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Blankenship’s name removed from civil suit against sheriff

Judge orders Miranda, Valdez to combine civil suit against sheriff

Posted: February 27, 2009 12:40 a.m.
Updated: February 27, 2009 8:00 a.m.
LOS ANGELES - Lawyers for both sides in the Miranda v. Sheriff Lee Baca wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit agreed to remove sheriff's employee James Blankenship's name from the lawsuit Thursday.

Blankenship, Baca and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department were named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit the Miranda family filed claiming the plaintiffs violated Bryan Miranda's civil rights and that led to Miranda's wrongful death on Dec. 2, 2007.

Blankenship is a civilian employee for the Sheriff's Department.

The lawyers agreed the wrongful death suit incorrectly named Blankenship as the deputy who pulled over the Mirandas' father and Valdez. Motaz Gerges, lawyer for both the Miranda family and co-plaintiff Jose Valdez, admits the mistake to name Blankenship and said the deputy responsible is Blankenship's brother, Deputy Edward Blankenship.

Michael Thomas, who represents the county, said claims made against Edward Blankenship won't gain traction.

The lawyer claims Edward Blankenship wasn't the deputy who responded to the scene.

"We don't know how (the plaintiffs) got that wrong," Thomas said.

Thomas didn't identify the name of the deputy who responded the night of the slaying, but said the deputy will be identified soon.

Bryan Miranda was gunned down Dec. 2, 2007, in what sheriff's deputies called a gang-related shooting. Miranda was a student at College of the Canyons at the time and not a gang member, Sgt. Brian Schoonmaker said.

Miranda, formerly of Newhall, was hanging out with a few friends the night of the shooting. One of those friends was a known gang member, Schoonmaker said.

Drivers in a brown Toyota Camry sprayed gunfire at the partygoers before speeding off at about 12:30 a.m., Schoonmaker said.

The first bullets struck Valdez, of Palmdale. Bryan Miranda rushed to Valdez's side as the shooters unloaded several shots at Bryan Miranda, according to the lawsuit. The shots hit him in the back, buttocks, right arm and lower leg.

Miranda was pronounced dead at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital at 2:40 a.m.

The suit claims Baca, the Sheriff's Department and a deputy violated Miranda's civil rights and contributed to the 17-year-old's death.

The deputy stopped Antulio Miranda, as he transported the wounded Bryan Miranda and Valdez to Newhall Memorial Hospital minutes after the shooting. Bryan Miranda's brother, Christian Miranda, and another man were in the car at the time.

The lawsuit alleges the deputy shone a flashlight in Bryan Miranda's face. The car's occupants told the deputy about the severity of Miranda's injuries, according to the lawsuit.

The deputy allegedly forced Bryan Miranda out of the car and attempted to handcuff him, according to the lawsuit.

The deputy also allegedly kicked Bryan Miranda as he faded in-and-out of consciousness, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit claims an unnamed deputy told Miranda, "Why don't you close your eyes and die you gangster?"

The claims made against the deputy, Baca and the Sheriff's Department include negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Judge John Kronstadt ordered lawyers for both sides to combine the Miranda lawsuit with the separate lawsuit filed by Valdez.

"These cases arise out of the same incident. It's in the best interest of the jury and the court's economy to hear them at the same time," Kronstadt said.

Kronstadt told Gerges to clarify the allegations made in suit.

"I don't want to get into specifics, but the problems range from the basis used for allegation of negligence to the alleged violations of civil rights in the Valdez case," Kronstadt said.

He noted similar inconsistencies in the Miranda case.

Gerges and Thomas have 20 days to agree on the amended lawsuit.

The judge set the trial date for the Miranda and Valdez hearing for Aug. 31. The lawyers are due back in court in late March for another pretrial proceeding.


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