I watched as Deputy District Attorney Clinton Parish became increasingly unhinged in Judge Kathleen White’s courtroom as a series of ruling went again him to the point where he seemed to becoming threatening to both Judge White and the defense counsel he was up against. Whether he was actually speaking for the DA and illuminating new policy is something that we will have to see.
On this particular occasion though, Deputy DA Parish began complaining about the policy of converting fines to jail time. He argued that the county was hurting for revenue and needed to start collecting these fines rather than allowing the defendants to work them off with time served in jail.
Judge White quickly overruled him, arguing that the best thing for the county’s fiscal outlook was to get the individual rehabbed, and in a job where he could pay his taxes.
Checking with someone, they felt it was an odd argument for the DA’s office to make because the majority of fines go to the court, which is state funded, rather than the county. In other words, even if they collected all of the fines, it is not clear how much it would help the county’s finances.
The story becomes more odd in a the second case that immediately followed. Here we had a defendant who was convicted of a crime related to meth usage and possession a few years ago. He was given apparently a suspended sentence and probably five years of probation. Apparently he had done relatively well for a couple of years, but then in January, he relapsed and was arrested a couple of times for crimes again relating to his meth usage and possession.
DA Parish argued that the suspended sentence be imposed. But as Judge White heard from the defense and the department of probation, it became clear that while the individual had relapsed in January, they had already taken steps to correct it. Probation’s opinion was that relapses happen, but the family was looking toward residential treatment programs, willing to pay money to put him into a rehab program up in Chico that would require him to go four days a week for four hours a day and would last six months to a year. Both the Judge and Department of Probation seemed to recommend this approach.
However when Judge White asked DDA Parish’s opinion he practically exploded. “This has become a joke,” he said. Suspended prison sentences are never imposed in this county and it has become a running joke. He then mocked the probationer’s claim that relapses happen. Judge’s bend over backwards not to impose them. He then said the DA is no longer going to offer suspended sentences. And then he said, “When we stop offering suspended sentences, remember this day.”
Judge White responded forcefully, admonishing the Deputy DA that there are reasons why there is Judicial discretion rather than the DA getting to impose whatever sentence they want. She said it was not appropriate to send the defendant to prison in this case. He is not a danger to the public. The family is willing to pay for treatment. She said that if it becomes necessary to impose the suspended sentence that time will come, but we are not there yet.
Finally, there was a case in which DDA Ryan Couzens was the prosecutor where the defendant was asking for a hearing on a Marsden Motion. Now a Marsden Motion is a a request to the court by a criminal defendant to discharge their lawyer on the basis of being incompetently or inadequately represented by counsel.
According to a 1970 case of People v. Marsden, “A defendant seeking to discharge his appointed counsel and substitute another attorney must establish either 1) that appointed counsel is not providing adequate representation, or 2) that he and counsel have become embroiled in such an irreconcilable conflict that ineffective representation is likely to result.”
The procedure is generally that the defendant and his or her attorney of record meet in a private hearing with the Judge, the public and the prosecutor are excluded by rule.
So Judge White cleared the courtroom to hear the Marsden Motion. But DDA Couzens objected to being excluded. Judge White however ordered him out of the court. But he stood outside and banged on the door to be let in. Apparently after the hearing had concluded and he was allowed back into the court he threatened the defense attorney saying that he “would remember this.”
Judge White determined that the defendant was likely not competent to stand trial and therefore scheduled a competency hearing.
The behavior that I witnessed from Mr. Parish is rather disturbing particularly his veiled threat in terms of suspended sentences stemming from frustration for not getting his way and then his threat to defense counsel after being properly excluded from a Marsden hearing. The DA’s office is unlikely to do anything about this conduct and apparently Judge White was not inclined to do anything more than admonish him. However, the arrogance and almost sense of entitlement here are rather disturbing.
The first time we took note of Clinton Parish was back in 2006 when he posted a comment on the now defunct Yolosoap Box site under his own name implying that the Buzayan Family had paid off the victim.
On May 14, 2006 Deputy District Attorney Clinton Parish wrote, “This was a case that should have been concluded after a court trial, but it was not because the parents were rich enough to pay off the victim.” He continued, “the vocal minority keep accusing the Davis Police and the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office of some kind of wrong doing. Simply put, there is no wrong doing on our part. The only wrong doing was that of paying of a victim so they would not testify.”
His reference is to the fact, apparently, that the Buzayan family had paid for the damage to the victim’s vehicle and therefore at that point the victim was not inclined to press charges.
We note this only because it shows this is far from the first time that Clinton Parish had shot off his mouth in an inappropriate way, this time in a public forum.
—David M. Greenwald reporting