Public Defender Moves to Recuse Judge for Bias in Case of Child’s Death

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YoloCourt-10By Monica Velez

Judge Paul K. Richardson has been thought to be incapable of acting as an impartial judge regarding Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira’s case from 2014, involving Darnell Dorsey. Dorsey is being accused of assaulting his girlfriend’s two-year-old son, who died soon after at UC Davis Medical Center.

Judge Richardson has been on the case from the beginning, but three incidents were noted to prove his bias against the public defender’s office.

Sequeira was the deputy public defender on Eric Lovett’s case, also with Judge Richardson presiding over that case. The deputy district attorney added a gang charge to Lovett’s case and two law enforcement officers were in the courtroom who claimed they saw Lovett making threatening gestures toward a victim. Sequiera subponaed Judge Richardson.

After obtaining a private attorney, Judge Richardson was granted immunity from testifying on the grounds that he was a judge. In his counsel letter he said that because he was a public official he should be granted special consideration.

A Yolo County former judge granted Judge Richardson’s motion, and Lovett’s case was dismissed, just in time to be re-opened with the gang enhancement charge. Sequeira subpoenaed Judge Richardson again.

The prosecution added, along with the gang enhancement, a charge of dissuading the witness, which, if proven, would result in a potential life sentence. Sequeira then subpoenaed Judge Richardson because the alleged crime, she argued, would have been witnessed by the judge and would therefore impeach the officers’ testimony.

Judge Richardson sent another request similar to the first, this time adding in threats to file motions for protective orders and monetary sanctions against the public defender’s office.

The judge believed the office to be guilty of unethical conduct and Sequeira found herself in front of Judge Richardson for Dorsey’s trial readiness conference.

In December of 2015 the public defender’s office requested a continuance because one of their witnesses was not able to testify, and the deputy district attorney, Michelle Serafin, did not object to the request. Judge Richardson still denied the continuance.

Sequiera is arguing that Judge Richardson has a bias against her and the public defender’s office, based on these occurrences. A defense motion was presented in Judge Janene Beronio’s courtroom and she gave the defense five days to find another judge willing to take on the case, as well as giving Judge Richardson another ten days to respond to the motion.

Another hearing was set for March 15, 2016, at 8:30 in Judge Beronio’s courtroom, Department 9.

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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.

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3 thoughts on “Public Defender Moves to Recuse Judge for Bias in Case of Child’s Death”

  1. Misanthrop

    Wow, this is a wild story and not a single comment all day. I don’t even know what to think. A judge is a witness but refuses to testify. The courts back him up. Is this standard? Judges who are witnesses don’t have to testify? A public defender wants to bump the judge claiming prejudice because she subponaed the judge. The crimes involved in these cases are not trivial and the potential sentences are long. I hope cooler heads prevail but is it just me that finds this story bizarre?

  2. mercy4all

    Whatever this gesture was or whether it occurred at all is videotaped, as was the entire hearing.  So it is (or isn’t) whatever the tape shows.  What it means is for a jury to decide and those who purport to have seen it to testify and interpret if relevant.   What needs to be made clear is that Judge Richardson has from that  hearing to this day maintained he never saw anything and didn’t know anything about it until it was brought to his attention by others..  He’s gone so far as to assert this under oath in a declaration.  To ask him now to testify, maybe in a trial over which he is presiding, to what he didn’t see is as misanthrop profers  bizarre.

    But to declare war on that judge not only in a particular case or two but to assert his personal predujudice against the defendant  and also the entire public defender’s office risks a war not only with that judge but with the entire bench.    One would think that that this had to be approved at the highest level of the public defender’s office. Fascinating.    And it brings to the public a spectacle which subjects us all to strong criticism and even ridicule which we hardly need.

    I know you have to wage hard battles and “speak truth to power”.  No matter how hard it is no matter who it angers or offends.  But you have to pick your battles and especially pick your outright wars.   Martha picked this war and drew this line in the sand and that’s got to be considered and respected.  She is one of the hardest working, passionate and frankly successful defense  attorneys I’ve ever known.  Still,  especially with the tape why this war? It is (or isn’t) what the tape shows.

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