator. Mario Sr. never missed a day of work. It fell to Juan, who had already taken a drug charge for his brother, to show up in court to support him.

Silverman called Martha Puebla as a witness and asked whether she lived in Los Angeles County. “I live in Sun Valley,” Martha said softly. That neighborhood was her world.

Martha testified that she didn’t know why she was there and didn’t want to be there. She was a study in unhelpfulness as Silverman fired questions: Did she see anyone? Say anything? Yell anything? Did you tell Maribel it was Ledesma? No. No. No. No.

It was the only time that Juan Catalan and Martha Puebla ever saw one another, unaware their lives were tragically linked. 

Eleven days after the hearing, Martha answered her phone and left the house. Forty minutes later her father heard gunshots, ran outside, and found his daughter dead in the street. Police responded five minutes after his 911 call.

A cell phone next to her body was traced to a man named Juan Ibanez. Ibanez told police that he had come to Martha’s house with a group of friends. A car began circling the block, slowing as it passed, before parking at the end of the street. Their friends left Ibanez and Martha alone. A man got out of the car, walked past them on the sidewalk, then turned and approached Martha, seated on the curb. “You know me,” she said.

“No I don’t,” he said, shooting her twice. Ibanez fled as the man chased him, firing in his direction.

Ibanez looked at a six pack and circled two photos for their resemblance to the shooter. One was in prison. The other had an airtight alibi. He also helped develop an artist’s sketch. None of these resembled Juan Catalan, or even each other.

Three days later the ex-girlfriend of a Vineland member went to the station and told Detective Pinner that the gang was responsible for Martha’s murder. It should’ve been obvious: Martha, a Vineland associate who had dated Vineland members, had testified in a preliminary hearing of a Vineland member, and had been falsely identified by Pinner and Rodriguez as a witness against a Vineland member, had died at the hands of a Vineland Boy. 

Despite this, detectives made no progress. The recording of Ledesma ordering Martha’s murder still sat in Pinner’s desk.

Then one night Officer Claude Guiral and his partners were patrolling Burbank Boulevard in North Hollywood. A man on a bicycle gave them a suspicious look, reaching into his pockets and waistband. The police stopped and searched him. They asked if he’d be willing to talk. He agreed, provided they put him in the back seat of their car. Francisco Saldivar told them he was a member of the Vineland Boys. An officer asked if he knew anything about Martha’s murder.

The shooter’s name was Juan, he said, a man who had a girlfriend named Alma. According to Saldivar, Juan drove a white Ford F150 pickup, had a brother named Mario, and had recently returned from hiding in Mexico. “If you can’t piece it together with all the information I just gave you, you guys are stupid,” said Saldivar.

Juan never drove a white pickup truck. He had not been to Mexico. Police made no attempts to verify either claim. Based solely on the self-serving testimony of an admitted gang member, the “Death Squad” was dispatched to arrest Juan Catalan in front of his family.

Juan spent three days in the Van Nuys jail before he could see a judge, who transferred him to Los Angeles County. The cell was built for fifty men and must’ve held twice that number. Tensions behind bars run along racial lines, and whites, Latinos, and blacks managed an uneasy coexistence. Each group was led by a “shot caller.”

As soon as Juan arrived a trustee—an inmate with freedom to move around the jail—approached the bars to talk to the Latino shot caller.

“Hey man, we’ve got somebody that’s no good in here.”

County jail, crowded as it was with killers and rapists, seemed an unlikely spot for moral judgments, but even the worst criminals feel entitled to punish certain offenders.  It clicked for Juan: Martha was sixteen. He would be treated as a child murderer. 

“I’ll get you the name after dinner,” said the trustee.

The shot caller salivated at the prospect of hurting or killing the man responsible.

Juan stared at his food over dinner and couldn’t eat. Walking back to the cell he saw deputies wrestling with the trustee, whose face was pinned to the wall.  A deputy had caught the trustee searching inmate files to find the child killer’s name. He was taken to solitary confinement without being able to share what he’d learned.

Juan was transferred to Wayside maximum security jail after a few days. It was the first of many between Wayside and County, each time without notice or explanation.

That’s where Todd Melnik came to see him. “I’m going to get you out of here,” he promised, as Juan sobbed on the other side of the glass.

Todd hit the streets of Sun Valley, tracking down the teens who had been with Martha before her death, the ones that arrived with Juan Ibanez. He learned the shooter’s car had started circling the block while they were still there. Martha had taken a phone call before they left. Todd found the record: a six-minute conversation beginning at 10:04pm. Her killer was already on the scene.

Alma remembered that Juan had been at a Dodger game the night of the murder, with his friend, cousin, and daughter. Now Todd had to prove it.

The team gave Todd a stack of VHS tapes from the “Dodger Vision” camera, which sweeps the stands looking for fans to highlight on the big screen.  Todd could see where Juan and his group were sitting but the resolution was too low for faces. Todd subpoenaed the broadcast tapes from FOX and spent the next 24 hours watching a three-hour game, frame by frame, wearing out the pause and slow-motion features on his remote. Every time a right-handed batter came to the plate the camera would pan right at Juan—and stop before reaching his seats. 

Juan told Todd there might’ve been a film crew at the stadium. “I saw Super Dave Osborne in my section,” he said.

The Dodgers gave Todd access to the media relations book. The pages were: blank. Then on May 12, a name and phone number. 

“HBO,” someone answered. They directed him to the studio for Curb Your Enthusiasm.

“Don’t hang up on me,” said Todd, before explaining what he needed.

“We don’t release preproduction footage. You’ll have to wait until it airs in February.”

“My client is facing the death penalty for something he didn’t do,” said Todd.

“Let me talk to Larry David about it.”

Todd had no idea who Larry David was, despite having seen every episode of Seinfeld

The man returned to the phone: “Larry says we can show you the footage. When do you want to come?”

The next morning Todd and the Curb Your Enthusiasm crew sat in an editing room. The episode featured Larry picking up a prostitute, so that he could use the carpool lane on the way to Dodger Stadium. A crew member fed tapes into a machine, one after another, each 5-7 minutes long. No sign of Juan.  

Larry David featured in the ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ episode shot at Dodgers Stadium . The raw footage from the filming was able to clear Juan Catalan of murder.

Then Todd jumped out of his chair and ran to the screen. “That’s him, that’s him, roll it back.” Larry David and Juan Catalan walked right passed one another in the aisle in full view of the camera. The room went nuts.

“I’ll be damned,” said Larry, putting his hand on his chin. “Maybe I should make an episode about this.” The time code on the tape indicated it was filmed between 8:58pm and 9:10pm. Martha’s killer drove down Lull Street, fifteen miles away, shortly after 10:00pm. Todd would need something more to get the judge to dismiss.

Juan thought about life in prison or the death penalty every day. But first he had to survive jail. “It was just normal that people were popping up dead in County,” said Juan. “That place is for animals. It’s not for human beings.”

He saw an inmate who’d misplaced something and took it out on a man who was clearly not responsible. He was beaten in the corner until he lost consciousness. “The guy was crying,” said Juan. “A grown man yelling for help. And nobody’s coming.”

Juan was caught in the middle of a riot, Latinos against black inmates, both sides trying to kill the other in a closed cell. One hundred men crashing violently into one another creates “the most frightening sound you can think of,” said Juan.

Juan barely slept in jail. “Someone is always awake and making noise.” There’s nothing to do. You rarely have any idea what time it is. Juan called Alma for a few minutes every other day, an expensive collect call. “I didn’t want to be a burden to them,” said Juan. Juan’s father nearly lost his shop without his son, yet still managed to send Alma money for the girls. Alma was there on visiting days, seeing Juan through the glass, but after taking his daughters once they decided it was too painful: for the girls and for Juan.

Juan Catalan sat in jail because Detectives Pinner and Rodriguez claimed Juan Ibanez, the lone witness to Martha’s murder, had identified him from a six pack (months after having identified two other men in a different one). Despite this being a homicide case, detectives did not record the identification in any way. The judge ordered them to conduct another. Ibanez was shown a six pack, and this time it was recorded on audio.

“There’s this long hesitation,” said Todd. “I mean long hesitation. I swear you hear whispering in the background.” Only then did Ibanez identify Juan Catalan. 

Juan, arrested on August 12, had his day in court on December 17. Preliminary hearings are almost always short and easy wins for the state. In California, a judge must find a strong suspicion that the person is guilty, one of the lowest standards in the law. Defendants rarely put on any evidence. But Todd had to try and end the prosecution at the preliminary hearing. Juan might not survive jail. And Beth Silverman, the prosecutor, who relished her nickname “Sniper,” had never lost a murder case. Todd promised Juan’s daughter Melissa that he would have him home for Christmas.

The day before the hearing, Pinner told Todd that Juan Ibanez would not testify (under California law, a police officer can offer hearsay evidence, allowing Pinner to testify in his place). Yet Juan Ibanez was the state’s first witness. Thinking fast, Todd removed his suit jacket and covered his client. Ibanez had never identified Juan in person, and Todd was not about to give him the chance to do it with Juan in plain view.

Todd challenged Ibanez’s description of the shooter. Ibanez had said he had a dark complexion, similar to himself. Juan was light skinned. Ibanez said the shooter was stocky. Juan was “a beanpole,” in Todd’s words, even before losing thirty pounds in jail. Todd questioned Ibanez about the shooter’s height. Ibanez had said the shooter was a little taller than him (5’5”). Todd, six feet tall, had his client stand next to him. Juan Catalan was 6’1’’ in shoes. The court reporter had a tape measure, which Todd used to confirm. Todd questioned Ibanez about the various men he’d identified as the shooter from a previous six pack, neither of whom resembled Juan.

Todd then removed his jacket from over his client so that the prosecutor could question the witness. Ibanez identified Juan Catalan as the man who killed Martha Puebla.

Detective Pinner testified next. He admitted he knew that Juan might have been at a Dodger game shortly after the arrest.

“Did you do any followup investigation to find out whether that was true or not?” Todd asked.

“Not if he was specifically at the game.”

“What did you do?”

“I spoke to several people who like to go to Dodger games about the times…what times they start, what times they finish, and if there was a game that night.”

Todd questioned Pinner about the killer’s car, variously described as a dark blue or black Toyota, Honda, or Chevy, with five windows tinted. Juan didn’t drive anything matching that description. He had driven Alma’s Tahoe SUV to Dodger Stadium. Pinner testified that Juan had once gotten a ticket in a relative’s black Maxima. Had Pinner verified whether Juan had access to that car? Or whether he’d driven it that night? Or whether it had five tinted windows? (It didn’t). He hadn’t.

Todd challenged Pinner over the alleged motive: that Martha had testified against Mario Jr. First, Martha hadn’t testified against anyone. She had been called as a witness in Jose Ledesma’s murder of Christian Vargas, in front of her house. Mario had only been charged as the driver in the Enrique Acosta killing. Martha’s death wouldn’t have done Mario Catalan the least bit of good.

At his preliminary hearing, Mario Jr.’s lawyer stood up behind him and asked Martha if she’d ever seen him before. She said she hadn’t. But Silverman and Pinner clung to the theory that Juan, a man with no criminal history of violence, who by their own admission was not a member of a gang, had murdered her to somehow help his brother.

Pinner admitted that Martha had never mentioned Mario’s name.

“She didn’t even indirectly hint about anything to do with Mario Catalan during her testimony. Isn’t that true?” Todd asked.

“Not that I recall off the top of my head.”

Silverman objected to the defense offering evidence at the preliminary hearing, on the grounds that she hadn’t seen it. California law was clear: she had no right to see Juan’s evidence at that stage. But the judge sided with the prosecution and forced Juan to waive his right to an uninterrupted hearing in order to present evidence of his innocence. The judge continued the hearing until January 5. Juan would spend at least nineteen more days in jail. Todd got down on his knee and told Juan’s daughter that he wouldn’t be getting his father out for Christmas as he had promised. But he would get him out. The court of appeal sided with Juan, but their decision came too late to help. 

When the preliminary hearing resumed, Todd presented evidence from the cell phone company. At 10:11p.m. on May 12, with the killer circling Martha’s block, Alma had called Juan to find out what time he was coming home. The call had pinged off the cell tower at the Police Academy. It had a one-mile radius that included Dodger Stadium. The “Curb Your Enthusiasm” footage prevented Silverman from arguing that Juan had sent someone else to the game with his cell phone to establish an alibi.

Juan’s cousin, friend, and daughter testified that they had gone to the Dodger game with him, and what time they had left.

“I think it’s unconscionable the district attorney’s office has proceeded on this case with the evidence that they have presented,” Todd said in his closing argument. “This man would be facing the death penalty if he hadn’t, by the grace of God, gotten Dodger tickets from someone the day before and invited these people, and got caught on video from that HBO show. He’s a lucky man.

 “He sits here before this court innocent of the charges that have been placed before him. They are very serious charges, and somebody is still walking around the San Fernando Valley that’s responsible.” 

Beth Silverman refused to back down, calling Ibanez “extremely credible,” and pointing to Juan’s “motive evidence.”

The judge was ready to rule: “I do not have any suspicion that the defendant committed this crime, and this case is dismissed.” 

The courtroom burst into applause. 

Silverman went on television promising she would ultimately convict Juan Catalan: “We will continue to investigate until we get what we need.” 

For the first time since he had been arrested, Juan was free to go home. But on Monday, he had to return to jail on the drug charge. Beth Silverman had taken over that case for the District Attorney. Todd proposed a settlement: Los Angeles had held Juan for nearly six months for a crime he didn’t commit. Why not credit him for time served and call it a day? Silverman refused. She demanded Juan spend two more weeks in jail, or he could go to trial and face five years.

It may have been coincidence that Juan Catalan, who had thoroughly embarrassed police and prosecutors the week before, was placed in a cell alone with black gang members, who had just had two of their own murdered by a Latino gang. 

Juan could hear them talking in a corner, saying things like: “An eye for an eye.” Juan stayed awake for days, knowing his life might depend on it.

On Juan’s last night, a jail trustee came by carrying blankets. “Here’s what you ordered,” he said to the gang members. “If you know anything about jail,” said Juan, “that’s how you deliver a knife.” 

“I just got out of the murder case,” thought Juan, “and this is where my life ends? I couldn’t believe it.” He called Alma to say “goodbye” and to tell their daughters that he loved them. 

A sheriff’s deputy checked on the cell at night.

“Are you alright?” he asked Juan.

If Juan said “no,” and the deputy left him there, he was dead for sure. So Juan said he was.

“Come on sheriff,” said a gang member. “We’re alright.”

The deputy didn’t believe it. “Jump down,” he told Juan. Juan was moved to another cell with Latino inmates. He survived his last night in jail.

Juan’s story first came to national attention in a six paragraph New Yorker article. Todd, Juan, and his family were flown to New York, picked up by the ABC limo, appeared on “Good Morning America,” “The Today Show,” and spent the day doing interviews. On the subway ride to a Yankee game, Todd and Juan were mobbed by people who had seen them on TV, asking for autographs and pictures.  

 

One night, Juan’s cousin called from the family shop, saying that Martha’s mother was outside. “Come out and get what you deserve!” she screamed in Spanish. She had to be removed by the police. Martha’s killers went unpunished for years, until an FBI takedown of the Vineland Boys uncovered the three men responsible.

Juan sued the city of Los Angeles for violating his civil rights.

Officer Guiral, who had acted on a gang member’s tip that Juan was the killer, couldn’t explain why he thought it was credible, or why he hadn’t verified what he was told, and admitted he was “duped.”

Detective Pinner admitted he’d never been formally trained as a homicide detective; that he’d lost count of how many complaints he’d received from the public, for illegally entering homes or improperly pointing his gun. He flew into a rage during his deposition, yelling and threatening, claiming Todd was stressing him out by tapping a coffee cup. He maintained the judge had made a mistake in releasing Juan.

Detective Rodriguez, the subject of four public complaints for misconduct, was asked whether he thought Juan Ibanez was a truthful witness. “He was the only witness we had,” he said.

Beth Silverman was defiant in her deposition.

“An innocent man was prosecuted,” said Gary Casselman, Juan’s civil rights attorney.

“That’s your opinion,” Silverman replied. 

Juan Ibanez would be the key witness. If he had looked at a photo lineup and confidently picked Juan Catalan as Martha’s killer, the city would probably win the case. But If Ibanez testified that he had been coached, the city was in real trouble.  Casselman tried repeatedly to depose Ibanez. The city refused to reveal his location until threatened by the judge. Ibanez, it turned out, was being held in a federal immigration facility. Casselman called the next day to schedule his deposition. Ibanez, he was told, had been deported to Mexico the day before.

Even still, it may seem that Juan had a good case. But every such lawsuit is vulnerable to dismissal under “qualified immunity,” created by the US Supreme Court in 1982. It was no longer enough to prove police had deprived someone of their civil rights. Casselman had to show they had violated a clearly established right. Silverman, as a prosecutor, enjoyed total immunity from civil lawsuits. It looked to Casselman as though the judge might dismiss Juan’s case on grounds of qualified immunity, and he had to settle. Juan walked away with around $80,000 (there’s a GoFundMe to help with the ongoing financial trauma caused by his six-month incarceration).

Netflix debuted a forty-minute documentary on Juan, called Long Shot, in 2017. Since then, Juan hears from people all over the world: Australia, the Philippines, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, the UK. “I’ve never traveled,” said Juan, “but now I have friends all over.” He often hears from fathers: “I can’t even imagine being in your place.” A big, tatted up man asked to give Juan a hug at Jersey Mikes (Juan agreed).

Juan and Todd remain good friends. They’re often recognized in public and asked for autographs and pictures. “We go to Dodger games and people go frickin’ nuts,” said Todd. 

Todd is still defending people accused of crimes. Beth Silverman remains a prosecutor with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. Pinner is still a detective with the LAPD.

Juan still works in his father’s shop. He and Alma are still together, and have a ten-year old son. Juan and his daughters, now 23 and 21, are all working on their college degrees together. His arrest for the murder of Martha Puebla continues to enter his life in unexpected ways.

One day in English class Juan raised his hand and told the professor that the textbook had a mistake. Okay, said the professor, humoring him. “What’s wrong?” 

“It says here I went to the Dodgers game with my girlfriend,” said Juan. “But I went with my daughter.”