A recent article in the People’s Vanguard of Davis, scrutinized the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office what appears to be malicious and discriminatory prosecution of a Clarksburg Farmer. This case coupled with the Duke allegations remind us that it was a previous case where we discover the very serious misconduct on the part of Mr. Reisig.
In 1999, a jury found a Woodland man guilty of using a firearm in the commission of an a threat to commit great bodily harm. The man was sentenced to five years in prison but had that sentence suspended and was placed on probation under a variety of conditions including that he serve 250 days in the county jail.
However, the defendant challenged that sentence on the basis that the prosecution knowingly withheld material exculpatory evidence. Mr. Reisig’s defense was that this was inadvertent.
The basic problem was that in this case, the victim never saw a gun when the defendant threatened to shoot her and yet the prosecutors sought a firearm enhancement charge. The jury during the court proceedings twice sent notes to the court concerning the question as to whether the object was actually a firearm (a necessary conditions of this enhancement is that the object actually be a firearm).
One of the key questions that arose after the trial by the jury was whether or not a vehicle had been searched for the gun in question. This only surfaced after the trial in an inadvertent conversation between a juror and Mr Reisig. The juror asked him if the car had ever been searched and Mr. Reisig said that he believed so. The defense attorney came out about the same time and heard that the car had been searched and no gun had been found.
It turns out that the vehicle had indeed be searched and that no gun was found. This information never made it to the jury during the trial. Nor was it given to the defense.
Based on this new evidence, the defense requested a new trial on the grounds of newly discovered evidence and prosecutorial misconduct–the withholding of exculpatory evidence. The trial judge denied this motion arguing that there was no probability that the jury would have come to a different result “even if this additional information had been presented.”
This decision was appealed and the appellant judge overturned the ruling and the conviction.
According to the law, the prosecution must disclose evidence favorable to the accused regardless of whether or not the defendant specially requests the evidence.
Moreover, the evidence must specifically be material to case–in the sense that its suppression potentially changes the outcome of the trial. In this case, the victim never saw a gun but only an object and at least one of the jurors questioned whether even the current evidence was sufficient to prove to prove that the defendant actually possessed a gun (a necessary condition for the enhancement).
The judge ruled that “the duty to disclose this evidence was the exclusive responsibility of the prosecution…, whose failure to do so violated defendant’s right to due process of law.”
“In sum, the prosecutor violated defendant’s right to due process by failing to disclose to the defense the existence of material exculpatory evidence pertaining to the issue of whether defendant used a firearm while threatening to shoot the victim.”
The judge ordered that the firearm enhancement was to be reversed and a new trial. The prosecution then dropped the firearm charge at the subsequent trial and the defendant was given probation.
Unfortunately, this is just another example of how the Yolo County District Attorney’s office operates and unfortunately this was a case involving the newly elected District Attorney Jeff Reisig.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting