By Sarah Gregory
The trial of Samantha Lee Green commenced in Yolo County Superior Court on August 15, 2016. The defendant is charged with second degree murder with implied malice.
The proceedings began with jury selection. Judge David Rosenberg addressed the court by providing a summary of the incident. February 24, 2015, is the date 19-day-old Justice Rees was killed. The victim was the defendant’s son.
The defendant reportedly became upset with her then-fiancé, Frank Rees, also the father of the victim, after he sought to have a threesome with her and another unidentified woman.
In response to this request the defendant ran from her home in Woodland, exposing her son to freezing cold temperatures when he was only wearing a wet onesie with his arms and legs exposed. The defendant persisted in staying outdoors, despite the baby’s cries and the freezing cold temperature.
Both the defendant and the baby spent the night near Knights Landing. In the morning, she left her baby behind in the slough and she was later found to have tested positive for methamphetamine.
Judge David Rosenberg asked the Jury Commissioner to send in a pool of 100 individuals at a time. Eighteen of the potential jurors were called to the jury box.
Judge Rosenberg began by stating the goal of jury selection, which is to provide a fair and impartial jury. Each juror in the first panel was asked to review the joint potential witness list developed by both parties, defense and prosecution. The witness total adds up to 119. None of the jurors knew any potential witnesses.
Rosenberg then discussed the role of a charge against a defendant. He stated that a charge is not evidence of the defendant’s guilt and that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty.
Next, he asked the jurors if there was anything about the charge of second degree murder with implied malice to indicate a reason for potential bias. One of the jurors stated that she has strong feelings about a mother’s role, being a mother herself as well as losing a child. She believes that a mother’s role is to protect her child at all costs.
At this point, Rosenberg cut her off and reminded the court that a trial is decided on evidence and the law. It would undermine the integrity of the court if a verdict were decided based on emotions.
However, many other jurors had the same complaint. There was one pregnant mother and a few adoptive parents. One in particular, who adopted her child from the custody of another woman, indicated that her child had been terrorized by her biological mother. The juror related this with such frustration that her eyes began to water.
Rosenberg asked her if she could put her feelings aside for the sake of the trial. She said she could not and stated that, similar to her child’s biological mother, the defendant has probably always had excuses for the mistreatment of the victim.
Next, Rosenberg asked the jurors if any had seen, heard, or read pre-trial media coverage on the case. Most of the jurors responded in the affirmative. Only a handful of jurors said they could not remain unbiased due to the influence of pre-trial media coverage. Instead, they would use the pre-trial media coverage to substantiate their decision on the case if they were selected.
In addition, a substantial number of jurors have had family members who have abused methamphetamine – the same drug that the defendant was high on during the night the victim died. One of the jurors had been convicted previously for possession of methamphetamine in Yolo County. This juror felt he was treated unfairly by law enforcement, the district attorney’s office and the judge who presided over his case.
Rosenberg asked this juror if he could put his feelings aside in order to come to a fair verdict. He responded that he could not, because he still held a grudge against the individuals that were involved in his prosecution.
Jury selection will resume on August 16, 2016, at 9:00 am.