Two Judges Have Different Rulings for Sick Defendants

By Julian Verdon

SACRAMENTO – Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Sweet decided to delay a defendant’s sentencing because she felt sick—but another defendant did not get similar treatment from a different judge the week prior.

Initially, when Talisa Hale tried showing up to the Zoom court session, she could not connect. And when she finally did, she was seen lying in bed on her phone camera. Judge Sweet remarked with surprise, “Is she lying in bed?”

Her attorney, Karen Watkins, responded that Hale was sick from an unknown illness that left her feeling groggy. Since Hale felt unwell, Watkins told her client to Zoom into the court session rather than appear in person.

Judge Sweet then stated that they perhaps should delay the sentencing of Hale until she felt better.

Judge Sweet’s decisions came as a notable difference from his peer, Judge Michael Savage, who refused to let a defendant, Abel Elizondo, go to the doctor after Elizondo began coughing up blood.

According to Danae Snell, another reporter at The Vanguard, the defense, in that case, argued that “[Elizondo] remain out of custody to attend [a medical] appointment and determine what follow-up care is necessary.”

Elizondo sustained an injury, which caused him a number of medical complications for the past three years. However, in that case, Judge Savage did not consider the defense’s claims reasonable because Elizondo remained out of custody for too long, and he then sentenced Elizondo to three years in state prison.

Judge Sweet, on the other hand, asked if Hale was okay and how she felt. “Are you not feeling well? Do you want to go ahead with your sentence, or do you want to wait?”

Hale responded that she did not know what the sentence was. Judge Sweet then told her that her attorney, Watkins, had informed him that Hale had decided to take a plea and be placed on informal probation for three years.

The deputy district attorney, Ryan Roebuck, further explained that she would also serve a term of 90 days. Watkins said that Hale already has credit for 76 days and that she is close to her total time served.

Watkins then asked her client if she felt up to being sentenced that day, to which Hale responded that she did not. Judge Sweet agreed, and they all decided to come back in two weeks to give Hale plenty of time to recover before her sentencing.

These two sentences come amid a global pandemic of COVID-19, which has ravaged jails and prisons across the country. It is unknown whether Hale had the virus, but her conditions could have made her easily susceptible to it, and she also runs the risk of spreading it to others once placed in a crowded facility like a jail to finish her jail time.

Moreover, both Hale and Elizondo have weakened immune systems, so they may not effectively fight the disease off. The virus is most deadly among individuals with impaired immune systems.

In California’s state prisons, where Elizondo would go, there are more than 475 active cases and over 15,000 in total since the outbreak started. Many experts also believe that those numbers are underreported, and more infected people are active and unaccounted for in the statistics.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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