"It makes sense that journalists wouldn’t be friends with law enforcement for one reason: We reveal their flaws. But this accountability is important, because legal authorities have the power to drastically impact lives. That is abundantly clear when considering one bizarre, notorious case that resulted in a settlement involving hundreds of thousands of dollars, issued 15 years ago."
"On May 12, 2003, Martha Puebla was sitting on the curb outside her Sun Valley home while chatting with a friend. A man walked up from behind the pair.
“Who are you?” he asked Puebla.
“I’m Martha,” she said. “You know me.”
"The man then removed a 9-millimeter handgun from his sweatshirt pocket and began firing. The fatal shot was so close to her face that it left burn marks on Puebla’s cheek."
The events leading to Martha Puebla's slaying began five months earlier outside her bedroom window.
Shortly before 2 a.m. on Nov. 27, 2002, a girlfriend of Puebla's pulled up outside her house. The teenage girl, whom The Times is not identifying for her safety at the request of a prosecutor, had come with another friend, Christian Vargas. He stayed in the car while the girl went to Puebla's ground-floor window and asked if she wanted to come hang out.
As the girls talked, gunshots suddenly filled the night air. The girl jumped through the window, cowering in Puebla's room. After a few minutes, she approached the car, where she found Vargas' body riddled
with bullets. He begged the girl for help and then died, his head slumped against the steering wheel."
"After early interviews, suspicion fell quickly on Jose Ledesma, a member of the Vineland Boyz -- a notorious, violent gang that controlled much of the drug sales on the streets of Sun Valley."
The gang killed Puebla for what they believed was snitching on the shooter. She didn't.
Police used an outside source to translate a jailhouse conversation between the suspect and another inmate.
The translation was false. LAPD Spanish speaking officers translated it correctly.
In tomorrow’s newsletter, I’ll explain how a man found himself jailed over Puebla’s death, and how HBO played a role in proving that he wasn’t the one who took the teen’s life. I’ll also explain how the answer to the case was available to detectives the whole time.
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