A top L.A. prosecutor calls John Wesley Ewell case a 'nightmare'
A top Los Angeles County district attorney's official said prosecutors could have done a better job determining the bail of a suspected thief who, while out of custody, allegedly killed four people in a series of home-invasion robberies.
Assistant Dist. Atty. Jacquelyn Lacey described the case as a "prosecutor's nightmare" and said her office planned to encourage prosecutors to follow the court's recommended bail for defendants unless there is a good reason to allow them to stay free. Lacey said the office would also send a notice to city police departments asking them to review suspects' criminal records before setting bail.
Her comments came after The Times reported on the case of John Wesley Ewell, who had two prior convictions for robbery when he was arrested and charged three times this year with theft. Ewell's recommended bail would have been more than $100,000. But he was allowed to remain free on $20,000 bail in each of the three theft cases.
"We feel terrible every time someone who was before the court system takes a life," Lacey said in an interview Thursday. "It cuts us to our core because that's what we do. We are involved in holding people accountable for their crimes."
-- Jack Leonard and Richard Winton
Photo: Ewell claps during a 2004 news conference supporting a proposition that sought to amend the three-strikes law by doing away with life sentences for non-serious third strikes. Credit: Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times