By Michelle Luu and Dario McCarty
WOODLAND, CA — Despite the best efforts of his public defender and the wishes of the victim, a Yolo County man, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was set to stand trial here in Yolo County Superior Court on a felony charge of criminal threats against his spouse.
On June 4, Derek Calvin allegedly began acting erratically in his shared West Sacramento home with his spouse. During the hearing, Calvin’s spouse had to collect herself as she recalled how the episode began. After Calvin had accused her of taking his phone, he had come downstairs and began shouting at her.
After his outburst, she stated that Calvin began running back and forth in the house, jumping up and down, and growling. He then started to tear up the kitchen, and it was at this point that Calvin grabbed a five-inch steak knife from the kitchen and tucked it into his pocket.
According to his spouse’s testimony, Calvin began to then make threatening statements. “Where I’m from, we take people and put them in the meat grinder. We kill all of y’all! We kill people like that,” she testified Calvin said. At one point, Calvin said that he had friends from Richmond who could beat her up.
Calvin’s erratic behavior was likely caused by a mental health breakdown, as described by his defense attorney. According to his spouse’s testimony, Calvin had mental health issues and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
His spouse testified that, at one point, Calvin began hallucinating and speaking to one of his deceased family members. Calvin would also, at various points during the episode, interrupt his threats to say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that,” and give her a kiss on the cheek before then returning to his violent outburst.
But despite these threats, Calvin’s spouse stated several times that these were not what had made her afraid. “I wasn’t afraid of the statements,” she said. “I was afraid of what I had seen him become.” Calvin’s spouse went on to further clarify that it was, specifically, Calvin’s erratic behavior that scared her.
In fact, Calvin’s spouse was reluctant to call the police in the first place. This was due to prior experiences where, after Calvin and she had had a prior fight, the police had ended up arresting her.
“The thing is that when [the police] come they take me to jail, so it was like my hands were tied…” said Calvin’s spouse. “They always take me to jail, so majority of the time I try to deal with it because I don’t wanna go to jail and lose my job.”
At the end of the preliminary hearing, Deputy Public Defender Teal Dixon petitioned the court to grant a PC § 17(b) motion which would reduce the felony charge to a misdemeanor on the basis of his mental health and the fact that the witness did not feel fear over Calvin’s words.
“The issue here is not whether he acted in a way that scared her…but whether he committed the crime of a criminal threat, which includes that he intended for her to feel fear and that she did feel fear…she did not feel that he was going to call people from Richmond to come and get her,” Ms. Dixon said to the court.
“She was afraid…of his change in temperament, the way he was acting, the strange growling… She was afraid of the totality,” the PD added.
Dixon is referring to the California law that states that felony criminal threats are those done with the specific intent that the statement is to be taken as a threat and would cause the victim to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety. According to Dixon, these conditions were not met. “At no point did I hear [Mr. Calvin’s spouse] say, ‘I’m afraid he’s going to execute that threat,’” said Dixon.
However, Deputy District Attorney David Wilson disagreed, citing the statements Calvin’s spouse gave to an officer that that she “‘thought it was [her] time.’
“I think this is felony conduct,” said Wilson. “He is threatening to bring in other people to harm the victim, and there’s evidence before the court that…she was afraid this incident on June 4 would go further because of threats made on a prior domestic incident.”
Further, Wilson argued that if the appropriate resolution for this case was mental health treatment, he did not believe that reducing from a felony to a misdemeanor at this point in time would have expedited or bettered that process.
Ultimately, Judge David Rosenberg sided with DDA Wilson, agreeing that there was sufficient evidence for Calvin to stand trial on the charge of felony criminal threats.
In response to the question of the defendant’s mental health, Judge Rosenberg said, “It’s pretty clear to the court that Mr. Calvin has suffered some mental health issues and needs to get some mental health help. That can be provided to him through the justice system.”
Judge Rosenberg’s decision is in spite of the fact that Calvin’s spouse had asserted in her testimony that she did not want to see Calvin face charges, and instead just wanted to see him receive mental health treatment.
Attorney Dixon’s 17(b) motion was denied without prejudice and Derek Calvin’s arraignment is currently scheduled for July 9.
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.
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