Darnell Dorsey Davis Child Death Case Begins

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YoloCourt-14by Jade Wolansky

September 8, 2016, marked the second day of jury selection for the case of the People v. Darnell Dorsey. Pursuant to California Penal Code sections 273a and 273ab, Mr. Dorsey is charged with assaulting and inflicting deadly injury upon his girlfriend’s 20-month-old baby.

The proceedings began with Judge Paul Richardson introducing the case to a jury pool. He informed them that the Dorsey case was expected to last several weeks and have up to 90 witnesses. Members of the jury pool were permitted to claim hardship and give reasoning for an excusal from service. Of the 14 jurors who claimed hardship, two were denied.

Judge Richardson informed the jury pool that their group was lagging slightly behind the two other jury pools. The group was then dismissed.

After a 15-minute break, a jury panel was brought into the courtroom. Deputy Public Defender Joseph Gocke began voir dire by emphasizing the need for the presumption of innocence.

He asked the panel if reasonable evidence was presented that Mr. Dorsey did not cause the death of the baby, whether they would be comfortable voting not guilty – for instance, if there was evidence that indicated the baby had serious pre-existing health conditions, or had died of natural causes.

Many potential jurors admitted they would still have difficulty separating their emotions from their verdict. However, the majority ultimately concluded they would still make a decision according to the facts.

Mr. Gocke proceeded to ask several prospective jurors about their backgrounds and whether they felt they could be impartial during the trial. He suggested, to those who expressed doubt about their impartiality, that the case may be inappropriate for them.

The defense asked the potential jurors if they had read about Mr. Dorsey in news media. One confessed that he had.  However, he did not have a clear recollection of the case. Mr. Gocke asked how the juror felt about the news media and their portrayal of facts.

The potential juror stated that he felt that news media often sensationalized and incorrectly reported stories.

Mr. Gocke addressed the panel and asked if any prospective jurors recognized the name, Dr. Bennet Omalu. Dr. Omalu is the chief medical examiner for San Joaquin County and a professor at UC Davis Medical Center. He has served as the prosecution’s medical expert on the Dorsey case.

Only one prospective juror raised her hand and stated that she recognized the name. She also expressed doubt about the integrity of news media.

Next, the defense questioned a potential juror who was one of the few people of color on the panel. Mr. Gocke asked him the same line of questioning: would he be able to be impartial toward the defendant and have the presumption of innocence?  The juror stated he would.

The defense asked if law enforcement treated people based on their appearance. The prospective juror stated that people have an unconscious bias. However, despite this, people can overcome this natural prejudice by being aware of its presence.

Mr. Gocke proceeded to ask the potential juror if he had personally experienced unconscious prejudice from another individual. The juror answered that he had. However, he stated that, by communication, he and the other individual could find mutual understanding and gain awareness of the issue.

Mr. Gocke moved on to question a jury panel member who was a copy editor.  The juror spoke up in defense of news media and stated that most journalists try to report with accuracy.

Next, Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin approached the podium and began her examination of the jury panel.

The DDA had the prospective jurors raise their hands in response to her questions. After they raised their hands, she would address members of the panel specifically. She frequently asked if jurors had training or had worked with victims of child abuse.

Ms. Serafin started off by asking the jury panel about their jobs. She then inquired if they had children. Most answered affirmatively.

After this, Ms. Serafin queried if the jury members had grandchildren. Most also raised their hand as well. When jurors spoke of their grandchildren, they expressed contentment and joy.

The prosecution warned the jury panel that disturbing autopsy photographs would be shown during the trial. She asked if any of the jury would not physically or emotionally be able to see the evidence. Several jurors raised their hands.

One jury panel member commented that he would have a visceral reaction. Another stated that he had left his job as a paramedic because he could not cope with the emotional burden of seeing terrible car crashes.

Jury selection will continue on September 9, 2016, at 9:00am.

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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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