Hoskins Trial Ends in Acquittal on Murder, Hung Jury for Lesser Charge of Manslaughter

Attorney J. Tony Serra conducted closing arguments for the defense on Thursday
Attorney J. Tony Serra conducted closing arguments for the defense on October 15

After a week and a half of jury deliberations, Yolo County Judge David Reed on Monday afternoon finally declared a mistrial in the lengthy murder trial for Susan Hoskins. The jury had returned not guilty verdicts on both first and second degree murder.

Last week, the jury had asked if they could consider involuntary manslaughter – a charge that Judge Reed and prosecuting attorney, Deputy DA Carolyn Palumbo, believed inappropriate. That signaled that the jurors were potentially undecided on the lesser charge of manslaughter – a fact that was confirmed on Monday morning when the jury foreperson indicated that the group was deadlocked 7-5 on that charge, not specifying which direction they were leaning.

Judge Reed sent the jurors back, after one indicated they might benefit from more time. But that did not last and by the end of lunch, the jurors were back and the case will now head back to court for a November 23 hearing to set a new trial, this time on only the manslaughter charge. Ms. Hoskins will remain in custody.

Susan Hoskins was charged with murder for the August 3, 2014, shooting death of her husband Bryan Hoskins in the kitchen of their Woodland home. They had been out riding motorcycles when a fight escalated into Mr. Hoskins calling her names and imploring her to shoot him.

DDA Palumbo acknowledged the emotional abuse, but argued that “he didn’t do anything that would justify dying.”

During her closing arguments, Ms. Palumbo asserted that Mr. Hoskins had caused Susan Hoskins emotional abuse, including name calling, but no sexual abuse. Essentially, he was not likable to some people, while she was likable, but he did not inflict sexual abuse or domestic violence.

She stated that Ms. Hoskins provided no assistance as she called for help, after she shot him. A small portion of the 911 tape was played, with the dispatcher asking why she shot him.

Ms. Hoskins answered, “Because he is an a— and kept calling me a whore.” The above line was played at least 3 or 4 times during the closing argument.

The DDA stated that Susan Hoskins had not shown fear or remorse and had not been in imminent danger. She was frustrated with Bryan Hoskins’ drinking and his accusing her of cheating.

When asked during an interview if she had intended to kill her husband, she replied, “I don’t know.”

Famed Defense Attorney Tony Serra delivered closing arguments, emphasizing that Ms. Hoskins had a stellar reputation among her peers. She has been lauded by her supervising doctors and described by her coworkers as a loving, honest and compassionate woman. A nurse by occupation, the core attribute of her job was to help others, those who are suffering, damaged and in pain.

Bryan Hoskins’ reputation, on the other hand, was a tainted one. His employees have described him as a control freak and a bully with an acid tongue. Based on his peers’ accounts, Serra suggested of Bryan that he dominated, oppressed, manipulated and intimidated others, and that he alienated his employees.

Serra followed up, saying, “My client is a better woman. Abuse, coercive control is one of the greatest damnations that a woman can experience.”

He argued that Ms. Hoskins had a secret deeply hidden within her. The secret was that she was a battered woman. She never reported it to authorities or talked about it with anybody.

This is a syndrome of battered women, so that sometimes she countered her abuser, and other times she succumbed.

Mr. Serra likened Ms. Hoskins’ circumstances to that of the water drip torture. For the 20 years that she was with Bryan, she tolerated drip after drip. Eventually, there came a point when she had to survive. Viewed from her perspective, what she did was rational and reasonable. She conformed to her survival instincts to save herself from the situation.

The psychological damage suffered by years of abuse is clearly evident in the psychological evaluation of Susan conducted by Dr. Pirruccelli, who diagnosed her with clinical depression and anxiety.

Mr. Serra would conclude, “Susan contends that evidence shows she was a victim of physical, psychological, and emotional abuse inflicted on her by her alcoholic husband.” He argued that, provoked into acting out of self-defense, Ms. Hoskins, impelled by the heat of passion, fired at her husband’s shoulder with the intent to stop his advance towards her.

Portions of this were written and compiled by Haroutun Bejanyan

—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. Barack Palin

    So from what I was able to gather there was no actual proof or had she ever told anyone that the defendant was ever physically hurt by the deceased.  The deceased was a drunk and verbally abused her but should that mean that she then had the right to kill him and get away with it.  I’ve got to believe that some degree of manslaughter was appropriate in this case.

  2. Tia Will


    I have no idea whether Ms. Hoskins was or was not justified in her actions. What I do find interesting is that once jury has made its decision to convict, your comments are almost always in defense of their finding stating on several occasions the equivalent of the jury is the only ones that have heard all the evidence so we should just trust in their judgement and not second guess. I am wondering what makes this case different and worthy of distrust in their judgement in your eyes.

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