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Investigators in Santa Clara County claim that DNA evidence points to a Morgan Hill man in the Sierra LaMar case. Law enforcement arrested the Morgan Hill man Monday on suspicion of kidnapping and murder in the disappearance of the 15-year-old young woman. Authorities say that they have direct and circumstantial evidence against the 21-year-old man who was booked into jail earlier this week.

Investigators claim that they had many suspects during the investigation into the disappearance of the young woman. However, authorities now say that they believe the young woman is dead and the Morgan Hill man is the only remaining suspect. Although authorities say many suspects were looked at during the investigation, the Morgan Hill man was placed under 24-hour surveillance beginning on March 28.

The man's mother says that the family found GPS devices attached to both of the family vehicles. Police say that they had secretly attached a GPS device to the Morgan Hill man's red Jetta hoping to find the missing 15-year-old. Several weeks ago authorities reportedly seized the Morgan Hill man's Jetta.

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Tagged in: kidnapping murder

The California three strikes law provides authority for prosecutors to seek, and for judges to impose, a prison sentence that is doubled for an adult convicted of any felony if the defendant has a first strike on his or her record. A strike is associated with serious or violent felony convictions, and the law recognizes serious or violent felony convictions of 16 or 17-year-old defendants in juvenile court.

Cases in juvenile court are tried before a judge without a jury. Supreme Court precedent says that a criminal defendant has the right to a jury trial on any fact that is used to increase a jail or prison sentence.

A San Jose man pled guilty to residential burglary in 2010. Prosecutors pulled out a prior robbery conviction that was rendered in juvenile court when the man was 16. That conviction involved allegations that the juvenile took $117 in a robbery of an ice cream vendor. The case in juvenile court was not presented to a jury. Prosecutors used the juvenile conviction as a first strike in seeking a doubled sentence for the 2010 adult conviction.

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The man was not accused of being present during the alleged kidnapping event. Authorities had claimed that the man was the leader of a Nuestra Familia street gang regiment. Prosecutors argued that the man had ordered others to make an example of a person who allegedly had failed to pay for drugs that had been advanced to him.

Prosecutors apparently brought witnesses in to court to testify at trial against the alleged San Jose gang leader. The witnesses reportedly included those people who allegedly had participated in the kidnapping. The witnesses could have faced their own life sentences for the alleged offense, but apparently were given deals for testifying that will reduce their own exposure to prison time to 15 to 24 years.

The prosecutors had alleged that the kidnapping victim escaped from a moving van while it was traveling on Capitol Expressway. The van reportedly fled the area before police and emergency responders could respond to 911 calls describing the expressway incident.

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Most Californians may be familiar with the constitutional concept of the right to remain silent. Popular culture has long depicted Miranda rights in cop shows to wrap up an episode. That public awareness, however, does not necessarily include recognition of the importance, or the potential abuse of the important constitutional right.

A state appeals court recently threw out a conviction of a Redwood City man based upon the court's finding that prosecutors violated the defendant's right to remain silent before the jury at trial. The man was accused of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence after a fatal accident at a Redwood City intersection in February 2007.

The prosecutor told the jury that the man accused of negligence did not ask about the occupants of the other car involved in the accident. The prosecutor unfairly argued to the jury that the man's silence after the alleged crash showed that he knew that he was in the wrong at the time of the accident. The man's silence occurred when he was effectively under arrest, according to the appellate court ruling, which was handed down last week.

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The vast majority of criminal cases in the United States resolve with some sort of plea. Many defendants charged with a crime choose to go to court without an attorney and enter a guilty plea of some sort. Other defendants enter negotiated plea agreements.

Often, a plea agreement can minimize the damages that a criminal case can impose against a defendant, but criminal laws are complex and the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction can vary widely based upon the nature of the allegations.

The United States Supreme Court ruled this week that a defendant's right to effective criminal representation extends to any plea agreement or plea offer that a prosecutor may present. The court essentially ruled, in a split decision, that plea agreements are an important aspect of criminal defense.

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