San Diego

Unusual Prosecutions Carried Out in San Diego

When it comes to criminal cases, most prosecutors boast impressive conviction rates above 90 percent.

That is because only cases that could be won are typically taken to trial and the rest, which result in plea bargains also count as a conviction on the stat sheet.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office has a felony conviction rate of 94 percent.

But the prosecutors in that office sometimes take on unusual prosecutions.

There was the case of documented gang members Marlon Thomas and Kurese Bell, who stormed a North Park Marijuana Dispensary where they threatened and disarmed a security guard before attempting to rob the business.

At one point, the security guard lunged to recover his weapon, and wrestled with Thomas. During the scuffle, fearing for his life, the guard fatally shot Thomas, prosecutors said.

On suspect was killed when two documented gang members targeted a marijuana dispensary in North Park. Surveillance video shows the violent altercation between the suspects and the security guard.

The legal twist came later when prosecutors decided to charge surviving accomplice Kurese Bell with the murder of his robbery partner, although it was the guard who lawfully fired the fatal shot.

A murder conviction was handed down to Bell.


By employing a 50-year-old, seldom used legal doctrine called provocative act murder, which holds an individual responsible for murder if they provoked someone into killing another person.

“Even though Mr. Bell wasn’t the one who shot Mr. Thomas, it was his actions of putting a gun to the security guard’s head, telling him multiple times he was going to be executed, which prompted the guard to fire in self-defense,” said Deputy District Attorney, Robert Eacret.

This is not the only unusual conviction won by the DA's office.

There was the case of caregiver Denise Goodwin convicted of murdering a Rancho Bernardo senior she was hired to help. When he turned up missing, prosecutors said Goodwin began draining his bank accounts and lied about his whereabouts.

Though the body of 88-year-old Gerald Rabourn was never found, Deputy District Attorney Bill Mitchell said he was able to convince a jury to find Goodwin guilty of murder because of such strong circumstantial evidence.

“She had motive, she had opportunity. And the only way she could have gotten away with the theft of all of his assets was for him to disappear," Mitchell said.

The DA's office has even secured a murder conviction against a motorist named William Romero who decided to drive drunk after family warned him against doing so, causing a fatal collision later in Oceanside.

Deputy District Attorney Mathew Greco said a statement Romero made to his concerned family before grabbing his car keys led prosecutors to seek a murder charge.

“Ultimately, the defendant said ‘If I drive, either I will drive and kill myself or kill someone else’ and so he went down and got into his Camaro," Greco said.

San Diego prosecutors insist they aren’t legal gunslingers and that they try cases they think they can win. But they don’t win them all.

As was the case of local rapper Brandon "Tiny Doo" Duncan, convicted of gang conspiracy for lyrics in his songs. The conviction was later thrown out by a judge.

But prosecutors said they will continue to look for every legal available method to convict the guilty, no matter how obscure the legal method may be—especially in the most serious cases.

“You never want someone getting away with murder," Mitchell said.

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