By K. Hall
Today a new chapter in the case of convicted murderer Daniel Marsh began. In 2014 Marsh was convicted on the charge of double homicide and sentenced to spend 52 years to life behind bars. Although Marsh was a juvenile at the time he committed these two murders, due to their particularly heinous nature he was tried and ultimately sentenced as an adult. Today’s proceedings come on the heels of the new legislation. Yesterday, Gov. Gerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1391 which prohibits teens up to 15 years old from being tried as adults. This new law becomes effective January first of 2019, thus casting a shadow of doubt over the jurisdictional validity of the Marsh conviction and sentence. If this case is transferred to juvenile court, Marsh will be resentenced under juvenile law. This would prohibit the state from incarcerating him beyond his 25th birthday – which would require a release date of no later than May of 2022.
The courtroom was crowded and the mood tense as the hearing commenced to determine whether this case should be transferred. Attorney for the defendant, Andrea Pelochino, a Supervising Deputy Public Defender with the Yolo County Juvenile Unit, started the morning by requesting a continuance until after January 1, 2019. She offered cause for this action based on the unknown effect of this new legislation upon the case. Attorney for the People, Deputy District Attorney Amanda Zambor, emphatically argued that the new law should not apply retroactively to Marsh. After considering both arguments, the Hon. Samuel T. McAdam denied the motion for a continuance, stating that because the counsel for both parties had confirmed they were prepared to start the hearing today, many witnesses had been prepared for the coming week, and any potential consequence of new legislation was impossible to determine at this time, there was “nothing to prohibit us [the court] from going forward” with the hearing immediately.
The opening statements of Ms. Zambor and Ms. Pelochino could not have been more diametrically divergent. Ms. Zambor described the actions of Marsh as “right at the top of what we would consider grave.” She used words such as “manipulative,” “incurable,” and “diagnosed as a psychopath” to describe him. Ms. Pelochino countered, emphasizing the potential for juvenile rehabilitation as “profound.” She thus implied that, because he was so young at the time of his offense, Marsh may yet have the potential for reintegration into society.
After both sides finished their opening statements, Ms. Zambor called the first witness for the prosecution, Probation Officer Christina Tranfaglia. Throughout the remainder of the morning this single witness provided the court with a lengthy and comprehensive testimony. Officer Tranfaglia, a 12-year deputy probation officer, holds a graduate degree in psychology and is a practicing marriage and family counselor. According to her testimony she has attended numerous classes and trainings on psychopathy, is trained in recognizing the symptoms of serious mental illness, and has experience working in mental health court. Her testimony was provided to supplement a report she generated regarding Marsh’s mental condition and subsequent recommendations.
Throughout her testimony Officer Tranfaglia discussed in detail her methodology in assessing Marsh’s mental fitness. She indicated that in addition to scrutinizing large quantities of evidence provided by both sides, she also considered the reports of two independent doctors regarding Marsh’s mental health, and finally interviewed the defendant in person on two occasions, prior to issuing her own judgment. She confirmed that, when presented with additional evidence, her conclusion as stated in her report regarding Marsh’s mental condition was only strengthened. When asked by Ms. Zambor if she felt like Marsh was “being manipulative in any way” during her interviews with him she categorically answered “yes.” She stated that he “chose his words carefully, thoughtfully” and it “felt like he was reading a script.” She discussed one conversation specifically, wherein she asked if he had an interest in serial killers, in response to which he “quickly looked me right in the eyes [laughed] and said no!” Officer Tranfaglia indicated that this reaction on his part “seemed rehearsed.” After a great deal of testimony regarding the pattern of Marsh’s behavior since the crime occurred, Officer Tranfaglia concluded that Marsh “demonstrated significant sophistication” in this crime. She argued this conclusion was evidenced by the level of “preplanning” involved, the “goal directed” nature of the crime as demonstrated by forensic information, and the subsequent behavioral patterns Marsh displayed afterwards. She maintained that his behavior, such as “adjusting the timeline” of his homicidal thoughts to coincide with the start of his prescription anti-depressant medication, was consistent with “anticipating” his defense. At the close of the morning, Tranfaglia concluded by stating she believes that Marsh “cannot be” rehabilitated within the next three years. Officer Tranfaglia was requested by the court to return after the lunch hour for further testimony and to allow the defense an opportunity for cross-examination.
Reports on the testimony of this witness and those scheduled to follow throughout the week will continue.