By Sophie Marconi
On September 8, 2016, in Department 14, Judge David Rosenberg presided over the continuing trial of the People vs. Samantha Green. Ms. Green is charged with the murder of her infant son, Justice Rees. Throughout the day, four of the defense’s witnesses were brought to the stand to provide testimony. The closing statements for the trial are expected to occur on Wednesday, the 14th of September.
The trial began with the continuation of a recording where Samantha Green spoke of her drug problems and her ex-boyfriend, Frank Rees. Green could be heard saying that Rees enables her addiction, and that friends and family have advised her in the past to leave him.
Green stated in the recording that she wants to get sober, and she cannot accomplish this if her relationship with Rees continues. She also brought up the emotional and physical abuse that she experienced during her childhood, and explained how that abuse, along with her parents’ drug addictions, influenced her relationship with methamphetamine.
Near the end of the recorded conversation, Samantha Green said she understood that, ultimately, she makes her own choices and that she is, at least to some extent, responsible for the death of baby Justice. The interviewing officer assured her that she is still young and can turn her life around with concerted effort.
Public Defender Tracie Olson brought her first witness to the stand, John Clancy, a deputy coroner involved in the investigation. Dep. Coroner Clancy explained to the court that his duty is to investigate sudden, violent and unusual deaths to determine the cause of death. He then explained that there are two aspects to what he does. He must determine the cause of death (the physical actions that caused the death) as well as the manner of death (natural, accidental, suicide, homicide, or undetermined).
John Clancy estimated that, during his time as a deputy coroner, he has determined over 1,000 manners of death. He then described his experience at this crime scene. He stated that when he saw baby Justice, he noticed mild abrasions covering the baby’s arms and legs. He also noted that the onesie Justice was wearing was wet and considerably dirty. Clancy stated that he observed no signs of trauma or major injuries.
Dep. Coroner Clancy stated that, with the evidence available, he and his colleagues were not able to rule out accidental death as the manner of death, as opposed to homicide, so they ruled Justice’s manner of death as undetermined. The prosecution at this time reminded the jury that the requirements for homicide within the medical sphere are different than those in the legal world.
The next defense’s witness was Dr. Philip Laughlin, an Internal Medicine doctor who works as a hospitalist, with a clinical focus of caring for hospitalized patients, and had treated Samantha Green. Dr. Laughlin treated Ms. Green on February 25, 2015, for rhabdomyolysis, which is a muscle breakdown that occurs in response to an acute event. Dr. Laughlin explained that this acute event could be a result of drug use, lying on a hard surface for an extended period of time, or experiencing exposure to the elements.
Dr. Laughlin stated that he concluded the cause of Ms. Green’s condition was a combination of drug use and elemental exposure. Once Dr. Laughlin finished his testimony, Judge Rosenberg excused him, but not before asking him if this was his first time testifying, to which the doctor said yes. Judge Rosenberg asked if Dr. Laughlin had had a positive experience – to which he firmly responded that he did not, before going on his way.
The third witness who came to the stand for the defense was Dayna Strome, a Physician Assistant at Manteca’s Main Street Urgent Care. Ms. Strome explained that she worked in Yolo County Jail with Samantha Green and changed her medication several times. She explained that she observed severe signs of anxiety in Green’s behavior and prescribed her anti-anxiety medication.
The fourth and final witness who testified for the defense was Dr. Jennifer Chaffin, a contract psychiatrist at Yolo County Jail who evaluated and treated Green while she was in custody. Dr. Chaffin stated that, thoughout their interactions, Green experienced delusions, panic attacks, anxiety and difficulty sleeping.
Dr. Chaffin also stated that at one point she put Green on suicide watch because she said that Green was feeling more depressed and having more nightmares. Green also told Chaffin, “I wish it was me instead of him,” which Chaffin interpreted as Green wishing she had died instead of baby Justice.
Dr. Chaffin stated that, as time went on, Green appeared to get much better. She told the doctor at one point that she had even started singing again. Green also told Dr. Chaffin that she was trying to keep herself busy by drawing and reading. Dr. Chaffin finished her testimony and Judge Rosenberg dismissed the court. The trial will resume tomorrow at 1:30 pm.