By Christina D. and Raya Zahdeh
Through further witness testimonies on August 23, 2016, in Department 14, defendant Samantha Green’s past commitment to prenatal care were called into question. First, seven stipulations were read to the jury, instructing them to be accepted as fact without testimony. During her pregnancy, Green had undergone six separate urine drug screening tests, from the first in June 2014 to the last in February 2015. Out of those six screens, she tested positive for THC (the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) two times, and for amphetamine/methamphetamine four times. Justice, the baby, tested positive for amphetamine and methamphetamine on February 6, 2015.
Then the prosecution called on a total of eight witnesses from various branches of Kaiser Permanente clinics to testify on their interactions and prenatal appointments with Green. Green was first in contact with Kaiser medical personnel on June 27, 2014, when she called in with suspicions of pregnancy. Over the phone call, Green admitted to using marijuana on a daily basis up to three months prior, and to anxiety, although she was never formally diagnosed. She visited the Kaiser in Davis on the same day to determine the length of the pregnancy at that point.
After her first visit, Green missed follow-up appointments in mid- to late-July, despite attempts to contact her through three voicemails and a mailed (and later returned) certified letter. Green eventually visited the Kaiser clinic in Vacaville for “what was supposed to be her second prenatal appointment” on September 24, 2014; the second visit usually falls around 11 weeks of pregnancy. The gynecologist testified that Green was not late to the appointment, but it could be considered inadequate since there typically should be 10-12 prenatal visits. Green spoke with that same doctor, who ordered a toxicology screen. Although Green denied drug use, the test came back positive for amphetamine and methamphetamine.
The next day, on September 25, 2014, Green visited Kaiser in Fair Oaks. She took an AOQ (Adult Outcomes Questionnaire) test (depression screening questionnaire) and refused medication and classes despite scoring 19, a moderate score. She also had a physical examination, was found at 21 weeks pregnant to be gestational, and was scheduled for a formal ultrasound (normally conducted at 20 weeks.) Green also elected to do a cystic fibrosis lab test, which is normally recommended if both the mother and father are white Caucasians. She was encouraged to keep her prenatal appointments.
Pregnant for 38 weeks, Green again visited Kaiser in Davis on January 20, 2015. She had not visited for the past four months, and had told the gynecologist it was because she was left with no transportation when her car broke down. Green took another drug test and tested negative for THC and amphetamine/methamphetamine. She was prescribed medication for her STD (sexually transmitted disease) condition that could present a danger to the child. She was also tested for gestational diabetes.
Green also received on the same day video counseling for mood and substance abuse during pregnancy. She was assured confidentiality unless the therapist, as a mandated reporter, suspected child or elder abuse; reports are not made if only adults are involved in drug use. Green had said there was no drug use at home and that she hadn’t used drugs for three to four months, but talked about using marijuana weekly as needed for sleep. Green denied prenatal services providing food, chemical dependency recovery, diapers, clothing, baby formula, etc. The therapist did not report to CPS (child protective services).
Green had reported that she was not taking her medication because she was not feeling well and was unable to tolerate it. However, she was strongly advised to take the medication due to her STD condition, and was given a separate prescription to help with nausea. On February 5, 2015, Green was counseled for a Caesarean section birth. She chose a C-section knowing all the risks to herself, and even though there is only a one percent to five percent chance of her STD transmission through vaginal birth. Green had not been taking her medication, having lost her bottle of pills. She also tested positive for a drug screen.
After the C-section, Green again tested positive for a drug screen on February 6, 2015, and was advised not to breastfeed. Justice was born a healthy baby despite the drugs in his system, was put in the NICU (newborn intensive care unit), and CPS was contacted. Justice was discharged on February 10, 2015 and was expected back one to two days later for a pediatrician appointment. Green missed that appointment, but visited Kaiser on February 13, 2015.
Thomas Hayes, a detective with the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office, testified then as to what happened after Justice was born. On the morning of February 23, 2015, Green and her boyfriend had visited California Check Cashing Stores, Romeys Gas plaza, and a Chevron gas station, all in Woodland. Hayes had visited all three places for confirmation of Green and her boyfriend’s cars and surveillance camera video, clips of which Deputy District Attorney Robert Gorman played during the witness testimony. Hayes testified that Green was found on February 24, while her baby was found the next day. Hayes was also present for the investigative interview of Green’s boyfriend on February 25, but could not recall whether it was said that the baby was with the couple on February 23.
by Raya Zahdeh
The People v Samantha Green trial resumed on August 23, 2016, in Department 14, Judge David Rosenberg presiding. Ms. Green is being charged with second-degree murder of her infant son, Justice Rees. Public Defender Tracie Olson is representing Ms. Green, and Deputy DAs Ryan Couzens and Robert Gorman are representing the prosecution.
Detective Greg Ford of the Woodland Police Department was the first witness to give his testimony during this afternoon’s portion of the trial. Deputy Ford was on duty on February 24, 2015, when he was notified of the “missing person” report for Ms. Green and baby Justice.
During his testimony, Dep. Ford identified a man identified as “DF,” a civilian who reported the location of the white Chevy Traverse SUV that turned out to be the vehicle Ms. Green was driving before she and Justice had gone missing. DF recalled seeing a similar vehicle in the “missing person” flier, and checked the flier again to confirm that the license plates matched before reporting the vehicle to the police.
Dep. Ford responded and eventually met with DF near where he found Ms. Green’s car parked on a street in Knights Landing. There, Deputy Ford interviewed DF and took his statement in response to the police report.
Afterward, Dep. Ford stated that he quickly glanced inside the vehicle without touching it or opening any doors. He recalled seeing a child’s car seat in the back, with its front side facing the rear of the vehicle.
The next witness to take the stand was Darryl James Turner, a physician’s assistant at the Woodland Memorial Hospital.
According to the testimony that he gave, Ms. Green was one of the patients Mr. Turner saw on the morning of February 25, 2015, the day after she and baby Justice had gone missing. He stated that Ms. Green was seeking treatment because she was dehydrated and had been receiving intravenous fluids at the hospital that same morning.
Prior to receiving medical treatment, Ms. Green was found wandering around the portion of the Sacramento River located in Knights Landing before the police brought her to the Woodland hospital. At the hospital, she complained of generalized body pain and difficulty with movement of the extremities. She specifically felt pain in her wrists, ankles, and legs, and in other joints as well. Ms. Green stated that she had not fallen or experienced any trauma, but could not recall when and how the pain started. She also informed Mr. Turner that she had used methamphetamine about 10 days prior to being admitted to the hospital.
Mr. Turner stated that the results of Ms. Green’s urine toxicology test showed that she tested negative for marijuana and positive for the presence of methamphetamine. He also noted that she did not give him many details as to how she ended up in the condition she was in, other than stating that she had been sexually assaulted and had scratch marks on her skin from the bushes and thorns near the river. After conducting a skin examination, Mr. Turner confirmed that Ms. Green had scratches all over her body, in areas such as her legs, stomach, and back. She did not appear to have any serious injury other than tenderness in joint movement, and he described her feet as being dirty and callused, indicating that she had been walking barefoot outdoors for an extensive amount of time.
Mr. Turner further stated that he was not yet aware that baby Justice had died or that Frank Rees was her husband. Ms. Green seemed most concerned about getting in contact with Frank while she was being seen at the hospital.
After various medical exams and questions, Ms. Green was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis (the break down and release of muscle cells into the blood stream, due most commonly to exertion of muscle tissue and possibly due to hypothermia or drug abuse), poly-substance abuse, and methamphetamine abuse.
Deputy Shawn Rosner of the Placer County Sheriff’s Department was the next witness called to give testimony for the case. Deputy Rosner was assisted by Jet, his German Shepherd K-9 partner, on the day of the incident. Jet’s training is specialized in patrol protection, tracking (human and narcotic odors, footprints, etc.), and obedience.
During his witness testimony, Dep. Rosner stated that he was called out to Knights Landing and arrived at the particular location on the evening of February 24, 2015. He received a report informing him that there had been a missing two-week-old infant in that area. Upon his arrival, he noticed law enforcement vehicles, fire vehicles, and a personal vehicle (later identified as Ms. Green’s SUV) at the scene.
Eventually, Dep. Rosner signaled Jet to conduct a search of the interior and exterior of Ms. Green’s vehicle in order to obtain information and gain familiarity on various scents and odors, which the K-9 can recall for future search and detection purposes.
Afterward, Dep. Rosner gave Jet a “foot-track” search command, at which point Jet began searching and tracking any familiar scents in the nearby area. Within a few minutes, Jet showed a significant behavior change and led Dep. Rosner into an area that was heavy with vegetation and surrounded one part of the river. Although no humans (specifically, baby Justice’s body) were found, Jet did eventually lead Dep. Rosner to a baby diaper bag in the area.
The final witness to take the stand during today’s hearing was John Knapp, director of Valley Toxicology Inc. Mr. Knapp gave a shorter testimony and mainly went over the results of Ms. Green’s lab tests.
Mr. Knapp stated that on February 25, 2015, he conducted blood-alcohol and drug content lab exams for Ms. Green. The results showed that the alcohol content in her blood was zero. However, the sample contained acetone, a chemical that is not typically found in the blood under normal conditions. Mr. Knapp did not have any information as to why Ms. Green’s blood contained acetone, but he stated that this is usually caused by diabetes and less frequently by starvation or malnutrition. Other than being produced by the body, acetone may have been present in her blood due to ingestion of the chemical either intravenously or through the mouth.
The testimony is scheduled to continue on Wednesday, August 24, 2016, at 9 AM in Department 14.