By Monica Velez
Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira filed a motion on February 18 to remove Judge Paul K. Richardson from the murder trial of her client, Darnell Dorsey.
About two weeks ago, there was a hearing to discuss whether Judge Richardson has a bias or prejudice against Ms. Sequeira and the public defenders office, the basis of Ms. Sequeira’s argument. This hearing was delayed until March 15, 2016.
These accusations against the judge are derived from his handling of another case Ms. Sequiera was on, the People versus Eric Brandon Lovett. Mr. Lovett is currently facing criminal charges of dissuading a witness, accessory to attempted murder and street gang allegations.
Mr. Lovett was the fourth defendant in an attempted murder trial that took place the summer of 2015. Michael Reyes was found guilty of attempted murder and is serving 68 years to life in prison. Two more co-defendants were found guilty and had lesser sentences.
Mr. Lovett was accused of being an accessory, along with weapons and gang allegations. His charges were dismissed before the trial, but then refiled, and if convicted Mr. Lovett faces life in prison.
Officer Anthony Herrera testified that during a preliminary hearing he saw Mr. Lovett making hand gestures to a witness. He said that as soon as the witness walked into the courtroom and took the stand his demeanor changed from joyful to serious.
Officer Herrera described Mr. Lovett’s facial expressions, saying that Lovett would clench his jaw so that one could see his face muscles tightening. Herrera said he was no longer in a joking mood, but had a straight face as soon as the witness, Ernie Sotelo, walked in.
Deputy Gary Galvan testified as well, saying that he saw Mr. Lovett do motions with his fingers multiple times, slowly. Officer Galvan said he saw the recording of that day, and the recording proved his observations.
Ms. Sequeira subpoenaed Judge Richardson to testify to what he saw Mr. Lovett doing, because he had stated, “I did not witness anything that would come up.” The judge, however, objected to the subpoena because he was a public official and subject to special consideration.
Judge Richardson got a private attorney to quash the matter, and did not consider Ms. Sequeira’s continued persistence to be justified.
Another reason that caused Ms. Sequeira to believe Judge Richardson held a bias against her was when she made a motion in Dorsey’s case to have an expert witness testify regarding medical evidence, medical evidence being a key part of the case.
An expert witness for Ms. Sequiera and her co-counsel, Deputy Public Defender Joseph Gocke, was not able to be in court on a certain date and they requested a continuance.
The deputy district attorney on the Dorsey case, Michelle Serafin, did not object to the continuance and agreed that medical evidence was key and the defense would be entitled to an expert witness – however, Judge Richardson did object.
Ms. Sequiera then made the decision to file the motion to remove Judge Richardson from the Dorsey case and a hearing was set for March 15, 2016, in Judge Janene Beronio’s courtroom.
Judge Beronio said the motion had been referred out to a third-party judicial council and they had decided on a new judge. The matter will resume discussion on March 24, 2016, at 8:30 a.m. in Department 9.