By Mella Bettag
WOODLAND – Defendant John Clayton Dunham had battled cancer before, and he was frightened.
At a pretrial hearing here Friday in Yolo County Superior Court before Judge Timothy Fall, Assistant Public Defender Monica Brushia recounted his story of how the cancer had reappeared, and, after creating a treatment plan with a doctor he trusted, Dunham was taken to a new doctor he had never met before with no explanation or warning from prison officials.
Dunham had been sentenced several times before his current charges. Prior convictions include possession and sale of illicit drugs and other controlled substances, possession of drug paraphernalia, transportation of controlled substances into prison, destruction of evidence, and parole violations.
Currently, he is serving time for similar charges that were brought against him on April 26, 2019. On October 19, 2019, he was once again accused of three separate charges—the sale of controlled substances, bringing controlled substances into prison, and committing a felony while on bail or release. These are the charges he faced in Friday’s pre-trial hearing.
While the hearing was set Friday to determine the trial schedule, the respective lawyers argued concerns with the court. Before any information was brought to the table, Dunham requested a private conversation with defense counsel Brushia, which lasted approximately 10 minutes. After the discussion, Brushia brought her client’s request to the judge.
According to Brushia, the defendant had created a treatment plan with doctors that he trusted and felt secure with. Then, without notice or explanation, he said he was taken to a new doctor he had never met and with whom he was uncomfortable. Defendant Dunham said he wanted to return to the care of his original doctors.
Defense counsel Brushia said that both she and her client had attempted to get answers about the change from prison officials and medical staff, but they were unable to give a reason for the switch.
Brushia, on behalf of Dunham, requested a temporary release for the defendant, so that he could visit his previous doctor and continue with his original treatment plan.
Judge Fall suggested a short furlough for the defendant, in which patient/defendant Dunham would be able to go to a scheduled appointment with his doctor, accompanied by a public defender.
Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hays did not object, but voiced concern about the lack of prison officials at the hearing because it meant Durham’s story was one-sided. She also mentioned the defendant’s record of similar release requests at past hearings.
Judge Fall allowed the brief furlough.
The second main concern addressed at the conference was that of a private investigator’s salary. Julia Barga, the senior deputy co-counsel of Yolo County, stated that the private investigator requested a sum of $5,000, which she believed to be “exorbitant.” After a discussion of the investigator’s requests, Judge Fall resolved that the private investigator was to be paid $55 an hour.
Fall also approved a timetable for the case, including motions due July 17 and another pretrial July 29, with trial set for Aug. 3. Because of co-defendants, the court estimated trial length to be seven days.
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