By Charles Schwartz
The case against Samantha Green, to decide whether or not she did in fact murder her 19-day-old son, Justice Rees, is nearing a close. The trial resumed on the morning of September 12, 2016, and it is expected that the jury will deliver a final verdict this week, by Wednesday. The decision in the trial will be focused on why Samantha Green did what she did and if her actions rise to the level of a crime. According to the presiding judge, the Honorable David Rosenberg, “the what is clear in this case, we need to figure out why.”
Judge Rosenberg began the day going over evidentiary issues and allowed the prosecution to apply to enter exhibits into evidence. Of the 11 exhibits that prosecutors from the District Attorney’s office, Ryan Couzens and Robert Gorman, tried to admit into evidence, six were allowed, three denied, and one is still under review, pending transcript evaluation from Judge Rosenberg.
The People’s Exhibits number 82 and 116 (lumped together) included information recovered from Samantha Green’s tablet recovered from the slough near Knights Landing in August 2015. Public Defender Tracie Olson objected to the admittance of these exhibits, as the information from the tablet, according to Ms. Olson, is “not probative of whether or not the actions here occurred.”
Deputy DA Couzens countered Ms. Olson’s objection by briefly explaining how “Chip-Off technology, based on work done by high-tech crimes” had led to the recovery of this vital and foundational information. This exhibit was hotly contested by Ms. Olson and the prosecution offered Judge Rosenberg case law to show the foundation behind the exhibits, but Judge Rosenberg made a comment saying, “If anymore case law is provided to the court it will literally explode,” which he later stated was “meant to be sarcasm.”
After the review of the prosecution’s exhibits, the court resumed the trial. The jury entered at 10:15am and sat down as the first witness, “Ms. G,” took the stand. Mr. Gorman began the examination for the prosecution by asking Ms. G, who apparently knows the parties involved, about a telephone conversation she had with the defendant. The theme of the questioning was along the lines of relationship issues that the defendant was allegedly having.
Ms. G’s testimony was very short and, not 10 minutes after she took the stand, she was stepping down. The next witness for the prosecution was Detective Brian Young, from the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office. Det. Young was one of the detectives assigned to investigating the death of baby Justice. Mr. Couzens began his examination of Det. Young by asking, “Do you recall interviewing Frank Rees?” Frank Rees is the father of the deceased baby, Justice Rees. Det. Young said, “Frank Rees supposedly got high on methamphetamine” with another person involved in the case, a one “KF.”
Next, Ms. Olson began her cross-examination by asking Det. Young, “Frank Rees…Does he regularly use drugs?” To which Det. Young replied, “I believe so.” Twice during the course of being questioned, Det. Young had to “refresh his memory” by looking at the police report for the case. Near the end of his testimony, Det. Young ended up saying, “I don’t remember specifically asking about drug use.”
After Det. Young left the stand, the third witness to testify took the stand. This time the prosecution called Jennifer Davis, an investigator with the DA’s Office. Mr. Couzens began by establishing Investigator Davis’ credibility in the case through reviewing her experience on the Green case and her familiarity with the documents involved in the case. Investigator Davis was brought in specifically for the purpose of showing “jail calls” to the jury. Davis reviewed the jail calls that the defendant made while she was in jail and authorized them, so that the court would determine them admissible.
The prosecution then called Investigator Davis off the stand as they began to play audio clips of calls Samantha Green made while in custody. The first call was between the defendant and Frank Rees’ mother, during which they talked about how Dr. Phil, the prominent television personality, had contacted Rees’ mother about doing a “spread” for his show, and if Green decided to do it, he could pay the bail to get her out in order to interview her. This audio was played for the jury while the prosecution also displayed a transcript of the conversation, verbatim, on a projector screen.
In the second audio clip from the jail calls, the prosecution chose a clip that had been taken from a face-to-face visit between Samantha Green and “FG” and “LG,” the defendant’s parents. In this audio clip, the jury heard the parties talking about a social worker and memory related to the crime in question.
In the third and final audio clip played for the jury, the prosecution selected a piece of the defendant’s conversation she had with one of her parents, in which she talked about the results of baby Justice’s autopsy report. The jury also had a PowerPoint of the transcript visible to them, which said that “the coroner’s report says Justice died of stress due to exposure, hypothermia…and he had heart disease, he had a hole in his heart, his heart stopped…So it wasn’t drowning or anything like that.” Mr. Couzens was sure to leave this transcript on the PowerPoint for an extended period of time.
After the clips were played and displayed, Ms. Olson played the defense’s audio clips in order to show completeness. After she played her audio, Ms. Olson cross-examined Investigator Davis, emphasizing that the third audio clip that the prosecution played for the court was simply, “Ms. Green reiterating what was told in the coroner’s report.” Davis agreed, it was a reiteration.
The People rested at 11:15am, at which point Judge Rosenberg called a recess. After the break, Ms. Olson called a rebuttal witness to the stand. The testimony by “Ms. F,” a friend of Frank Rees, began shortly after. Ms. F testified to the fact that she had lived in a motor home with Frank Rees for two months, not by choice, but due to circumstance.
Ms. F testified that “Frank Rees is a pathological liar,” and that she had witnessed him do methamphetamine on multiple occasions. According to the witness, “Frank Rees hot-wired my car and it is missing to this day…my car is stolen and Frank Rees stole it.”
The murder trial against Samantha Green will resume on Tuesday, September 13, and is expected to close with jury deliberations on Wednesday.