Call it a very special Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Larry David's supremely unsentimental HBO comedy series is being credited with helping clear a Los Angeles man of a death-penalty murder case.
"I tell people that I've now done one decent thing in my life," show creator and star David said in this week's New Yorker. "Albeit inadvertently."
The case of the do-gooding Curb dates back to last year when David's cast and crew did a location shoot at Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium.
The footage, which would air Feb. 8 as part of the "Car Pool Lane" episode, found David's character, Larry David, taking in a baseball game with a prostitute played by Kym Whitley. (Long story short: Larry hires a hooker so he can drive in the freeway carpool lane, so he can make the game in time.)
Coincidentally, the footage also found Juan Catalan, then 24, taking in the game with his six-year-old daughter. Catalan was not an actor, he was just a fan--but he was about to become newsworthy.
One month after watching the Dodgers get whupped 11-4 by the Atlanta Braves, Catalan was arrested at his North Hollywood home, accused of fatally shooting a 16-year-old girl who had testified against his brother and another man in a double-murder case.
Catalan, who was booked on suspicion of murder and faced death penalty-weighted special-circumstance charges, maintained his innocence, saying he couldn't have killed the teen because he was at the Dodger game the night of May 12, 2003, during the time of the slaying.
To prove his client's alibi, defense attorney Todd Melnik asked to review Dodger Stadium's fan-cam footage from the game. Catalan's camp was acting on more than a hunch that the accused man might turn up onscreen.
"[Catalan] saw some TV cameras being used near his aisle," Melnik said Thursday. "He knew something was going on."
But while one shot showed Catalan's third-base field-level seats were occupied, the shot didn't clearly show who was occupying them.
Then Melnik learned of the Curb Your Enthusiasm connection.
Last December, as Catalan logged his fourth month in county jail, Melnik sat in an editing bay and watched all the Dodger Stadium footage shot that spring night by the David show.
David had been more than happy to help.
"It sounded very cool because my life is very lacking in anything interesting," David told the New Yorker.
Melnik, previously not a Curb fan, sat through about 20 minutes of film, becoming disheartened with each passing frame that failed to show his client.
"And then--bam!--all of a sudden, [Catalan] was there. And I was like, 'Stop the tape. Roll that back,' " Melnik said.
David popped into the edit bay shortly after Melnik's discovery. He told the attorney "maybe I'll write an episode about it," Melnik said.
Armed with the Curb defense, Catalan was released from jail in January, and the charges against him were dismissed.
The man recently filed a claim against the City of Los Angeles charging, among other things, false imprisonment.
David, meanwhile, is continuing to bask in the glow of his accidental good deed.
Said the comic in a statement this week: "I'm quitting the show to devote the rest of my life to freeing those unjustly incarcerated."