On Friday morning, after over a day of deliberation, a Yolo County jury came down with a guilty verdict for Samantha Green, ruling that her actions which led to the death of her infant at a Knights Landing slough constituted second degree murder under the law.
The prosecution had argued that the actions of Ms. Green were fueled by methamphetamine-induced jealousy and that Ms. Green had attempted to lure the father of the baby, Frank Rees, back from his absences and infidelities.
Public Defender Tracie Olson, on the other hand, argued that Ms. Green suffered from meth-induced psychosis, and possibly postpartum depression.
Many have criticized the Yolo County child welfare system for allowing the baby to remain in the custody of the parents, despite their admitted drug use and questionable decisions.
Ms. Green faces a sentencing hearing on November 1, with a mandatory 15 year to life sentence.
Previous: Closing Arguments in Samantha Green Case
by Jade Wolansky
A packed courtroom heard the closing arguments on the People v. Samantha Green case in Department 14. Samantha Green is charged with second-degree murder with implied malice in the death of her 19-day-old son, Justice Rees.
Judge Rosenberg began with jury instructions. He informed the jurors that Ms. Green has the presumption of innocence until she is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Judge Rosenberg proceeded to explain in more detail the charges against Ms. Green.
He first defined homicide as the unlawful killing of a human being.
To find Ms. Green guilty of second-degree murder, the prosecution would need to prove that 1) she intentionally committed an act that she knew was dangerous to human life, and 2) had a conscious disregard of that risk.
Judge Rosenberg informed the court that voluntary intoxication could not be used as a defense against murder. However, it could be taken into consideration to evaluate Ms. Green’s varying statements when she was first discovered.
Prosecution’s Closing Arguments
Deputy District Attorney Rob Gorman, representing the prosecution, was the first to stand at the podium. He emphasized that the Samantha Green trial was not about the “when,” “where” or “how,” but the “why.”
Mr. Gorman painted a picture of Ms. Green’s past: her troubled childhood, her previous abusive relationships, how she met Frank Rees (father of Justice Rees), and what led to her behavior on February 23, 2015, the night Justice Rees passed away.
The Deputy DA explained that Ms. Green had a desire to create a loving family, something she had always lacked, with Frank Rees. Mr. Rees was often absent and had many affairs. Ms. Green believed Justice Rees would change him and help bring them closer together. Unfortunately, Ms. Green’s desires were crushed when Frank Rees asked her to engage in a threesome with him and another woman.
At this point, Mr. Gorman began to cite examples of discrepancies in Ms. Green’s various statements. Mr. Gorman also emphasized that Ms. Green’s actions on February 23, 2015, were driven by her methamphetamine-fueled jealousy. He provided several voicemail recordings of Ms. Green swearing at Mr. Rees for his infidelity.
He stated Ms. Green had said in an interview that she had fed Justice Rees on her way to Knights Landing. However, this was later found to be untrue, because the baby bottle discovered at the slough was full. In addition, Justice Rees was in a rear-facing seat behind the front passenger seat. It would have been impossible for Ms. Green to feed him.
The prosecution then showed a video of Ms. Green at the gas station. She is shown calmly purchasing gas for her car. Mr. Gorman asked the jury if this would be the expected behavior of someone who believed an apocalypse was happening. Doctor Matthew Soulier, the defense’s expert witness, testified that Ms. Green suffered from a persecution complex and delusions, which can include fear of the apocalypse and government control.
The DDA emphasized to the jury that Ms. Green had been misleading about how she had discovered Justice Rees had died. When Ms. Green found him dead, he was face down. This was proven with a lividity analysis. Ms. Green then tucked him into her pea coat, crawled through brush and laid him against a tree. After this, she went through the brush again, left the pea coat behind, and cried for help. At this point, a nearby resident, “RVS,” found Ms. Green and called 911.
Mr. Gorman proceeded to describe the events leading up to Justice’s Rees’ death and how jealousy caused Ms. Green’s behavior. He stated Ms. Green had initially agreed to the meeting with “Monica” for a threesome to please Mr. Rees. Later, she changed her mind. Eventually, she capitulated and decided she would go. Once she arrived at Knights Landing, and she couldn’t find Mr. Rees, she went to the slough.
The DDA claimed Ms. Green parked her car in the open and left her diaper bag behind as a trail for Mr. Rees to find her. When he did not show up, she lay down at the slough and passed out. After Ms. Green was discovered by officers and released from the hospital, she went back to Knights Landing to see if Frank Rees could have easily seen her parked car and deliberately ignored it.
Next, Mr. Gorman argued Ms. Green was very aware of the dangers of entering the slough and ignored the risks of doing so. He stated Ms. Green held Justice Rees above her head when she crossed the water because she knew it was freezing. This proved Ms. Green intentionally committed an act she knew was dangerous for Justice Rees and consciously disregarded that risk.
Lastly, the DDA asked why Ms. Green did not seek out help earlier. She was in close proximity to Knights Landing residents and Highway 113. At any point in time, she could have also turned back.
Mr. Gorman next moved to discredit Dr. Soulier’s diagnosis of Ms. Green. Dr. Soulier diagnosed Ms. Green with drug-induced psychosis. Dr. Soulier also believed Mr. Rees to play a large role in Ms. Green’s mental state. However, Mr. Gorman indicated that Dr. Soulier never interviewed Frank Rees and never sought to confirm Ms. Green’s statements.
The prosecution called upon the jury to find Samantha Green guilty.
Defense’s Closing Arguments
Public Defender Tracie Olson is representing Ms. Green. She began by stating clearly: Samantha Green did not commit murder, but instead, involuntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter would require Ms. Olson to prove that Ms. Green had 1) committed criminal negligence or recklessness, 2) without conscious disregard for human life, 3) that resulted in an unintentional death.
Second-degree murder has a maximum penalty of 15 years to life, while involuntary manslaughter carries a conviction of four years.
The defense argued the jury should find Ms. Green was not guilty of second-degree murder because she loved Justice Rees. Ms. Olson attributed Green’s behavior and irregular mental state to her abusive and controlling relationship with Mr. Rees.
Ms. Olson cited several examples of Mr. Rees’ attempts at manipulation and lying. During his testimony, he stated he stated a fear of “Damage Incorporated,” a gang of which no evidence has been found to exist. When he was questioned about text messages sent on his phone, he claimed it had been stolen. In addition, he had visited the District Attorney’s office and informed them that he had video recordings of February 23, 2015. He stated that he saw several people who, like his family, were at his house. Mr. Rees’ mother confirmed no such recordings existed.
Ms. Olson next described Ms. Green’s maternal role in the Rees household. She cooked, cleaned and took care of Mr. Rees’ other children. The defense recounted Ms. Green’s excitement about Justice Rees and her preparations for his birth. Although there was only a one to five percent risk of STI (sexually transmitted infection) transmission through vaginal birth, Ms. Green opted for a C-section.
At this point, the defense began to counter the prosecution’s closing arguments.
With respect to Ms. Green’s behavior at the gas station, Ms. Olson stated it would never be certain what Ms. Green’s mental state was.
Ms. Olson addressed the issue of Justice Rees’ changed position. She asked the jury what mother would leave their baby face down after discovering the child was dead.
The defense discounted the prosecution’s claim that Ms. Green left a trail of her belongings for Mr. Rees to find her – especially when taking into consideration that Mr. Rees was often absent, including the time Ms. Green was still recovering from her C-section.
Ms. Olson argued Ms. Green held Justice above the water not because she was knowingly committing a dangerous act and disregarding it, she did it because she was trying to protect Justice Rees from harm. Ms. Olson showed several photographs comparing Ms. Green and Justice Rees’ body. Ms. Green was covered in scratches and marks while Justice Rees’ body was not. Ms. Olson stated this was evidence Ms. Green exerted great effort to keep her child from harm.
Next, the public defender stated Ms. Green went for help once she had realized what had happened..
Ms. Olson proceeded to address the criticisms of Dr. Soulier. Ms. Olson noted that the difference between Dr. Soulier and Dr. Gerbasi is in their consideration of Ms. Green’s multiple statements. Dr. Soulier believed what Ms. Green said, while Dr. Gerbasi did not. Nonetheless, Ms. Olson stated the diagnoses are very similar. Neither can explain Ms. Green’s presence at the slough.
The defense ended her closing arguments by stating that, regardless of whether Ms. Green tried to blame others or had shifting narratives, Ms. Green undertook these actions because she will have to live with the burden that her son is dead. Ms. Olson played an audio video recording of Ms. Green in Deputy Daniel Macias’ car. Ms. Green was heard to cry out: “I love my baby. I love my baby. He doesn’t deserve this.” Ms. Green and the jury wiped tears from their eyes upon hearing this.
Mr. Gorman reiterated his principal points. It was difficult to regain the jury’s attention after Ms. Olson’s emotional appeal. He delineated again the charges and the evidence that the prosecution had proven Samantha Green guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
At 2:30pm, the jurors were sent to deliberate. The trial will resume tomorrow morning.