Defense Denied in Vindictive Prosecution Objection to DA’s Charging Mother with Murder

Samantha Green now faces murder charges in the death of Justice Rees
Samantha Green now faces murder charges in the death of Justice Rees

It has been just nine days since police investigators found 20-day-old Justice Rees near Rough Cut Slough by Knights Landing, following a call from his mother Samantha Green.

On March 4, she was arraigned on the charge of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. On Monday, the defense calendered a court hearing with the request to change her plea from not guilty, to a plea to the sheet.

The next day, the District Attorney’s office filed a motion to amend the complaint and change the main charge from involuntary manslaughter to murder.

Two days later, the defense led by Public Defender Tracie Olson and Deputy Public Defender David Muller, filed an objection to the amended complaint.

Judge Rosenberg, on Friday morning, asked Deputy DA Robert Gorman what changed.

Mr. Gorman spent some time citing case law that he argued gave the prosecutors broad discretion in their ability to change the charges.

He claimed that this was a relatively new case, and detectives were working around the clock to investigate the matter. In light of new evidence, Mr. Gorman argued that they believe the circumstances now warrant a murder charge and that the proper time to dispute the charges would be during the preliminary hearing.

The public defender’s office countered that the timing of the amended complaint seemed suspicious and raises the prospect of vindictive prosecution.

David Muller argued that the change in the charge has not been explained by new evidence and Tracie Olson added that they were requesting a full evidentiary hearing.

Mr. Gorman, however, countered that something had been in the works and, while he agree that the timing could lead to the belief it was changed in response to the change in plea, he asserted that this was not the case.

Mr. Gorman added that they are not required to turn over evidence at this time. However, he believes that the evidence will be sufficient to support a murder charge. That evidence will be presented at a preliminary hearing, the proper time for the defense to dispute the sufficiency of the evidence.

Mr. Muller argued that Ms. Green has a procedural right to plea to the sheet. He said that there has been no evidence produced at this point of an intent to kill.

He reiterated that the timing gives the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Mr. Gorman pointed out that they were talking about a very short timeline of nine days.

Judge Rosenberg pointed out that they were actually talking six days from March 4 to March 10 when the DA’s office filed the notice of the amended complaint.

Mr. Gorman reiterated that there detectives working overtime investigating this case, and that the defendant is not entitled to a hearing other than the preliminary hearing. Moreover, the prosecution never offered the defendant to be able to plea to the sheet. And it was three days after the arraignment that the plea to the sheet form was offered.

Tracie Olson countered that six days made it more suspicious, not less. She argued that if this were a lengthy investigation it would be more reasonable to have found new information that would support more severe charges.

Judge Rosenberg ruled that requests to amend are both submitted and allowed at all times during a court proceeding. He noted that there have been times when new charges are actually added during the trial if new information comes to light.

He said that the motion to amend was made on March 10, six days after the arraignment. He ruled that the mere fact that the defendant submitted a request for a change of plea does not raise the specter of vindictive prosecution without additional evidence.

Furthermore, he noted that there is no reason to necessarily believe that the change of plea would be to a plea to the sheet rather than NGBI (not guilty by reason of insanity).

He therefore allowed the district attorney to amend the complaint to a charge of murder. He noted that, due to the new charge of murder, bail which had been set at $250,000 was changed to no bail.

Ms. Green, under the previous charges, had faced a maximum of six years in prison, and more likely four years. Now she faces a potential life sentence.

The next hearing will be Monday, March 30, 2015.

—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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    1. Davis Progressive

      maybe.  although she seems more sick than anything else.  but i’m troubled by the sequence of events.  the da charged her with involuntary manslaughter.  the defense thinks about it, consults their client, and agree to plea to the sheet.  next day the da changes their mind and goes for murder.  that’s shady.

      1. justme

        She is sick…  Chose meth over her newborn and allowed her newborn to freeze to death.  Absolutely NO sympathy from me!!!  My heart goes out to that baby and what he went through….  She can rot!

        1. Davis Progressive

          i feel for both.  meth is one of the worst drugs we have invented.  i’m not sure she really made an active choice to choose meth over her newborn.  i’ve done a lot of meth trials and i’m of the belief that there is significant evidence that meth is a permanent addiction.  to me, the authorities needed to act more decisively here and protect the baby.

        2. justme

          They changed the charge after they searched the family home resulting in the father being arrested on drug charges..  I can only assume they found something in that house to warrant the new charge….

  1. justme

    I completely agree with you on that on DP…  I am wondering if the grandparents who had a “safe plan” in place to protect the baby after he was born with meth in his system will find themselves charged with anything.  they obviously were oblivious to drugs in their home and around that baby and the other 4 kids….

    1. Miwok

      Will the grandparents be charged as accessories, or the father? Seems fitting, if they were the people who spoke to keep the baby in their hands then did not watch enough.

  2. Davis Progressive


    good point on the father’s arrest.

    but the timeline is still:

    march 4 – arraigned and charged with ivm

    march 6 – father arrested

    march 9 – pd files for change of plea

    march 10 – da files for amended complaint

    so, your theory is possible, but there seems to be a gap there.

  3. TrueBlueDevil

    Very sad case here. Didn’t anyone ever call child protective services on this couple? But we just changed how we handle “low-level” crimes like meth use in our state. Recent statistics show crime up in Davis, Woodland, and West Sac, with a considerable jump in violent crime in Woodland.

    Many interesting facts here, including the fact that now police just write citations for meth use, and they go right back to using more meth. Apparently when we treated drug use more seriously, a much higher percentage of meth users tried to get into a program to kick drugs, and made a better effort to quit the horrible habit. That motivation has now been removed with only giving them a slap on the wrist.

    The law of unintended consequences.

    1. hpierce

      “… the horrible habit…”  The word “habit” perhaps should be replaced by “addiction”.  A “slap on the wrist” might work for a ‘habit’.  “intervention” is usually needed for an “addiction”, from what I’ve read, and have not read extensively on the subject.

    2. Davis Progressive

      it seems to me way too early to look at crime trends based on prop 47.  you’re talking about three or four months after the law went into effect.  are some people going to commit more crimes?  probably.  at some point, they’ll end up back in the system and the initial wave will stabilize.  but i don’t think we’d be seeing it that soon.

      two years ago there was a spike in property crimes in davis, but overall, i think that was a very localized trend.

      statewide the impact post-ab 109 has been unequal suggesting perhaps more localized factors than a statewide one.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        I may have inadequately described the new laws and results. There have been two new laws that have taken effect.

        Davis Enterprise: DA ties increase in local crime rate to new laws

        WOODLAND — “Yolo County is experiencing an increase in property and violent crimes, District Attorney Jeff Reisig told county supervisors this week, and the increase coincides with implementation of two laws that have resulted in more low-level offenders remaining on the streets….”

        “…“ ‘West Sacramento is up. Davis is up,” he added. “All of it coincides with the implementation of AB 109 and then, more recently, with Prop. 47.’ ”

        “In just the five months since Proposition 47 was enacted, he said, ‘we’ve already started to see … a big spike in property crime in Yolo County.’ …”

        ” ‘In 2014, he said, his department processed more than 7,784 criminal cases, a 30 percent increase over the previous year, and litigated 118 jury trials and four court trials.

        “Some 2,000 crime victims were served by the department — also nearly 30 percent more than last year — which Reisig said “is tied to the increase in violence.’ ”

    3. justme

      True Blue…  CPS was involved form the beginning due to the baby being born with meth in his system…


      The couple and the children live with the grandparents..  The grandparents had to do a “safe plan” to allow the baby to come home from the hospital…  Apparently that “safe plan” was inadequate…

  4. Tia Will

    Good for the DA!!!  Exactly what she deserves!!!!!!!!”

    What a great example of complete suspension of the basis of our system of justice, “innocent until proven guilty”

    On the basis of this, why don’t we just skip all the expense of a trial and just lock her up for life. Or better yet, why not skip that expense and just execute her now ?

    So let’s not worry about legalities. Let’s not worry about our basic rights. Let’s not consider root causes and what we as a society should be doing to protect these most vulnerable members of our society. No let’s just “punish” the perpetrator and forget about prevention. After all, if we just execute her, we will 100% ensure that she will never harm another infant.

    What about it, just me, are you in with me ? Since you have already decided “what she deserves” why not just act on it ? 100% efficacy at low cost ! How could you beat that ?

    1. justme

      Get off your high horse Tia!  Does it say anywhere in there that I am saying fry her without trial???  NO , it doesnt!!!!  This demon needs to be charged with murder, not involuntary manslaughter!!!!

      1. Davis Progressive

        you’re now contradicting yourself.  on the one hand, you’re saying you think she should have trial (she’s not going to face the death penalty, so that point “fry her” is irrelevant), but then you’re calling her a “demon” which suggests guilty unless proven innocent.  the problem here is that there are procedures in place that the da seems to be playing fast and loose with and rosenberg is once again disappointing.

    2. Miwok

      I think Dr. Tia wants Ms Green to go to Rehab and have another baby? Cause that sure turns out well for so many other addicts.. Ms Green is the poster lady for Prop 47.

      She could be driving down the road next time and kill more than just her baby. I can’t wait to get off this planet…

  5. DanH

    An alleged tweeker with a unfortunate mug shot has a right to a fair trial. There is no reason to suspect the DA or the judge have obstructed justice in this case. Nonetheless, judicial paranoia will not let this case case go unnoticed. The worst offense anyone can commit in this society is posing for a bad photo and for that the accused deserves a maximum sentence.

  6. hpierce

    Ahhh… to be in Salem, MA, coming into the spring!  Witches everywhere!  Mother, father, grandparents, Yolo County CPS!  Incubi and succubi!  Jerry Brown, voters who passed two propositions, Holder, Obama!

    Anyone remember reading “The Crucible”?  Re-read the above posts in light of that novel/play. Or, the actual history and modern theories of what may had led to a “trying” period of history.

  7. Tia Will

    I am really quite surprised at the amount of sarcasm and vitriol that I seem to be drawing for having made the observation that we have a system of laws that is based on the premise that we are innocent until proven guilty. I honestly cannot see how that observation got us to my having any preferences whatsoever regarding anyone’s reproductive choices. Where is all of this misguided anger coming from ?

    As for “high horses”, I doubt we could find a higher mount than  that of someone who believes that they know who is a “demon” and who is not.

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