DA Announces Prosecution of Frank Rees in the Death of Baby Justice

Samantha Green
Samantha Green has been sentenced to 15 to life for her role in the death of baby Justice Rees

On Thursday, Frank Rees will be arraigned on charges associated with the death of his son, Justice Rees.  Justice died at the age of 19 days after being exposed to cold and other environmental exposure.  The arraignment comes two years after the baby’s February 23, 2015, death.

According to relatives, Mr. Rees will be charged with involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment, and administration of methamphetamine.  Bail has been set at half a million dollars.

Back in September, Samantha Green was found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to 15 years to life.

The DA’s case, under a theory of implied malice, was that Samantha Green had a duty to care for Baby Justice.  In the end, she took the baby out to the slough near Knights Landing with only a tiny layer of clothing.  She stayed out there in cold temperatures.  She should not have gone out there.  She should not have kept him out there and she should not have left him out there.  The baby died because of those actions.

Under the law, the defendant acted with implied malice if she intentionally committed an act.

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.

Public Defender Tracie Olson argued that the jury’s decision should be invalidated.  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.”

Deputy DA Rob Gorman told the media, “We knew all along she committed 2nd degree murder… (Her) meth use showed she was aware of the risk of meth.”

During the course of the trial, many in the community wondered why Ms. Green was facing murder charges and Mr. Rees seemed to be getting off lightly.

That has now changed.

A social worker, Valerie Zeller, early in the trial testified that Child Protective Services was worried about the baby not being in the home very often, about the housing situation, and about Frank Rees’ unwillingness to use CalWORKS (cash aid) and food stamps.

The father of the baby was “using the (hospital) facilities like a hotel — sleeping more than the mother and even taking showers there,” Ms. Zeller would testify in court.

More information will come out later today at a press briefing at the Yolo County DA’s office.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Tia Will

    As one of the most vocal critics of the decision to prosecute Samantha Green for murder as opposed to considering the possibility of meth induced psychosis, or even post partum psychosis ( a condition with which I am professionally all too familiar) I will be very interested in how Mr. Rees contribution to this tragedy is handled.

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