By Tony Saavedra / Staff Writer
Published: May 9, 2016
Updated: May 10, 2016 7:39 a.m.
Convicted double murderer Henry Rodriguez was released on bail Monday after 18 years in prison, another felony case upended because of questions related to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office’s use of jailhouse informants.
Rodriguez, wearing a county-issued paper jumpsuit, walked out of the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange and into the arms of his parents, embracing them for the first time in nearly two decades without being behind bars.
Rodriguez’s bail was lowered last week to $500,000 from $1 million after a judge ruled that county authorities improperly withheld evidence in his conviction for helping to dispose of a pregnant woman’s body after she’d been shot.
Beaming up at her 39-year-old son, Rodriguez’s mother, Virginia, said she was “ecstatic” as they hurried across the street to a waiting truck.
“I can’t believe it,” Virginia Rodriguez said. “He’s out of restraints, and I’m on a public street with him.”
A new trial – Rodriguez’s third for this crime – might not begin for a few years. The District Attorney’s Office is appealing the ruling that granted the retrial, and such appeals can take years.
Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for the District Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors would work toward sending Rodriguez back to prison as soon as possible.
“We hope that public safety is not compromised by lowering this defendant’s bail,” Schroeder said.
“We intend to retry the case as soon as possible to bring Mr. Rodriguez to justice for the third time.”
In February, Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals reduced bail and awarded Rodriguez a retrial after ruling that evidence about a jailhouse informant was improperly withheld from Rodriguez’s defense attorney, James Crawford.
Goethals is the same judge who last year removed the District Attorney’s Office from the penalty phase trial of confessed Seal Beach mass killer Scott Dekraai, another case that involved the alleged misuse of a jailhouse informant and withholding of evidence.
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