Eye on the Court: What if Murder Isn’t Murder?

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murderWhen James Mings was alleged to have murdered Kevin Seery, Davis had its first murder trial in years.  However, a strange thing happened on the way to that attempted murder conviction – evidence emerged in the trial that Mr. Mings, while intending to kill Mr. Seery and perhaps believing he did kill Mr. Seery, ultimately was not the one who did kill Mr. Seery.

That revelation should have left both the police and district attorney’s office with egg on their face, as they never charged the accomplice with murder, and, now this week, they will be attempting to salvage the case that probably more resembled assisted suicide than murder by getting Mr. Mings on the premeditation determination that would affect the length of Mr. Mings’ prison sentence.

That trial starts tomorrow.  In the meantime, the most recent “murder” case has been postponed and if what the Vanguard has heard from some is accurate, this one could be a doozy as well.

The Vanguard has learned that there is considerable question at this time as to whether five-year-old Tatianna Garcia was murdered.  The word is that the child drowned and the mother put the child’s lifeless body in her car trunk and drove to a family member’s resident in Sacramento.

The mother, 29-year-old Aquelin Talamantes, is being charged with murder and assault on a child causing death.  She was scheduled for a preliminary hearing last week but Deputy Public Defender Sally Fredericksen filed a motion arguing that she had only received 1200 pages of discovery in the past week and none of that included discs of recorded materials from police investigators.

Last week, Judge David Reed ruled this was good cause to continue the hearing to November 14.

But, hold on one second here.  According to police sources, the coroner has not yet finished the investigation into the cause of death.  That being the case, what is the hurry here?  Should we not wait until the medical examiners have determined the cause of death before a woman is charged with murdering her child and faces a preliminary hearing?

If it is a drowning, is it not at least conceivable that the child fell into a pool and the mother panicked, believing that she was probably negligent in supervising her child?

The mother has also been charged in an assault causing a death.  It seems to me all of that should be verified by the coroner and forensic medical examiner before someone is charged, let alone receives a preliminary hearing.

We understand that this is horrible death – whether it was intention, negligence, or even an accident – there is tremendous community suffering when a young child tragically loses his or her life.

If the mother is responsible either directly (as in murder) or less directly (as in negligence), then she deserves to be held accountable for her actions.

But the puzzling thing is, what is the rush here?  Whether that day of reckoning was last week or next month, it seems very reasonable that we find out the truth.

Maybe the police and prosecutors know enough to reasonably believe that Ms. Talamantes intentionally killed her child.  But we do not know that yet and, when we are still waiting for the coroner’s report, there is much that we simply do not know.

Some will look at the fact that the mother put her lifeless daughter’s body in the trunk as proof of murder.  Maybe.

It is certainly not how I would respond to, God forbid, the death of a child.  It is likely how most people would not respond either.  But I would not necessarily rule it out, particularly if the mother felt she was negligent or responsible, even for an accidental drowning.

It reminds me a bit of the Caylee Anthony murder case, where the mother acted very guiltily, concealing the body, but in the end the jury could not find enough evidence to convict her.

The prosecutors need to get this one right.  If that means they sit back a little bit and wait for the forensic pathologist’s report and the coroner’s inquiry to conclude, then they ought to do that.  Ms. Talamantes isn’t going anywhere, but she should certainly be charged with the right crime and then be held to answer, then receive a fair trial.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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3 thoughts on “Eye on the Court: What if Murder Isn’t Murder?”

  1. Davis Progressive

    this is a troubling and tragic case, but it seems to be it would go better if the da’s office waited for the coroner’s report rather than pushing it in advance of that report.

  2. marabjones

    Great article David….but I don’t think we have quite another tale like the one of infamous, Casey Anthony…she was a horse of a different color to me.

    But, yes, for some reason the jury did not find sufficient evidence. I personally listened to every single witness and day of that trial, practiced the dialogue on my machine, and never had a doubt she killed the little girl…how she did it? My theory would be that she had been drugging the child to put her to sleep while she went out partying. In one of those times, the girl suffocated. It is what she did afterwards that I find most disturbing and not to mention the pathological lying she did..you just never got anything clear from her statements as they continiously changed.

    The way I see it, even if one cannot recall a few minor specifics, of what happened, the truth never changes. It should be about an exact each time you tell the story….but a lie on the other hand, tends to change each time told. I have seen this happen so often.

    Yes, we sure are having quite a bit of news worthy stories around Davis, aren’t we? I know the police have their work cut out for them on these cases, as do the defense.

    I do hope they wait for more conclusive evidence.

    Yes, it will be interesting to see if another jury can conclude the premeditaion charges…

    My guess is no…but I am only one person.

    I am glad to be doing the follow up trial…:-)

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