Moving into the cheaper seats to witness the best of the game competition was one of Juan Catalan most joyful childhood memories. He continued to observe this custom well into his adult life.
On the 12th of May in 2003, Juan, then 24 years old, sat down with his daughter Melissa, then six, to watch his beloved Los Angeles Dodgers lose to the Atlanta Braves by a score of 11-4.
It was a game that would ultimately save his life. He played it well. After another three months had passed, Juan was allegedly responsible for the death of Martha Puebla, who was only 16 years old. Puebla recently asserted during a preliminary hearing regarding a gang murder in which Juan’s brother Mario was charged with being an accomplice. The incident occurred in Puebla.
How It Started
In the early morning hours of May 12, 2003, sixteen-year-old Martha Puebla was killed in the driveway of her home in Sun Valley, California. Only a few days before she was killed, she had testified against Mario Catalan, a young man, in a case involving a gang killing in which Mario was charged with being an accessory.
A distance of twenty miles away, Mario’s brother Juan was cheering on his beloved Los Angeles Dodgers against the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium with his daughter, who was six years old.
Juan was identified as the gunman by an eyewitness, and Juan had a history of criminal activity dating back to his teenage years. He was forced to commit the crime of Grand Theft Auto by his older brother, for which he was caught and given a criminal record that would later make his situation worse, but he was able to get rid of it thanks to a tape that placed him in Dodger Stadium, wearing a jersey of then-pitcher Kevin Brown. This allowed him to clear his name and improve his situation.
When the police finally apprehended him, they charged him with murder. The investigation led the authorities to think that Juan, who was present in the courtroom at the time of the murder, was responsible for Puebla’s death out of retaliation. An eyewitness reportedly stated that they saw Juan pull the trigger in the execution-style murder, which added credence to their argument.
Naturally, Juan was able to provide an alibi. When the event took place, he and Melissa were both there at the stadium to see the Dodgers take on the Braves. However, the law enforcement officials did not believe him.
The prosecutor, who had never been unsuccessful in a case, was pressing for Juan to be sentenced to death, and it appeared as though Juan would be executed for a crime that he had not committed.
Juan told Liam Bartlett of 60 Minutes in September of this year, “Since the day I was detained, I just felt like I was being framed,” Juan said. “I just felt like I was being set up.”
He was sentenced to death but spent nearly six months in jail pleading his innocence while facing the possibility of execution.
It wasn’t until Juan’s dogged attorney was going through hours of tapes and spotted Juan in the crowd during the Dodgers game based on outtakes from Larry David’s HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm that the district attorney was forced to drop the murder charges against Juan and award him a settlement of $320,000. In addition to this, Juan was also given an apology from the Dodgers for his behavior during the game.
Six Months of Torture for Juan Catalan
Juan Catalan became an avid supporter of the Los Angeles Dodgers. His uncle took him to see the renowned Mexican pitcher Fernando Valenzuela pitch a game at Dodger Stadium when he was a very small boy.
And when he was eighteen years old, he grabbed a ball that had been hit for a home run as it was flying towards the stands.
But being arrested for murder months after the slaying and being threatened with either dying in jail or being put to death via the death penalty was a living nightmare for a man who claimed he was watching his beloved sports team at Dodger Stadium at the time of the homicide.
After being exonerated, he spoke with a journalist about the mental torment he endured while serving time for a crime he did not commit. He said, “I felt like I didn’t sleep for six months because there was just so many, so much going on… I mean, I’d never seen so many people just, you know, beaten, you know? When you hear a mature man, you know, beg for assistance, and you’re like, helpless, it’s a feeling like a man, just of complete…no hope. When you hear a grown man, you know, cry for aid, and you’re like, helpless.
In addition, he stated, “There is like, in there, it’s just like, you know, that’s intended to rehabilitate a person?” No. No, not in my opinion. That must be really devastating for a person to experience…. “Am I going to die in here?” was the idea that went through my head… We are brought up to believe that, you know, the officers are there to protect us, so the mere knowledge that they are doing something that they shouldn’t, that changes everything.”
Todd Melnik defended Juan Catalan in the Court
Juan had heard from other detainees about a “badass” defense attorney named Todd Melnik, and he immediately made hasty phone contact with him in an attempt to convince him to take on his case.
Melnik gave his assent, which marked the beginning of a deeply passionate bond that would last a lifetime between the two of them. Melnik accepted Juan when he stated that he was innocent despite the fact that there was an eyewitness and the alleged purpose was to exact revenge against someone who had testified against Juan’s brother.
After Juan had been locked up for a few months, his fiancée visited him there to remind him that the night before, he had taken his daughter to see the Dodgers play. She was even willing to produce the ticket stubs, and Juan was prepared to take a lie detector test; but, the prosecution refused to accept any of their offers. According to Melnik, you should tell him what I said. “…’ I’m going to get you out of here,’… It is imperative that I locate Juan’s defense’s Holy Grail.
It is imperative that I find a spot for my customer at Dodger Stadium on that evening. Juan recalled that it was possible that they were filming something there on that day… We were about to engage in a fierce battle. The prosecutor that they had chosen to represent them in this matter had never before been defeated. Her favorite method of elimination was the execution of the condemned. I looked at tape after tape.”
Catalan, who had been present at the fateful game with his little daughter Melissa, eventually learned that Larry David and HBO had been filming there. Catalan had witnessed the filming session when he was at the game with Melissa.
He didn’t recognize the name of the show, and he later admitted that at the time, he’d never heard of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but he did remember hearing that Super Dave Osborne, whose real name is Bob Einstein and who played the character Marty Funkhouser on Curb, was somehow involved in the filming. He didn’t recognize the name of the show, and he later confessed that at the time, he’d never heard of Curb
The storyline of that episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” centered around David breaking the rules of the carpool lane in order to cut down on the amount of time it took him to get to the football game.
Melnik combed through countless hours of stadium security film, but he was unable to uncover anything in the footage that was clear enough to identify Juan. As a result, Melnik called HBO and inquired about the possibility of viewing the show’s outtakes. They all concurred.
According to Larry David, the creator of Curb and the star of the show:
“The incident consisted of my picking up a hooker in the carpool lane and taking her to Dodger Stadium….
At Dodger Stadium, we shot in two different sections….
Because my life is so devoid of anything even remotely fascinating, [letting them review the tapes] sounded like a great idea to me…
I urged the lawyer, “Go ahead, go crazy,” despite the fact that it did seem like a really uninteresting story. Look at anything you want.’ And we sent him with everything from the stadium, including the footage that we had shot earlier that evening…
I’ve been there for four or five minutes at most when the attorney yells out, “There he is!”… We had no way of believing it ourselves. We rewound the tape, and while I was heading up the aisle in the previous image, this individual was sitting just in front of me. Then there came another image in which he was standing upright.
The prosecutor, on the other hand, was unmoved because the tapes were time-stamped and identified Juan at the stadium at 9 PM, although the murder didn’t take place until around 10:30 PM. She contended that Juan had a sufficient amount of time to leave the stadium and drive the twenty miles to the location where the murder took place.
But in the end, Melnik was successful in locating a phone call that had taken place between Juan and his girlfriend and had been traced to the vicinity of Dodger Stadium. At the time of the call, it was physically impossible for Juan to have been at the crime site in time to perform the murder.
After considering all of the evidence presented, the court acquitted Juan of all of the allegations, and he was free to go.
Compensation did Juan Catalan Receive.
Juan filed a civil suit against the City of Los Angeles, claiming that its police officers had engaged in improper conduct. Catalan would eventually be awarded a total of $320,000 in compensation for the false accusation. Juan Rodrguez and Martin Pinner have both stated that they attempted to extract a false confession from Catalan through the use of coercion.
Despite the fact that it was later discovered that the two police officers who investigated Juan and designated him as the shooter had framed him — and that, remarkably, one of them is still employed as a police officer – Juan claims that he forgives them:
You should know that hatred is not something that anyone should carry with them. That’s a poison we’re putting into our bodies, and while it may damage the person you despise, it actually hurts you more than them, and it eats away at your spirit.
Documentary on Netflix
As a devoted fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, he was aware that the Canadian Eric Gagne, who served as the team’s closer during the long-ago 2003 season, came perilously near to missing the diamond.
Nevertheless, on the evening of May 12, the pitching was a disaster, and the life of a man with Hispanic ancestry would change significantly as a result.
Long Shot is the title of a documentary that was created by Netflix on Juan’s case a few years after the settlement was reached.
The story of Juan Ignacio Catalan, a man who had a troubled life during his youth and who was about to be sentenced to death because he was hanging out with the wrong people at the wrong time, is told in the documentary titled “Long Shot,” which is currently streaming on Netflix. Catalan would have been put to death had it not been for a baseball game that the Los Angeles Dodgers lost 11-4 to the Atlanta Braves and a cheap comedy shoot.
In the documentary that is available on Netflix, it is mentioned that Juan could be on Death Row right now if he had simply gone home that night instead of watching the game and being videotaped by HBO.