By David M. Greenwald
Once again, Yolo County has hired a prosecutor from another county who was found to have committed prosecutorial misconduct. Last fall, they hired David Wilson, who had been a Kern County Deputy DA, despite having a murder conviction overturned due to misconduct—he misstated the law to the jury, causing a conviction to be overturned.
In 2016, a murder conviction from 2010 was overturned by the state appellate court after ruling the prosecutor, David Wilson, had inaccurately stated the law to jurors during the trial. The 5th DCA ruled that Wilson “misstated the law when he implied the jury could not consider evidence of the defendant’s ‘delusional symptoms’ if they were connected to the defendant’s drug use.
“Since the prosecutor’s comments mischaracterized the law, and there is a reasonable likelihood the jury was misled, the comments constituted misconduct,” stated the court’s ruling, as reported in the Bakersfield Californian.
This wasn’t a wrongful conviction case—there was no dispute that the defendant stabbed to death a 47-year-old man in 2010.
However, the defense argued that the defendant, Jeffrey Hardin, 25 at the time of the offense, suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and, as a result, “did not deliberate and premeditate in killing Kabonic as required for first-degree murder.” They sought a lesser charge of second degree murder.
The key exchange took place during the rebuttal argument where Wilson questioned whether the symptoms were caused by schizophrenia or his meth use.
The Californian reported, “Defense counsel objected to Wilson’s argument, but Judge John S. Somers overruled the objection and the prosecutor continued to draw a distinction between schizophrenia and drug-induced disorder.”
“The unmistakable implication of the prosecutor’s comments was that the distinction was legally significant, when, in fact, it was not,” the appellate court said in its ruling. The court found that the jury would draw the logical inference that they had to disregard delusional symptoms entirely if they were related to meth use rather than schizophrenia.
That isn’t the law.
“Under the law, the jury was free to consider the effect of Hardin’s psychotic symptoms on his mental state regardless of whether the source of the symptoms was his diagnosed schizophrenia, his diagnosed substance-induced disorder, or both,” the court said.
This is yet another questionable hire by the DA’s office. In 2015, the Yolo County District Attorney’s office announced via Twitter that Deputy DA Frits van der Hoek had been sworn in as the newest member of the YCDA’s team.
Just over two weeks after the May 6 announcement, Frits van der Hoek was officially cleared of his part in the fatal February 2014 shooting death of 38-year-old Antonio Lopez, just off campus, when he was a San Jose State Police Officer.
Despite being cleared, this was an extremely controversial and questionable shooting.
According to the report released by the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office, Mr. Lopez was shot twice during the confrontation with Officer van der Hoek and Sergeant Mike Santos, who ultimately shot him.
Officer van der Hoek ordered Mr. Lopez to “drop to the ground” while Sgt. Santos told him to “put that on the floor,” in reference to the knife (which may have been a drywall saw). At this point, van der Hoek tried to fire his Taser, but the prongs could not penetrate Mr. Lopez’s clothing.
Next, Lopez allegedly advanced on Officer van der Hoek, who yelled to his partner to “shoot him, shoot!”
Sgt. Santos told investigators, “I thought for sure this guy was about to stab him,” before he opened fire. Both of his shots hit Mr. Lopez in the back and he died at the hospital.
But there is controversy in this account.
Asian Law Alliance executive director Richard Konda was allowed to watch the video that the public hadn’t. He said he believed Lopez was attempting to flee rather than charging the officer. After watching the video, he told the media, “I didn’t see him make any aggressive move toward any person.”
Twice then in the last four years, the Yolo County DA’s office has hired individuals involved in misconduct allegations to be deputy DAs.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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