Defendant – Jailed Since 2019 Awaiting Trial – Alleges Violation of His Due Process Rights

By Michelle Luu, Dario McCarty, and Savannah Dewberry

SACRAMENTO, CA – A defendant here in Sacramento County Superior Court late last week expressed frustration at his court date being pushed back again after being “promised,” in his words, a trial date in January of this year.

Farron Mello arrived in court for a trial readiness conference only to be told that his trial date would have to be pushed back to July. Mello said he was told originally his trial would commence in January, but six months later, that date continues to be pushed back.

He’s been in county jail since mid-2019, awaiting his “day in court.”

“This continuance keeps putting my court date off,” said Mello, addressing Judge Geoffrey Goodman, “I was promised by this court back on Jan. 19 that my trial would be handled then, and now it’s gone on until July 12. This is unacceptable.”

According to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, Mello was originally charged for two felonies back in September of 2019: murder and a felon in possession of a firearm, both crimes he maintains that he did not commit. “I’m fighting a case that I’ve been in here for 22 months for something I did not do,” said Mello.

Mello’s initial arraignment was held in December 2019, but it would not be until September of 2020, almost a full year after the filing of his charges, that his preliminary hearing would be held.

During this September preliminary hearing, he pleaded “not guilty,” and was given a trial date for November 2020. However, this trial would not take place, as Mello’s trial date would be postponed four times between October of 2020 and May of 2021 for various reasons cited by the court.

Some of these reasons are cited to be due to submitted time waivers. However, Mello, in today’s court hearings, claimed these previous time waivers had all been filed without his consent, noting, “You guys keep waiving time without my permission,” said Mello. ”And it is violating my due process rights.”

Now, in today’s hearing, an additional delay was ordered by Judge Goodman.

The District Attorney’s office stated that police officers who are necessary witnesses in the trial are on pre-approved vacations and thus will not be available to testify, necessitating this pushback.

Furthermore, Kelsey Berezin, a stand-in for Mello’s publicly appointed attorney Larry Pilgrim, stated to the court that Pilgrim would be on his fourth trial in four weeks. As such he would not be available for trial until July. Judge Goodman mostly cited this reason for rescheduling the original trial date, June 21, to July 12.

In response to this additional delay, Mello continued to express his outrage. “I was promised by this court on Jan. 19 that my court date would not be pushed off and would be moved to priority. And now you’re telling me it’s getting pushed off again?”

As Judge Goodman attempted to deliberate with the attorneys further on the issue, Mello interrupted them several times.

In response to this outburst, Judge Goodman did offer some sympathy. “I understand your frustration,” said Goodman. “You want to get this to trial, and you have every right to get it to trial.”

However, ultimately, Goodman reaffirmed the new July trial date. “There’s nothing I can do about it,” said Goodman. “Your attorney is in trial. So under the law, that constitutes good cause. The new date is July 12, and hopefully everyone will be available.”

Mello did not stick around to hear the end of Judge Goodman’s explanation. In the middle of Goodman’s speech, Mello stormed out of the courtroom and slammed the door behind him, making his dissatisfaction with the continued delays readily apparent.

Michelle is a fourth year at U.C. Davis majoring in English and Communications with a minor in Professional Writing. She has an interest in the occurrences of injustice and discrimination in today’s legal system.

Dario McCarty is a rising junior at UC Berkeley studying Political Economy and English. He is a Bay Area native and is passionate about criminal justice reform.

Savannah Dewberry is a student at the University of San Francisco. She is pursuing a Media Studies major with a minor in Journalism. Savannah Dewberry is an East Bay native and currently lives in San Francisco.


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