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'Curb' Your Prosecution
2004-06-01 21:04
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Remember that miserable Dodger game a year ago, when Eric Gagne got torched for four runs in the 10th inning and the Dodgers lost, 11-4, to Atlanta?

That was the highlight of one Dodger fan's year.

Juan Catalan spent 5 1/2 months in jail, accused of murder, until his alibi was validated, according to The Associated Press - by the Dodgers and Larry David.

Or something like that.

Catalan ... had ticket stubs from the game and testimony from his family as to his whereabouts the night (Martha) Puebla was killed. But police still believed he was responsible, saying they had a witness who placed Catalan at the scene of the slaying. ...

Defense attorney Todd Melnik subpoenaed the Dodgers and Fox Networks, which owned the team then, to scan videotape of the televised baseball game and footage from its “Dodger Vision” cameras. Some of the videotapes showed where Catalan was sitting but Melnik couldn’t make him out.

Melnik later learned that HBO was filming the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode where David hires a prostitute, so that he can take the carpool lane to Dodger Stadium (a carpool lane that, by the way, I'm not sure exists). Melnik reviewed the raw footage.

"I got to one of the scenes, and there is my client sitting in a corner of the frame eating a hot dog with his daughter," Melnik said. "I nearly jumped out of my chair and said, 'There he is!'"

The tapes had time codes that allowed Melnik to find out exactly when Catalan was at the ballpark. ...

Catalan, who could have faced the death penalty had he been convicted of murder, was released in January because a judge ruled there was no evidence to try him.

The murder is still unsolved.

Update: Kevin Roderick at L.A. Observed notes that Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker has the story in this week's issue.

"It sounded very cool because my life is so lacking in anything interesting," David said last week. "It did seem like kind of a lame story, but I told the lawyer, 'Go ahead, go crazy. Look at anything you want.' And we hooked him up with everything from the stadium, all the footage we shot that night." On the day that Melnik came in to see the tapes, David at first left him to watch on his own, but later he stuck his head in the editing room, where the lawyer was examining the footage.

"I'm there for maybe five minutes, and the lawyer screams out, 'There he is!'" David recalled. "We couldn’t believe it. We rewound the tape, and just as I’m walking up the aisle in one shot, this guy is sitting right there. And then there was another shot where he was standing up." Melnik said, "Jesus Christ, if I didn’t jump three feet in the air! It was totally a eureka moment."

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