Chief Deputy DA Calls Davis “Murder Capital” of Yolo County

Raven-Black-Ret
Yolo County Chief Deputy DA Jonathan Raven speaks to council on Tuesday during Police Chief Landy Black’s retirement ceremony

While there are times and places for off-colored jokes, murder is not a good topic for a joke, and the retirement presentation for the police chief is not the time to call Davis “the murder capital of Yolo County” – as Chief Deputy DA Jonathan Raven quickly learned on Tuesday night, much to the horror of outgoing Police Chief Landy Black and city councilmembers standing directly in front of him.

It started out as the next in the series of public officials paying tribute to Chief Landy Black. Representing the Yolo County DA’s office was Jonathan Raven, a long-time Davis resident.

“It’s been a great run, Chief Black,” Mr. Raven said. “The relationship between the DA’s office, DA Jeff Reisig and the police department has never been better. The new chief is going to have some big shoes to fill and I’m sure he’s up to it.”

Then he said, “Davis unfortunately has become kind of the murder capital of Yolo County for the next couple of years.” The video shows him smiling as he believes he is delivering a punchline of a joke.

“But with that, that department has really stepped up,” he continued. What you don’t see on the video is the look of horror, not just on the face of Landy Black, but on the faces of the entire city council, which is standing less than ten feet in front of Mr. Raven.

He quickly changes course and attempts to backtrack, realizing his mistake. “I say that tongue in cheek, and it’s not funny actually and it wasn’t meant to be funny…” Except of course that he delivered it with a huge smile on his face, because he did intend it to be funny.

He then attempted to minimize the damage, “What I meant by that was really the investigations done by the Davis Police Department in these really really serious cases has been just remarkable and the cases that you have given us to prosecute with some success have been really remarkable and that really tells a lot about Landy and his leadership.”

Several city officials expressed their dismay to the Vanguard about the reference to Davis as a murder capital of Yolo County. The community has been reeling from the latest murder in September at the KetMoRee Thai Restaurant & Bar.

Since 2013, Davis has had the double murder by Daniel Marsh in the spring, Aquelin Talamantes was convicted last year in the 2013 drowning of her young daughter, Darnell Dorsey will stand trial for the alleged murder of his girl friend’s trial, there was the murder-suicide earlier this year by Joseph Hein, and, of course, the most recent murder at KetMoRee.

That is a total of six murders in a three-year period. While not a high number, it is certainly a tragic situation, not only for the families of the victims but for the entire community.

—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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28 Comments

  1. PhilColeman

    Yikes! Had I not seen this I’d not have believed it. An experienced public speaker coming to the podium giving every appearance he had no idea what he was going to say. That alone is almost unbelievable. Surely, Raven preps his trial strategies to a higher level of precision; all capable trial attorneys do. What happened here?

    Mr. Raven does not appear to be a humorous individual, and when you go out of your comfort zone apply humor to the topic of violent death it becomes a disaster. I feel really sorry for two people. Landy’s well deserved “victory lap” has been upstaged by a huge embarrassment. And Raven–by a solitary brain cramp–has created a professional legacy moment that he’ll never live down.

     

     

  2. Tia Will

    Phil

    And Raven–by a solitary brain cramp–has created a professional legacy moment that he’ll never live down.”

    I do not believe that this has to be the case. This was clearly a very inappropriate and unfortunate comment. However, I do not believe that it should be, or has to be “legacy” defining. I believe that this was an honest error. Perhaps a statement of acknowledgement and contrition would or certainly should go a long way towards mitigation.

    This might be a good instance in which we, as a community, could acknowledge that as individuals, we have all made errors of judgement that have caused pain or embarrassment, and that perhaps the best way forward is not to demonize or ridicule someone whose lapse happens to have been in a very public setting but rather to acknowledge the fallibility of humanity and be forgiving , and not just take the cheap shot, if an appropriate demonstration of regret is made. I simple “I am sorry” would be enough for me.

    1. PhilColeman

      “I do not believe that it should be, or has to be “legacy” defining.”

      No, it should not, but only time will tell. Given the depiction that the recipients of the honest error were horrified, the best moment for compassion was right then, not a day or more later. And, I’ve seen nothing yet that would described Raven as being demonized or ridiculed, not even close. I expressed sorrow, please note. Felling sorry is not a cheap shot.

      And, for sure, we all can enumerate numerous errors of judgments, for ourselves and for others. We can learn and profit in either instance. As part of a critique we can internally ask, “What could have been done better.” Raven read his audience’s reaction, tried to recover, and only made it worse. What else could have been done if you were Raven?

      To answer my own question, I’d propose that Raven just stop immediately, fall on his sword, and say his attempt at humor didn’t come out the way he meant it. “Let me try again and I’m sorry.” No Thursday column.

      But let’s also look at the horrified recipients, the collective city officials. Could they have done something to make this a non-story? Yes.

      Somebody on the dais watching Raven boil in own oil could have said: We know what you were trying to say, it failed, but we understand and appreciate your good-will effort all the same.

      1. Davis Progressive

        there is a context here.  raven is notorious for talking out of turn.  when i saw this, the reaction around the water cooler was interesting, no one is sure why his boss allows him to keep embarrassing that office with his off the cuff remarks.

  3. Biddlin

    Jonathon-Sometimes, you’re the hammer, sometimes you’re the nail.

    I long ago got over being shocked at the insensitivity of high profile people.

    Maybe he should have been roughed up,” he said. “It was disgusting what he was doing.”  Donald Trump, remarking upon the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester,  after his supporters kicked and punched the man, even as he curled up on the ground. His offense, which Mr Trump found so disgusting, was chanting “Black lives matter.”

    1. Barack Palin

      “Maybe he should have been roughed up,” he said. “It was disgusting what he was doing.”  Donald Trump, remarking upon the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester,  after his supporters kicked and punched the man, even as he curled up on the ground. His offense, which Mr Trump found so disgusting, was chanting “Black lives matter.”

      What does this have to do with the article?

        1. Barack Palin

          Oh you mean like Obama saying:

           

          “No, no. I have been practicing…I bowled a 129. It’s like — it was like Special Olympics, or something.” 

          WDSMN

          1. Don Shor

            It was a failed attempt at gallows humor (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallows_humor). But I seriously doubt anybody who works in criminal law ‘enjoys’ murder or thinks it’s ‘fun’. I would imagine they develop, like doctors and paramedics and others who deal with awful stuff and have to remain emotionally balanced and function normally, an ability to detach from what they’re dealing with.

    1. Davis Progressive

      should i show you a list of bad jokes that ended up in the news nationally with serious consequences for people in public office, people who head universities, people who head businesses?

  4. Tia Will

    He made a bad joke. Why is this news?”

    Location, location, location.

    I am just very grateful that, given what I do for a living, I have never made this kind of bad joke in a public setting. Like most professions that deal with high stakes outcomes, surgeons have our own kind of dark humor. The key is to not ever choose to let off steam this way in a public or reproducible setting.

    The one time I did make an unfortunate comment at a “roast” it was early in my career, and my sincere apology was accepted immediately and graciously and everyone just moved on. I am certainly glad that it did not turn up on any form of news media.

        1. hpierce

          Michelle… don’t know how translate for a woman, but I did that more than a few times, and either claimed it never happened, or blamed my “evil twin” Skippy (I’m an only child).

        2. Michelle Millet

          I don’t think there is any hope for me this year, but I’ll have a fresh start next year when my daughter enters junior high, maybe a separated at birth “twin” sister with a propensity for making bad jokes will mysteriously appear before then….

  5. PhilColeman

    In training folks to be comfortable in front of an audience I would always caution about the use of humor. If telling jokes is not your thing, never tell a joke to audience. Never try to be someting you’re not, an audience sees this instantly. Instead, to lighten a moment or convey humor, look for a suitable visual aid to tell your joke.

    Humor, deftly applied (and DP’s was a very good) is extremely effective. When you see others do it well, you want to emulate. But it’s a fine-honed craft. Professional comedians are naturally funny, then spend years fine-tuning. The key to any joke is the delivery, and the timing. Redd Fox and Jack Benny are widely acknowledged as the true masters in comedic timing.

    Humor is also a two-edged sword. If it’s not presented effectively it becomes as destructive as it would otherwise become effective.

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