A motion has been filed in Merced Superior Court to “seal and destroy” the arrest record of Ethan B. Morse, three months after a judge found him factually innocent in a homicide case.
The motion from Kirk McAllister, the attorney representing Morse, son of District Attorney Larry Morse II, was filed Feb. 18. A hearing has been scheduled for March 25 in Superior Court.
Morse, 18, was arrested July 25 by Merced County sheriff’s deputies, but was released from custody in November after Judge Ronald W. Hansen found him factually innocent of the charges filed in connection with the March 30, 2013, death of 18-year-old Bernabed Hernandez-Canela.
McAllister said the request for a formal court order to eliminate Morse’s arrest record, if granted, “would be one step towards correcting an injustice.”
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“It doesn’t get back the months he spent in jail, but hopefully it cleans the slate,” McAllister said. “In this day and age, when potential employers look through your records with a fine-toothed comb, this is one way to try and correct the record.”
Morse was accused of driving a getaway vehicle in a drive-by shooting that claimed Hernandez-Canela’s life. The man accused of being the shooter, 18-year-old Jacob Tellez, also was found factually innocent on Nov. 14 by Hansen, after a four-day preliminary hearing.
State prosecutors in January dismissed the remaining weapons charges against Tellez. The judge, in his ruling in November, issued an unusual factual finding of innocence, specifically stating that Tellez didn’t fire a gun from Morse’s vehicle on the night in question.
McAllister’s motion is based entirely on the judge’s ruling at the preliminary hearing, according to copies of court documents obtained by the Sun-Star.
Morse, from the beginning, said he didn’t know anything about the homicide but said he was with Tellez on the night of the shooting and insisted Tellez never fired a gun.
Sheriff Vern Warnke referred questions about the motion to the California attorney general’s office, which prosecuted the case in light of the allegations against the Merced County district attorney’s son.
David Beltran, spokesman for the attorney general, declined to comment on the motion. Beltran also declined to say whether state prosecutors plan to refile charges against either defendant.
Larry Morse II also declined comment Tuesday.
Two other teenagers also were killed the night Hernandez-Canela died. All three were shot during a large high school party in the 9200 block of Westside Boulevard, outside Atwater. Hernandez-Canela was shot and killed in front of the home, while Samantha Parreira, 16, and Matthew Fisher, 19, were shot in the backyard.
Two men, Jose L. Botello and Jose M. Carballido, have been charged with murder in the deaths of Fisher and Parreira. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty. They are scheduled to appear in court again in April.
Sun-Star staff writer Rob Parsons can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.