Judge Denies Motion For New Trial Based on Juror Misconduct; Sentences Moses to 830 Years

Yolo-Count-Court-Room-600Judge Stephen Mock called them the most complicated sentencing issues he had ever seen, but after spending over an hour privately and then an hour publicly, he finally sentenced Bennie Moses, convicted of 62 felonies back in March, to 830 years in prison.

He cited four different provisions under the law that guided the sentencing structure.  One of the key issues was the extent to which he could concurrently sentence for separate crimes that were committed basically simultaneously.

Deputy DA Michelle Serafin strenuously objected, saying that she feared the sentencing scheme was unjust and being performed just to get the numbers down.  She argued that what is just in this case is consecutive sentencing.

However, Judge Mock ruled that he could charge each event that occurred during the same time frame as though it were one crime, thus he did not sentence Mr. Moses for rape, sex with a minor and forced oral copulation separately, except for the first instance, in which he committed forced oral copulation.

Moreover, under the three strikes law, he sentenced the first three crimes as triple the term or 45 years to life, with the rest being charged at 25 to life.

The result was 3 crimes sentenced at 45 to life and 19 at 25 to life.

But there is more. Because of the prior convictions, he had to add a 10-year enhancement for each term, for another 220 years of prison time.

The ultimate result was 220 years of determinate sentence and 610 years of indeterminate sentence.  He also ordered a restitution fee of $12,400.  Mr. Moses received 1011 days of credit deducted from the 830 years.

The sentencing followed a decision in which Judge Mock denied the defense’s motion for a new trial based on juror misconduct.

Emily Fisher, with the Public Defender’s office, argued that one juror violated her client’s right to a fair trial when she asked her husband if there were any circumstance under which he would confess to raping his daughter.

This, she argued, clearly violated prohibitions for discussing the case with others, and also demonstrated the possibility of doubt that was assuaged outside of the jury deliberation process.

She argued for a presumption of prejudice in this matter and that there needs to be a hearing to assess this situation.  She argued that, based on her conversations with the juror after the trial, she was led to believe that without the confession, other evidence would have been scrutinized to a much greater degree.

Deputy DA Michelle Serafin conceded this was jury misconduct, but called it trivial in the grand scheme.  The only justification for a new trial would be if it left the verdict in doubt.

She argued that it was only one piece of evidence and said there was strong and significant evidence outside of the confession.  Therefore, this was only a minor transgression that does not rise to the level of a harmful error.

Judge Mock argued that he could not agree with the issue as to whether the strength of evidence rebuts the prejudice presumption alone.

However, he did find the strength of the case compelling and noted the general lack of struggle by the jury to reach a verdict in their one day of deliberations.  Indeed, there was only one readback of evidence and it had nothing to do with this issue.

Aside from the confession, he found strength in three pillars of evidence.  First, the testimony of the daughter which was not impeached.  She expressed her love for her father and there was never evidence presented to show a motivation for lying or making up the allegation.

Second, there was the evidence by the defendant’s sister that she was sexually assaulted by Mr. Moses as a youth.

Finally, there was the DNA evidence where there was no credible explanation offered for explaining how the victim’s DNA from her vagina got into the fly of Mr. Moses’ underwear where it was mixed with his DNA from his semen.

Despite all of this, Judge Mock argued that the ultimate question was whether the vote of one juror was influenced by the question to the husband.

He argued that we do not have enough information to determine whether the question biased the juror.  We have no context as to how the conversation even arose and whether it arose from doubt.

Moreover, he argued that this was not extraordinary knowledge obtained by the juror.  He called sex with a daughter one of the most taboo subjects in our society, thus the conclusion was obvious and common sense.

Based on this, he found no substantial likelihood that the conversation undermined and/ or prejudiced the juror and he denied the motion.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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11 Comments

  1. Tecnichick

    Serafin just jumped out into the lead for the coveted prosecutor of the year award. Susz better work diligently to catch up. Every year Reisig puts on a show and awards the prosecutors by meriting their achievements through totaling the years sentenced. One man, one case, almost a thousand years? shouldnt be a problem catching up at all.

  2. Fight Against Injustice

    I hope this isn’t true that prosecutors are given awards based on the number of years sentenced in cases that they handle. Incentives like this shouldn’t be allowed in the justice process.

    The evidence in a case should be what drives the prosecution not whether a prosecutor will get more recognition if he/she can get longer sentences. This type of policy is exactly the type of thing that leads to overcharging and/or asking for sentences that don’t fit the crimes. Both of which we have seen frequently happen in this county.

  3. Tecnichick

    http://www.yolocounty.org/Index.aspx?page=519

    Prosecutor of the Year Tiffany Susz
    With passion and heart Tiffany Susz takes each of her prosecutions. Each case represents a victim of the most vulnerable type; a child. Many times they cannot voice their pain, their hurt, their broken trust. Tiffany gives them that voice. Their family usually has been torn apart due to the crime that has been committed upon them all. Tiffany must take a puzzle of heartache and make it into a case against the worst of the worst. In 2009 Tiffany sent child molesters to prison for a combined total of 247 years.

  4. David M. Greenwald

    The question is really whether the crime deserves a life sentence. I know some of the jurors were appalled at the length of the sentence.

  5. Themis

    “Deputy DA Michelle Serafin conceded this was jury misconduct, but called it trivial in the grand scheme.”

    If the prosecutor concurred that there was jury misconduct this should be enough for a new trial. Who’s to say how trivial the misconduct really was.

    Tecnichick must be on to something about why the DA’s office always seems to stack the counts up as high as they can. I guess the only thing that makes sense is that it is a contest to see who can get the longest sentence. Pretty disgusting way of doing the job.

  6. Mind_hunter53

    Bennie has been a bad boy. As Bennie sowed, he shall reap. He will have much time on his hands for self examination, and will have the distinct pleasure of discussing his crimes against children with other inmates for years to come!

  7. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]The question is really whether the crime deserves a life sentence. I know some of the jurors were appalled at the length of the sentence.[/quote]

    I was appalled at the crime…

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