LOS ANGELES — A state appeals court panel Friday rejected a Downey businessman's claim that jurors who convicted him in a real estate fraud case should not have heard about his voodoo shrine that included the names of investigators and a prosecutor.
The three-justice panel from California's 2 nd District Court of Appeal found that the "voodoo evidence was highly probative" as to Ruben Hernandez's "consciousness of guilt."
The appellate court justices also rejected co-defendant Joel Rodriguez's contention that the trial court violated his right to due process by refusing to sever his trial from Hernandez's after ruling that jurors could hear about the evidence about the voodoo doll collection.
Authorities said the shrine was discovered at a home where Hernandez — who owned a Downey car dealership — had been staying.
In a 35-page ruling, the appellate court justices noted that Hernandez testified during the trial about the "benevolent purposes served by the dolls."
"He characterized the dolls as an element of his Catholic faith in which the pins stuck in the dolls were a form of 'spiritual acupuncture' to cleanse evil from the individuals the dolls represented. He also believed the dolls would assist in ensuring people were not put in jail wrongfully," the justices wrote.
Hernandez and Rodriguez were convicted of grand theft and making false financial statements.
While upholding the defendants' convictions
Hernandez was initially sentenced in June 2010 to 12 years in state prison, while Rodriguez was sentenced to 12 years and eight months in state prison.