The Fresno appellate court has overturned the murder conviction of a Madera man, saying he didn’t get a fair trial when he was convicted of sexually assaulting and killing a homeless woman in Madera in September 2000.
Frank William Hogan was found guilty in Madera County Superior Court in April 2013 of first-degree murder and sodomy after his DNA linked him to the killing of 49-year-old Linda Marie Richards. Hogan was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In his appeal, Hogan, 42, argued that trial Judge Joseph A. Soldani erroneously excluded evidence important to his defense: that Richards might have been a prostitute with whom Hogan had sex and that she was killed by someone else after that.
In a ruling earlier this month, the 5th District Court of Appeal said some of the excluded evidence relates to the amount of time that passed after Hogan’s semen was deposited in Richards’ body and before she died. Other excluded evidence pertains to the question of whether Richards might have been sodomized with a foreign object sometime after Hogan had anal sex with her.
Also excluded was Hogan’s character evidence for not engaging in sexual violence and defense evidence to rebut evidence of Richards’ character for being orderly, dignified and law-abiding.
In addition, Soldani erroneously gave a jury instruction about Hogan’s alleged “consciousness of guilt,” the appellate court says.
The victim, Linda Marie Richards, was an Air Force veteran who had fallen on hard times.
“We hold that, in each of these evidentiary rulings, the trial court erred,” says the Feb. 8 ruling by Presiding Justice Brad Hill and Justices Donald Franson Jr. and M. Bruce Smith.
“Without the erroneously excluded material, Hogan’s defense was simply a rather implausible story according to which he had the misfortune of having sex with a stranger and leaving his DNA a short time before she was sexually assaulted and murdered by another person who did not leave any DNA,” the ruling says.
“With the excluded material it would still have been an implausible story, but it would have been supported by some evidence – including some expert medical evidence – independent of Hogan’s own self-serving testimony. The jury might have been influenced by this evidence had it been presented,” the ruling says.
The appellate court ordered a new trial for Hogan, who is behind bars at Ironwood State Prison in Blythe.
Hogan’s appellate lawyer, Scott Concklin of Redding, declined to comment. Telephone calls to Hogan’s trial lawyer, Cristobal Perez of Madera, were not returned.
Madera County District Attorney David Linn also could not be reached to comment.
We hold that, in each of these evidentiary rulings, the trial court erred.
5th District Court of Appeal ruling
Richards was an Air Force veteran who had fallen on hard times.
Court records say Richards was discovered dead behind a business on Yosemite Avenue near J Street in Madera on Sept. 1, 2000. An autopsy revealed she died of blunt-force injuries to her head.
The case remained unsolved for many years until DNA evidence pointed toward Hogan. The California Department of Justice entered the DNA evidence profile into a national law enforcement database. In 2008, a positive match was made on Hogan, who was then living in Oregon.
Madera police detectives contacted Hogan and learned he had been living in Madera at the time of Richards’ murder. They arrested him and brought him back to Madera where he was charged with murder and sodomy.
When officers asked him to explain why his sperm was found inside Richards’ body, court records say Hogan said that when he lived in Madera, he patronized prostitutes who worked downtown, and Richards was probably one of them.
“He did not remember Richards, however, and denied killing her,” court records say.