Talamantes Guilty of Murder in Guilt Phase of Trial


murderBy Justine Joya

On the afternoon of May 30, the verdict on the charges against Aquelin Talamantes was delivered. The jury found the defendant guilty of murder and assault on a child under eight, with force likely to produce great bodily injury resulting in death.

The second part of the trial, which started Friday, determines whether the defendant is sentenced to prison or a mental hospital, and is dependent on whether the jury finds Talamantes legally insane. Legal insanity constitutes that the defendant had a mental disease during the time of the crime, and that due to the disease she was incapable of knowing that the act was morally wrong.

Trial began with Deputy Public Defender Sally Fredericksen calling Dr. Captane Thomson back to the stand. She questioned the doctor about the details of psychotic breaks, what they are and how they work. According to him, during a psychotic break an individual can have hallucinations where they see and hear things no one else can, and that they may become delusional, anxious or depressed.

He mentioned that an individual can also become “disassociated,” meaning that he or she may not recollect having a psychotic break, or that their thoughts could potentially be fragmented. Further discussing Talamantes’ specific case, the doctor told Fredericksen that he believed Talamantes did not appreciate the wrongfulness of killing her daughter.

When asked to elaborate more on that statement, he explained that Talamantes was aware of her actions because at that moment she believed she was sparing her daughter from a more heinous crime by drowning her. Talamantes was under the false belief that the cops were going to take her daughter and “cut her head off.”

When it was time for Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens’ cross-examination of the witness, he began by asking whether Talamantes directly told the doctor that the reason she killed her daughter was to spare her from a more brutal death, or if that was his conclusion. After some thought the doctor admitted that that was his reasoning for her crime, due to the alleged voices the defendant was hearing. Couzens then asked the doctor if it was possible that Talamantes simply made up the voices as an excuse, but the doctor was adamant about the defendant’s mental instability.

Moving on, Couzens brought up a case that the doctor testified in 22 years ago. The defendant in this case was Eric Houston, who was found guilty of murder and attempted murder and ultimately sentenced to the death penalty. Dr Thomson’s testimony stated that Houston was not mentally insane, even with his low IQ of 74.

What Couzens was most interested in was the reason why Dr. Thomson diagnosed Talamantes mentally insane if she has a higher IQ, of 75. The doctor explained that the circumstances of both cases were very different. Couzens then argued against the doctor’s opinion of Talamantes being borderline mentally challenged. Citing a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM),Couzens persisted that it did not state any qualifications for “borderline mental challenges.”

Fredericksen’s re-direct was prompt, asking the doctor whether he believed Talamantes would be better situated in prison or a mental hospital. According to the doctor’s professional opinion, he believed that Talamantes would be given better and more necessary treatment at a mental institute than at a prison.

In his final examination of the witness, Couzens found himself in a stalemate with the doctor. The DDA, hoping to get compliance from the witness, formulated a hypothetical question asking what the outcome would be for an individual who was found not to meet the mental requirements for an institution. Dr. Thomson replied that this outcome was irrelevant in Talamantes’ case, and that she would be properly taken care of in such an institution.

With more direct, Couzens asked the doctor if the mental institution would still allow Talamantes to continue in the program if they found that she was embellishing her mental state. Unshaken, the doctor re-stated that Talamantes would be best treated in a mental institution.

After a period of running in circles, the doctor finally concurred that a person who did not fit hospital criteria would indeed be released. However, his final statement reiterated the fact that this would not occur in Talamantes’ case.

For more updates, follow us on Twitter @DavisVanguard #yolojustice


About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

Related posts

6 thoughts on “Talamantes Guilty of Murder in Guilt Phase of Trial”

  1. Tia Will

    A general question.

    The guilt phase of a trial requires a jury finding of “beyond a erasable doubt”.
    I am wonder if the same applies to the insanity phase or if that is judged on preponderance of evidence or some other standard ?

  2. Antoinnette

    The defense has the obligation of proving the,”guilt by insanity phase,” by a preponderance of evidence.

    But it failed….Talamantes was found Sane by jurors on early yesterday morning. I have an article on closing and verdict update but with elections going on, it didn’t get published.

    Hopefully be up by morning….

    So she will be sentenced to prison.

    Thanks for reading, Tia:-)

  3. Tia Will

    I am having a great deal of difficulty with this one from an overall point of view.
    We have a woman who has known severe mental and psychiatric difficulties. A woman who has been quoted as saying that she was not capable of caring for her children and has come to the attention of social services in the past. A woman whose family members have stated has severe difficulty caring for herself and her children, who on the same day of her daughters death at her hands by drowning approached a police officer with apparently inconsistent and possibly incoherent statements about the well being of her child. I see this as yes, a failure on her part to care for her children and to adequately express the degree of her incompetency, but also a failure of our system to identify the problem and offer adequate protection to her obviously endangered children.

    And then, having inadequately addressed this issue, we pretend that we know what was going on in the mind of this deeply disturbed woman. who we have judged to know right from wrong. I fail to see what there is to be gained by putting her in a general prison population.
    If she is indeed found to have psychosis which my resident psychologist expert thinks is likely,, she will be screened and eventually placed in the level of psychiatric care appropriate for her diagnosis.

  4. dl

    She is sick and will probably just deteriorate in prison. Before the incident – she had been flagged by a hospital – numerous people testified to her “psychosis”. She offered up her child to law enforcement the morning of. Why aren’t people talking about this more? Below is testimony for the Davis Police Officer of that morning.

    /Walker, the Davis police officer, testified that she had just conducted a traffic stop on Talamantes’ sister, Elisa Torres, in front of the house when a disheveled-looking Talamantes emerged and approached Walker, her eyes darting about. “She looked concerned, kind of lost,” Walker said. She recalled that Talamantes went back inside the house, then returned moments later with Tatiana slung over her right hip.
    “Do you want to take her?” Talamantes asked Walker, the officer said. “I looked at her and I said, ‘Should I?’ ” to which Talamantes replied, “Um, no,” then retreated back inside the home. According to Walker, Talamantes disclosed that she had been diagnosed with depression and paranoid schizophrenia, displaying for the officer a case containing some 15 bottles of prescription medication for various mental and physical ailments. All the while, Talamantes appeared distracted, moving her head around “as if other people were talking,” Walker said. “I asked if she hears voices, and she said that she does.”/

    Why isn’t there more talk about this – she is being sent off to prison for the rest of of her life and the Davis PD get off scot-free. A life was taken. If someone offers up their child – something is wrong! A police officer should be the next best thing to a fire station – safe drop off. Shouldn’t they be? Am I off? At that very moment – the officer should have said, yes, put the little girl in the back of the car – and arrested the mother – calling for back-up or a 2nd unit at that point.

  5. Tia Will


    I share your concern about both the individual fate of Ms.Talamantes, and what steps the Davis PD plan to address similar situations in the future. I also share your concern that their seems to be very little conversation about what I see as a major public health issue, the assessment and response to mental illness.

    This was clearly not a case of lack of recognition of a problem, as mental illness had clearly been documented in
    Ms. Talamantes case. This is a failure to consider in the “safety check” anything other than the immediate ( as in that moment) safety of the children. I am much more inclined to be critical of systems problems than I am of individual performance. My hope is that it is part of the plan of the Davis PD and county social service and judicial system officials to do a thorough review of this case to identify the many branch points at which taking a different course of action would have avoided this terrible outcome.

    David, I know it is not the responsibility of the interns to cover the contributing factors outside the court room.
    However, I feel that in this case, a thorough review of the contributory societal issues is warranted.
    Will we be seeing one at some time ?

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for