by Sarah Senan
As Samantha Green replayed the events that led her 19-day-old baby, Justice Rees, to death, Yolo Superior Court Judge David Rosenberg said to Ms. Green that her time in prison would “pale in comparison to the confines of your own mind.”
A packed courtroom gathered in Department 14 to hear the final sentencing of the ongoing case – the People v. Samantha Green, Judge Rosenberg presiding. Samantha Green was charged with second-degree murder with implied malice in the death of her 19-day-old son, Justice Rees. Public Defender Tracie Olson represents Ms. Green, and Deputy District Attorneys Ryan Couzens and Robert Gorman are representing the prosecution.
There exist two theories for the case. The defense has argued that Ms. Green’s actions occurred due to a methamphetamine-induced psychosis. However, the prosecution has argued that Ms. Green’s venture into the slough with her baby was due to her methamphetamine-induced jealousy of her fiancé. Regardless of the theory, the baby was found dead just days after the incident was reported.
After over a day of deliberation, a Yolo County jury back in September found Ms. Green guilty. The jurors ruled that her actions which led to the death of Justice Rees constituted second-degree murder.
Ms. Olson argued that the jury’s decision was invalidated, as she filed a motion for either a new trial or to reduce the verdict. Ms. Olson argued that she has been an attorney since 1998 and that the jury’s decision was the most far-off verdict she has ever seen.
Ms. Olson stated, “This is the most unfounded jury verdict that I’ve seen.” She urged the court to to reweigh all the evidence and to form an opinion – as a judge is able to put aside the verdict if the evidence is lacking.
The prosecution argued that the evidence was sufficient to prove the judgment. Mr. Couzens also referred back to 1977 case law which states that if a baby is found frozen to death, it is to be considered murder. Mr. Couzens said, “The child froze to death. In a manner of death that can only be described as slow and agonizing.”
Mr. Couzens argued that Ms. Green was well acquainted with meth – as she had experienced the use of the drug herself and her parents both struggled from drug addiction. “She knew about every single possible consequence of using methamphetamine and decided to go on a bender,” said Mr. Couzens. He added that this was his second child homicide case linked to methamphetamine. “It is disgraceful that in this state we appear to treat plastic bags as a greater evil than methamphetamine.”
After hearing both defense and prosecution, and having both studied the evidence and presided over the case, Judge Rosenberg rejected the plea for a new trial, as he believed the jury’s verdict was supported by the evidence. Judge Rosenberg sentenced Ms. Green to 15 years to life in prison.
“Ms. Green, back in Feb of 2015 you violated the most basic responsibility of a parent,” said Judge Rosenberg. “You put your child in harm’s way. And because of your actions your child is dead.”
“It really is a tragic case all around,” Judge Rosenberg concluded.