Anderson-Jordet's family ask Klein to challenge district attorney's plea deal; DA, local expert weigh in on case

The family of slain Arcata man Douglas Anderson-Jordet has asked a former prosecutor and current district attorney candidate to represent them when asking the court to set aside the plea bargain made with his killer.

Arnie Klein, a former Humboldt County deputy district attorney and one of four candidates running for the office's top position in the June primary, said the family was "misled" by the agreement.

"This has been a 3-D prosecution of distortion, deception and dishonesty," Klein said. "The family will be asking that the case be heard in court, so that they and the community can find out what the true facts are in this case."

In the plea deal, 35-year-old Arcata resident Juan Joseph Ferrer pleaded no contest to an involuntary manslaughter charge, for which he would face a maximum four-year jail sentence and pay up to $10,000 in restitution fees to Anderson-Jordet's family.

Anderson-Jordet, a 50-year old chef and Arcata resident, was killed in the early morning hours of Nov. 25 after an altercation with Ferrer and two other Arcata residents. He was stabbed once in the heart.

Both Klein and fellow district attorney candidate Allan Dollison have issued press releases criticizing Deputy District Attorney Elan Firpo's handling of the case and the plea bargain. While Firpo is also a candidate, Klein said his decision to represent the family at the April 3 sentencing hearing is not a political move.

"It's because somebody has to help that family seek justice," Klein said.

After receiving a narrative from the autopsy report -- stating that the victim also received a puncture wound on his upper-left chest and a "'defense' injury" on his left index finger during the altercation -- Anderson-Jordet's sister Donna Johnson said her family felt an involuntary manslaughter charge did not represent the scope of the crime.

"Our family felt it was decided on too quickly, and that there wasn't enough evidence that was pursued by the prosecutor," Johnson said. "We decided we needed someone with more criminal background experience to help seek justice for Douglas' death."

District Attorney Paul Gallegos recently reassigned Firpo from the case at her request. She said she did not want it to become "conflated with a political campaign."

Gallegos -- who has since taken over the case -- said he will not be challenging the plea deal as requested by the family. He said claims that the case was not thoroughly investigated are "inaccurate," and the courts will decide the next course of action.

"I am very familiar with the facts in the autopsy report," Gallegos said. "The next course is what conclusion does one want to draw from the physical evidence? I am very familiar with deaths and injuries."

Plea deals are common in the court system, according to Humboldt State University criminology and justice studies assistant professor Josh Meisel.

"Over 90 percent of convictions in criminal cases are made through plea bargains," Meisel said. "If we didn't have the plea deal, the criminal justice and court systems, which are already overloaded and backlogged, would explode in terms of the impacts."

Whether a person is convicted through a plea deal or by trial "depends on several circumstances," he said.

"It is really important to understand that it's not just the individual facts that determine whether a plea deal is going to be struck, but also the actors involved," Meisel said. "Who the victims and perpetrators are. Some people in groups defined by race, ethnicity and gender have a greater advantage of using a plea deal."

Meisel said the use of plea bargains also depends on the attorneys' abilities to move forward with a case.

"They can be used if the prosecution has a weak case and are not able to prove something beyond a reasonable doubt," Meisel said. "For the defense, it's an opportunity to get a lesser sentence for the defendant. ... Things are negotiable to some extent, but we work in an environment for mandatory sentencing."

Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504 or whouston@times-standard.com. Follow him on Twitter.com/Will_S_Houston.

Advertisement