By Fiona Deane-Grundman
FRESNO – It’s been about three years since defendant Jessica Ranken—allegedly beset by a series of serious health problems—has been to court here at Fresno County Superior Courthouse.
And last week, private defense attorney Roger Nuttall informed Judge Adolfo Corona that his client, Ms. Ranken, could not be present in court because of more ongoing medical issues, including a brain tumor.
Nuttall tried to defend her absences, noting, “This client of ours has, as you may recall, previous medical problems. I’m advised that she’s also a confirmed carrier of what is called MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).” Ranken, who lives in Oregon, cannot travel due to her condition, he said.
Nuttall assured Judge Corona that he would “get proof” of Ranken’s condition. He requested to set the matter “over for a few days.” The case is on pre-preliminary hearing with a general time waiver.
The judge would have none of it, agreeing with the prosecution—and issued a no-bail warrant for Ranken to appear in his court.
Judge Corona and Deputy District Attorney Lynette Gonzales expressed their disapproval that Ranken has yet to make another appearance on her case, with Corona noting, “This case has been going on and on and on and I need that medical information…there’s been a lot of different reasons for her not being here. We need to finish this case.”
The DDA added she’s been “examining the court record” and the case has been “ongoing since 2016…I’ve counted eight different deputy district attorneys have appeared on this case since its inception. The defendant started not appearing in 2018; that’s almost three years of her non-appearance for various reasons.”
DDA Gonzales said that “multiple times” before this court appearance she has asked the court to issue a warrant, stating that “this case could have resolved some time ago.”
Judge Corona agreed with her statement that “every time there’s a new reason.”
Nuttall stressed that he understood the case has gone on a “long time” without a successful resolution but stressed that in the interim period between 2018 and the present his client developed a brain tumor for which she had surgery, resulting in her non-appearance.
He said that “to make the record clear, in October her pre-op test confirmed that she is a MRSA carrier,” an illness which has no cure and may be a “terminal issue” for Ranken. He said that he has “some documentation” on her medical history, and noted that with the current Coronavirus pandemic, it would be “irresponsible to require her to travel to Fresno for any reason.”
Nuttall said that he would object to any request for a warrant or that his client be ordered to appear. He also mentioned that he has made more appearances on the case than anybody else, but that he has to “deal with the reality.”
The judge countered Nuttall’s insistence that Ranken not appear in court, saying that “we need due process on this case.” He said he hasn’t seen “any paperwork that says any of that,” and he does not agree that it is irresponsible for Ranken to appear in court because “she should have been here before the pandemic (and) really had no written reasons not to be here other than all these statements.”
Nuttall responded, “Other than the brain tumor?” To that Judge Corona said, “I haven’t seen the paperwork.”
Nuttall insisted that he submitted “significant paperwork” last year verifying his client’s medical problems.
Judge Corona said he would “issue a warrant at this point for her failure to be here at no bail.”
Nuttall asked for an opportunity to furnish further documentation for the court as to her medical condition, which Gonzales objected to, saying it would just allow Ranken to continue to fail to appear, “and she hasn’t been here for four years,” to which Nuttall said, “that’s not true.” Gonzales corrected herself, saying, “It’s probably more like three.”
Judge Corona maintained that a no-bail warrant should be issued and the case be put on the calendar, because he just wants “to be done” with the case.
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