Larry David once saved a man from the death penalty, no this is not a lost 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' episode.
Have you ever heard the one about when ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’s’ Larry David saved a man from the death penalty? No? Well sit back and enjoy this unlikely tale of how the grumpiest man on television helped a man wrongly accused of murder and facing possible execution.
Larry David, saved a man from execution, no really
In June 2003, 24 year old Juan Catalan was arrested and accused of the murder of a 16 year old girl in Los Angeles, California. The victim, Martha Puebla had previously testified in a preliminary hearing about a pair of murders that were allegedly committed by her ex-boyfriend, Jose Ledesma. Months later police arrested Catalan and charged him with the murder of Puebla. Witness had said that Puebla was gunned down by a man in a black car which had been circling the area, four teenaged gave a description of the gunman, which did not fit Catalan, but one eyewitness identified him as the assailant.
Police theorised that Catalan murdered Puebla in retribution for her testimony in a previous murder case. They claimed that Catalan was carrying out orders from Ledesma and his brother, who had also been implicated in the previous murder case. The police tried to push Catalan for a confession, but he professed his innocence, saying he had an alibi for the evening. If convicted of the murder, Catalan faced the death penalty.
Catalan’s alibi was straightforward, he claimed he had attended a Dodger’s baseball game that evening with his six year old daughter and watched the team loose to the Atlanta Braves. His lawyer, Todd Melnik then went about trying to clear his client’s name by finding footage of him at the game. He subpoenaed the Dodger Vision tapes as well as the Fox Sports broadcast and could see that Catalan’s seat was occupied, but unfortunately it was unclear if it was actually Catalan sitting there.
But while trying to obtain the tapes from the Dodgers, Melnik learned that HBO series ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ had also been filming at the game that evening, for the episode The Car Pool Lane. In the episode Larry David hired a prostitute, but only to be passenger in his car so he could drive in the carpool lane through the rush-hour traffic and make it to the game in time. David agreed to show Melnik the footage, but his client was nowhere to be seen in the final cut of the episode. But then Melnik spotted Catalan, in an outtake, sitting in his seat eating a hotdog beside his daughter. "I jumped out of my chair and said, 'Roll that tape back!'" Melnik told CNN in 2004, "It was him.” The tapes were also time coded which further proved Catalan could not have committed the murder. In January 2004, after spending over five months behind bars, Catalan was released and cleared of all charges.
Larry David, life saver
David told the New Yorker in 2004, “I tell people that I’ve now done one decent thing in my life, albeit inadvertently.” Adding that originally he had thought the alibi sounded like a lame story but because his “life is so lacking in anything interesting”, he had agreed to view the tapes with Melnik. So the next time you hear someone say that a show "saved their life," ask them, really? Because 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' quite literally did save Jose Catalan's.