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James Crawford in the Orange County Register

Imprisoned teen sues trial lawyer
Courts Suit contends negligence led to wrongful robbery conviction.


A teen-ager serving a 13-year sentence for an armed robbery he says he didn't commit has sued his trial lawyer on allegations of malpractice.
George Arnulfo Lopez, 18, of Garden Grove contends that Charles K. Stoddard failed to present evidence that would have cleared him in the May 1999 robbery of a Commercial Credit Corp. office in Anaheim.

``Had (Stoddard and co-defendants) exercised proper care and skill in representing (Lopez) in the criminal charges brought against him, the jury would have found him innocent of all charges,'' according to the civil lawsuit, made public Tuesday.
Stoddard, whose office is in Fountain Valley, could not be reached for comment.

A jury convicted Lopez in February 2000. Since then, doubts about his guilt have surfaced, though prosecutors say they still believe he is guilty.
After the trial, two eyewitnesses said Lopez could not have been one of the holdup men. And a witness who previously had fingered him as the gunman later said he was unsure.

Recently, a cell-block neighbor said that he, not Lopez, committed the robbery.
Johnny SantaCruz, an inmate at Ironwood State Prison in Blythe, is expected to testify next month at a hearing in which Lopez could be freed.
Richard A. Solomon, Lopez's attorney in the civil complaint, could not be reached for comment.

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