Conviction of 12 Reversed in Sleepy Lagoon Murder

Evidence Too Weak for Guilty Verdict, Appeal Court Says

Conviction of 12 youths for the "Sleepy Lagoon" murder of Jose Diaz two years ago was reversed yesterday by the District Court of Appeal in a 121-page decision written by Associate Justice Thomas P. White.

Justice White's opinion, which was concurred in by Presiding Justice John M. York and Justice William C. Doran, held that the evidence presented at the trial was insufficient to establish the guilt of the defendants.

The opinion stated that there was no evidence of racial prejudice in the proceedings during the 13-week trial of the youths.

22 Youths Indicted

Originally 22 defendants were indicted, but five were acquitted of murder charges and five were held on assault charges only. The appeal was instituted by the 12 convicted of murder.

One of the 12, Manuel Delgado, was paroled from the California Institute for Men at Chino last August, while the others were due to be released on parole later on varying dates.

Convicted of first-degree murder were Henry Leyvas, 19; Jose Ruiz, 17, and Robert Telles, 17.

The nine others, Gus Zamora, 20; Henry Ynostroza, 18; Victor R. Thompson, 20; Ysmale Parra, 23; Angel Padilla, 18; John Y. Matuz, 20; Jack Melendez, 21; Manuel Reyes, 18, and Delgado, 18, were found guilty of second-degree murder.

Diaz Beaten to Death

Diaz, a Mexican national, was beaten to death when a youthful gang assertedly broke up a party at a Montebello ranch Aug. 2, 1942, and stabbed and beat several persons.

The trial became an international issue when Axis propagandists built up the incident as a drive of Americans to mistreat Latin-American citizens. Berlin, Rome and Tokyo radio stations beamed broadcasts to Latin-American countries, flashing distorted stories.

The propaganda campaign became so serious that the Office of War Information and the Mexican government sent investigators here.

About this text
Courtesy of Dept of Special Collections/UCLA Library, A1713 Charles E. Young Research Library, 405 Hilgard Ave, Box 951575, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1575;
Title: Conviction of 12 reversed in Sleepy Lagoon murder : evidence too weak for guilty verdict, Appeal Court says
Date: October 1944
Contributing Institution: Dept of Special Collections/UCLA Library, A1713 Charles E. Young Research Library, 405 Hilgard Ave, Box 951575, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1575;
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