By Danielle Silva
Since the motion had been filed by the prosecution to transfer Daniel Marsh to adult court, the long-awaited ruling has arrived. Daniel Marsh had been arrested at 15 years old after committing the double-murder of Claudia Maupin and Chip Northup. In September 2014, Mr. Marsh was found guilty by a jury in adult court and sentenced to an indeterminate life sentence in prison with a minimum of 52 years.
This hearing appeared after the passage of Prop. 57 on November 16, 2016, which stated juvenile court judges and not prosecutors shall decide if adolescents under the age of 16 are eligible for adult court. The ruling was read in Department 7 by Judge Samuel T. McAdam and would be distributed to those present in the courtroom. The district attorney’s office has published the ruling online.
In the ruling, the circumstances of the case are reviewed: namely, the background of the crime and Prop. 57.
“In remanding the case, this Court was ordered to conduct a juvenile transfer hearing to determine defendant’s suitability for treatment in juvenile or criminal court. Specifically, the Appellate Court directed: If the juvenile court determines that defendant is the proper subject of criminal proceedings, it shall reinstate the criminal judgment… it could be argued that it is not even remotely probable that the juvenile court would find the present defendant suitable for juvenile court.”
The ruling also refers to Senate Bill 1391 which will be effective on January 1, 2019. SB 1391 amends Prop 57 and removes judicial discretion over transfer hearings of juveniles under the age of 16. This law would send Mr. Marsh to juvenile court regardless of any judicial hearing but it is not applicable for this hearing. He will, however, retain the verdict of guilty for his crimes.
In considering the ruling, all factors would be examined in totality. All factors that contain mitigation will be stated and considered.
Dr. Matthew F. Soulier, M.D., testified for the defense. He noted interviewing Mr. Marsh on December 24, 2013, and September 17, 2018. Despite the interview, “Marsh made every effort to conceal his crime… This was a highly sophisticated, extraordinary and rare crime even for the most hardened and seasoned adult criminal.”
The court did recognize Mr. Marsh’s childhood trauma, which Dr. Soulier noted, “can lead to mental health illness or disorder, including the suicidal and homicidal ideations.”
The divorce of Mr. Marsh’s parents would begin the summer of 2007 with his parents’ marital disputes, including custody over the children. While the ruling notes the marital and individual difficulties of each parent, “both parents loved and cared for Marsh, notwithstanding their imperfections as parents.”
Mr. Marsh’s rescue of his father from a heart attack was praised in the past, but the experience was traumatic and led to Mr. Marsh’s suicidal ideation. His adult friend whom he admired would also commit suicide.
Over time, Mr. Marsh was diagnosed with depression and received counseling from Kaiser and his school. He would be hospitalized for anorexia in December 2011 and for being a danger to self or others in December 2012. His homicidal and suicidal ideations were disclosed to his counselors multiple times.
In fall 2012, he began unhealthy behavior such as using drugs and watching “gore porn.” Mr. Marsh could come and go from the house as he pleased due to the lack of house rule enforcement.
Dr. Soulier places blame on the parents, referencing the Tarasoff warning (whereby mental health professionals have a duty to protect people threatened with bodily harm by a patient) released by a school counselor after Mr. Marsh reported homicidal thoughts. The mother terminated school counseling and remained in Kaiser counseling as a result. Several other options permitted Mr. Marsh to be removed “from and out of the dark lifestyle… But the mother believed Marsh was getting better or at least stabilizing.” Mr. Marsh would reveal to his Kaiser counselor that he began to kill cats and continued homicidal ideation.
While the mental health illness is a mitigating factor, the ruling states, “The sophistication of the crime, even considering the mitigating factor of his poor mental health at the time, weighs heavily in favor of transfer out to adult criminal court.”
Mr. Marsh did seeking counseling. He saw his individual counselor for over two years, completed several group therapy programs within the last six months, and participated successfully in the TedTalk program. He did not show any signs of mental illness or of violence in jail and has shown remorse for his crimes.
However, “There is no question that the crimes here were committed by a psychopath who was also suffering a mental illness. The more difficult question is whether Marsh is still a psychopath with criminal desires and whether that personality trait can be rehabilitated. As both experts pointed out, most psychopaths are not criminals.”
Mr. Marsh’s childhood trauma did happen but was never addressed in his counseling. He focused on learning how to cope with prison life, not understanding his traumas. Mr. Marsh even noted he did not remember his crime and, when he did have flashbacks of what happened, he broke down. “The Court’s concern is that these traumas are triggers.” A controlled setting is believed to be better for Mr. Marsh’s fragile psyche, and “the effort and scope of his counseling, therapy and rehabilitation would need to match the degree of risk he poses.”
The court ruled that the Division of Juvenile Justice would be unable to provide programming “directed to someone like Marsh, who when he committed the murders desired to be a serial killer.” Prop. 57, due to being new, also shows the DJJ has not had anyone like Mr. Marsh in the system before. He is not exhibiting signs of a serious mental illness and has gained insight and mindfulness but he did not address factors that pose a risk to society. “Even Dr. Soulier could not say beyond a reasonable medical certainty that Marsh was likely to be rehabilitated within the time.”
Mr. Marsh never had a criminal history. He was seen as a hero after saving his father and attended the police academy. His delinquency mainly mentioned setting fires and killing cats and hurting other animals. The double-murder, however, outweighed the previous record. The ruling went into the detail, stating that Mr. Marsh tried 50 doors and windows before coming to the home of Ms. Maupin and Mr. Northup, watching them snore in bed, stabbing them, and mutilating their bodies.
He described the experience to be “the most exhilarating, enjoyable feeling [he’d] ever felt.” Mr. Northup would have 61 wounds, and Ms. Maupin would have 67. Mr. Marsh was only caught since he bragged to his friends.
The court noted the harm upon “those who have personally experienced some mental distress or fear because of these crimes.” He noted the statements of family members who cared for Mr. Northup and Ms. Maupin and still grieve their loss. This grieving was made worse with Mr. Marsh’s goal to be a serial killer and the brutality of the killings. There are no mitigating considerations for comparing the crime and history.
“In conclusion, the seriousness of the offense, both in terms of sophistication of the crime and the gravity of the offense, along with the finding that Marsh has made little progress in the past five years, support the ultimate ruling of this Court to transfer the case to adult criminal court.”
Mr. Marsh was then escorted out of the courtroom to return to custody, reinstated with his previous sentence of an indeterminate life sentence with a minimum of 52 years.
However, due to the passage of SB 1391, he could come back in January. The DA believes that it “may overturn the Marsh sentence and ruling by Judge McAdam and will require that Marsh be released at the age of 25.”
Proponents of SB 1391 “have argued that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation can keep Marsh in prison longer based on a provision that has never been applied.”
Recently, Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen filed an appeal to the Sixth Appellate District arguing that SB 1391 violates the California Constitution because it is inconsistent with Proposition 57 and does not further the intent of Proposition 57 as it was approved by the voters. However, this appeal may take many months to reach its conclusion.