In a long overdue decision, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals published their opinion Wednesday, that Tannen Soojian is going to get a new trial. Almost seven years later, Soojian, who was convicted of attacking a Fresno Bee carrier Joyce Ahmuda and her son, Morgan, while delivering papers on their route in the remote area of Clovis. Soojian had his conviction overturned when his defense investigator,, located new evidence that Soojian was not the perpetrator of the crime.
Last year the high court ordered the Fresno County Superior Court Judge James Quaschnick to revisit his decision in People v. Tannen Soojian. Quaschnick denied the motion and intimated Soojian’s attorney, celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos, and his team of planting evidence. In his ruling to deny Soojian a new trial, Quaschnick described the new evidence “suspect.”
During the hearing, Geragos was quick to point out to the court that he was the third lawyer on the case since its filing, claiming that the “planted evidence” would have to have been concealed and passed through the other two attorneys before getting to him. Moreover, Geragos pointed out the absurdity of waiting until the trial was concluded.
Geragos was surprised when the victim’s nineteen year old son, who was sixteen at the time of the incident, began to describe on the stand, a truck unlike Soojian’s as being used in the crime. Family members sitting in the audience, recognized the description as that of Soojian cousin and neighbor, Aaron Bolin, and quickly produced a picture of the vehicle from an old camping trip.
Detective Pat Oh of the Fresno Countywho spearheaded the investigation was presented with a piece of paper at the scene from Soojian’s construction company, leading him to the arrest of Soojian within hours of the attack. There was no further investigation other than to seize the truck and test it for forensic evidence. Once the victim, Joyce Ahmuda’s blood was located inside Soojian’s truck, the case moved forward.
According to witnesses, however, Detective Oh had entered the Soojian vehicle while at the family home. Although he denied being inside the truck and transferring the blood, at the time of trial, Geragos was able to show that someone has to have entered the vehicle in order to get it started and out of gear for the towing company to impound the car for testing. Family members identified that person as Detective Oh.
Following the trial, however, private investigator Scott Ross was able to track down and purchase Bolin’s truck. Ross placing the truck under the security and watchful eye of retired detective Jeff Berry, a thirty year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Ross then brought in criminalistScott of Technology Associates, Inc., base out of Ventura, California, to inspect the truck. As they systematically disassembled the vehicle, the victim Joyce Ahmuda’s California driver’s license was located under the carpet, four years later.
Further inspection found 22 fragments and pellets were located inside the truck. A further comparison of fragments from a random snake shot cartridge by Technical Associates, concluded them to be almost the exact weight. Ahmuda was shot by a handgun loaded with snake shot.
After testimony describing the assailant did not match that of Soojian, Geragos was quoted as saying “The right thing to do is for the DA to dismiss the case so my client doesn’t have to spend another day in prison for a crime he didn’t do”.
John Savrnoch, a chief assistant district attorney, said of the initial motion for a new trial: “That’s not going to happen.” Apparently Savrnoch was wrong, that is going to happen.
The only thing that remains to be seen now, is whether on nor the district attorney’s office decides to pursue a second trial or release Soojian. Geragos is confident that if there is another trial, this time Soojian will be found not guilty.