It’s everyone’s worst nightmare. In 2003, Juan Catalan was accused of violently murdering a teenaged girl named Martha Puebla. In an egregious miscarriage of justice, the police had somehow nominated Catalan as the prime suspect – with little-to-no evidence to back their assertions
They wanted Catalan on death row. The prosecutor assigned on this case was known within the criminal justice community as “Sniper”, due to her aggressive deconstruction of defendants. To make matters even direr, she also never failed to secure a conviction when it came to death penalty cases. All hope seemed lost. But then, as if reality had been written by Larry David himself, Catalan was saved by comedy television series Curb Your Enthusiasm. In fact, this all had a rather strong resemblance to a certain Seinfeld episode.
You see, Catalan actually had an alibi. He was at a Dodgers game with his daughter and friends. But he needed video evidence to definitively prove it was impossible for him to be at the crime scene during the time of the murder. As fate would have it, Curb Your Enthusiasm’s thirty-sixth episode of season six had been filming that very day. Fans of the show would be more familiar with the episode as “The Car Pool Lane”, where Larry David solicits a prostitute so he can drive in the carpool lane to Dodgers’ Stadium.
There was just one problem – in a stadium full of 56,000 plus fans, footage of Catalan was still not guaranteed. Sifting through all the unused footage, however, they were eventually able to prove Catalan was in fact at the game. Though you could have probably guessed that by the title of this article alone.
Since then, a Netflix documentary has actually been made. Appropriately titled The Long Short, it uses archival footage of the interrogation, as we as firsthand recounts from both Juan Catalan and even Larry David. Definitely worth a watch for a more in-depth examination of this strange moment in LA criminal justice history.
There’s a broader concern here with law enforcement’s nominative approach to crime investigation and suspect handling, and perhaps an even broader issue of racial profiling. In any case, you can imagine how embarrassed the detectives of the LAPD felt after having been proved to be so blatantly wrong.