By Lois Yoo, Alexander Pleitez, and Jose Medina
SACRAMENTO, CA – Judge Patrick Marlette expressed his compassion toward a victim’s loved ones this past Thursday here in Sacramento County Superior Court after they read their statements about what they have endured following the loss of a family member.
And the statements were heartbreaking. At times, they were even bitter about the process.
Defendant Julius Turner was present in Dept. 63 for a trial readiness conference where the court heard statements from the family members of the victim of a hit and run alleged to have been committed by Turner. The incident occurred on Nov. 23, 2017.
Turner is charged with a felony hit and run and two counts of vehicular manslaughter.
The victim’s daughter, Anna, was the first to share her testimony about how Turner’s fatal actions have affected her and her family over the past three years.
She acknowledged the two strangers who pulled over to check on her mother and passenger, calling them “the good two Samaritans.”
She shared the suffering that her mother endured and her “several major surgeries, including brain surgery. My mother was in a coma for more than a month at UC Davis Hospital,” and explained, “When my mother did wake from her coma, she was a vegetable.”
Anna and her brother had to quit their own jobs in order to take care of their mother, which only brought more financial strain into their lives.
According to Anna, the victim had worked tirelessly at Costco for more than 30 years and was about to enter retirement. She “was only 61 years old. She was healthy and looking forward to retirement… and being able to live out the rest of her life enjoying her family and grandkids.”
Anna added, “Her life was taken too soon and very tragically. She was such a beautiful soul and did not deserve any of that. Death is a part of life, but the suffering my mom had to endure and the pain that was so excruciatingly painful, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”
Anna expressed her disappointment in defendant Turner because “from the beginning, Mr. Turner denied being at the scene of the accident. He denied being the driver of the Cadillac. He even went as far as to say that somebody stole his car that morning and put on his reflector vest from his job and caused the accident. Turner has taken no responsibility.”
Even after all of this, she acknowledged that she knows her mother would want her to forgive Turner and would not want to see him serve a lifetime sentence in jail.
She expressed her concern that her “mother’s voice had been lost through this whole process. I feel that in the beginning, the District Attorneys’ office was just as upset as we were about my mother’s accident. But now it just seems like this is going to be swept under the rug to move forward, because of the backlog of cases.”
Ultimately, Anna wants Turner to take responsibility for his actions by taking some time in prison for at least a year, where he may think about the fact that he “had a split-second decision to make.”
She added that “in that split-second he had an opportunity to be a hero or to be a coward. If he had chosen to be a hero, he would have done the right thing, he would have done the humane thing, and he would have helped my mother and (passenger) get to the safe side of the freeway.”
Anna closed by admitting that she is “still not okay. The devastation that this has caused in my life has been horrendous, emotionally and financially. I just want to see justice for my mother and my family.”
Sitting right by her side, Anna’s uncle, Wayne, shared his statement next.
Calling out the system that failed his sister, he expressed his belief that “if this case went to a jury trial, there would have been a different outcome because 12 people on the jury would have had a conscience because the judge who gave this so-called deal must have not.”
The third and last family member to speak was the victim’s sister, Elaine.
Struggling to hold back her tears, she said she knows her sister would want her to forgive Turner but that she is “not in that place” to do so, because he has not shown any remorse. She closed by telling Turner “had you followed the law, my sister would be here with us today.”
After hearing the victim’s family members’ testimonies, Attorney Jovel claimed Turner was in fact taking responsibility by going to state prison.
While also acknowledging the suffering of the victim and her family’s grief, Jovel apologized to the family on Turner’s behalf.
Jovel attempted to defend Turner by sharing that Turner did check on the passenger in the vehicle after the accident and that there was minor injury reported at the time.
Jovel emphasized that “15 minutes later, someone else came speeding through at that accident zone and that led to another tragic set of events…I think that there’s others to blame.”
At the end of the conference, Judge Marlette sent his condolences to the victim’s family. He went on to relay his experiences with cases such as this, where an individual or group had to suffer at the hands of another. In this, he described the dissatisfaction most people feel after sentencing.
In this case, Judge Marlette said parents or guardians who had a child or family member assaulted, robbed, or killed, when asked the question, “Were you satisfied with the outcome?” respond with the same dreariness.
The judge stated, “There is no one who loves somebody else, who is satisfied with anything less than the maximum punishment possible for someone who takes away their loved one.”
The judge said what he knows about people’s reactions to the punishments of the court and suggested that the defendant’s sentence may not leave them satisfied. In fact, the judge highlighted the pain of the victim’s family and what they want the defendant to endure.
“What you’re feeling, your want for Mr. Turner to suffer, is human nature; it’s the way anybody would feel,” he said.
However, the judge added that many people seek to give the maximum punishment as a form of justice, and the laws society has put in place may not allow that to happen.
In accounting for this, Judge Marlette proclaimed, “After the jury is instructed on what the law is, not only with good people or bad people but of all people equally, they would come back with this same verdict.”
He added that the verdict would be “that he’s guilty of leaving the scene where somebody was injured. Now there’s no doubt, that had he not done that the people involved would still be alive. But the law must take an objective look and determine what legal responsibility someone has.”
Although Marlette said he may want to ease the pain of the victim’s family, the law must be built to give any defendant a fair trial based on the laws.
“I don’t want you to think is that the community has somehow betrayed you in this case.[…] I know this doesn’t fill the hole in your heart, [and] I don’t expect it to make you feel better about what happened,” Judge Marlette said.
In the end, the judge sent his condolences to the family and ultimately the defendant was found guilty and ordered to pay a to-be-determined restitution fee added on to his already standing $300 restitution fee to the family of the victim and the passenger.
Additionally, although Turner was eligible for probation, the judge denied him probation and was ordered to serve 16 months in state prison and will soon begin his sentence.
Jose graduated from UC Davis with a BA in Political Science and has interned for the California State Legislature. He is from Rocklin, CA.
Alexander Pleitez is a senior at South San Francisco High School planning to major in Political Science or Biology, currently residing in the Bay Area, and hopes to sharpen his writing skills and garner work experience with new opportunities.
Lois Yoo is a third year at UC Berkeley and is originally from Los Angeles, California.
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