The Vanguard Week in Review: Court Watch (June 1, 2021 – June 4, 2021)

The Vanguard is an online news group that provides in-depth coverage of courts in California and around the nation. Since 2006, The Vanguard has been dedicated to transparency, democracy, open government and social justice. The team of 40 to 50 interns monitors live court proceedings in more than six different counties throughout California, from the Greater San Francisco Bay Area all the way through the Central Valley and towards Southern California. This week interns were covering the courts in Sacramento and Yolo, as well as the hearings over San Quentin State Prison’s handling of a COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 that resulted in 29 deaths. Our coverage of the San Quentin trial was featured on the San Francisco Public Defender’s office’s website.

These are some highlights of this week’s coverage.

Compiled By Leah Timmerman

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021
Sacramento County Superior Court
Leah Timmerman – Dept 61: She sat in as Judge Geoffrey Goodman presided over the court. Defendant Sarah Kiplinger pleads no contest to her felony charge and will be serving four years in state prison. Kiplinger attacked the victim with a tree stake when walking through a park, and is charged with assault with the intent of bodily injury because of these actions.

Defendant Thomas Cavanaugh plead no contest to a second-degree robbery charge and was released today on time served. He was to serve 364 days but with over 400 days of credits, Cavanaugh was released into his five years of probation.

Defendant Paris Pulley had his Humphry motion denied and will remain in custody on no bail for the homicide charge. His defense attorney, Joseph Cress argued for the court to release Pulley on $100,000 bail stating that he has a job, a girlfriend who is pregnant, and ties to the community in Sacramento so he would not be a risk to the court and to the public. The district attorney, Timothy Carr, argued against this asking for Pulley to remain in custody with no bail stating that his two prior felony convictions, the seriousness of the crime, and the fact he previously fled the state lead Pulley to be a risk to public safety. Judge Goodman agreed with the district attorney on all points and denied bail.

Alameda County Superior Court
Leah Timmerman – Dept 2: A jury trial was occurring for defendant Willian Hudson Carter on charges of sexual assault and battery. The audio live stream cut out each time one of the attorneys talked, making it very difficult to follow the proceedings.

San Quentin Trial
Michael Wheeler – Channing Sheets, an official with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, testified first, although I did not hear his testimony. Jason Bishop, who served as chief deputy warden at San Quentin from August 2020 to March 2021, next testified. He described the Covid protocols that the prison had in place. To enter the facility, staff had to pass a standard virus clearance protocol, as well as receive a weekly test for Covid. Inmates were also tested, although Bishop could not recall if this occurred weekly or biweekly. Inmates (and staff) were required to wear masks at all times when not in their cells, the only other exceptions being during mealtimes and during yard exercise, which only reopened in August. There were instances of noncompliance among staff, but Bishop only mentioned one incident, in which 25 staff took a maskless photo together and posted it to social media. Noncompliance was dealt with via the issuance of letters of instruction.

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021
Sacramento County Superior Court
Ankita Joshi – Dept 16: There was a preliminary hearing for Defendant Andrew Duenas, who had fled the pursuit of multiple police officers after being involved in a highway vehicle accident. Four officers who were involved in the pursuit and the subsequent search of Duenas testified about their encounters with Duenas. The victims in the crime relayed that Duenas had been tailgating them for approximately two miles and had repeatedly rammed into the back of their car before passing them.

 

The officers who were involved in the pursuit of Duenas noted that he had run away from the scene of the crime after colliding with a parked vehicle. Duenas was found later that day in a garden shed of a random civilian and had to be forcefully detained. Once at the jail after a visit to the hospital, Duenas was uncooperative during a blood draw, which later revealed that he had been under the influence of methamphetamines and amphetamines.

Public Defender John Crisostomo contended that there were identification issues with the circumstantial evidence present, but Judge Delbert Oros ruled in favor of the prosecution and issued a holding order for Duenas. A jury trial date was set for July 19 after Duenas entered a not guilty plea for all six counts against him.

San Quentin Trial
Alexander Ramirez – For my afternoon shift, I checked into the San Quentin trial. I had a bit of trouble finding the link to the stream so I got there about five minutes late. Once I got to the stream, the defense attorney Andrew Gibson was talking to a facility captain of San Quentin.

There was a lot of talk about what San Quentin was doing about cleaning and social distancing. It turns out that San Quentin has halved the maximum capacity of its housing areas and for the areas that are used as quarantining, there are only around 20 people in them at the moment.

There are no people added to these quarantine groups either in the allotted time the current batch is currently undertaking. The prosecution Khari Tillery would start questioning the testimony, but a lot of it was just confirming the details of the testimony and Tillery asking questions like, “Do you know how many people died from the virus from the Badger dormitory?” He didn’t get an answer.

The next testimony brought forward by the defense was the Healthcare Services Admin of San Quentin. I wrote my part of the article on this part of the trial, but there wasn’t a lot here. There were interesting points made about the vaccination rates of San Quentin. The inmate rate was sitting at 79 percent fully vaccinated, while the staff was sitting at 55 percent, however, this didn’t include the staff who got vaccinated off-site.

There were also talks about what documents are used by the healthcare system and how the inmates could get in contact with the nurse if they needed it. Really, a lot of my notes were struck by the objections made by the prosecution when the defense was not staying within the boundaries of what they said they would use the testimony for.

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021
Sacramento County Superior Court
Leah Timmerman – Dept 61: Defendant Steven Myers had his bail lowered to $30,000 for a carjacking of a motorized scooter worth 500 dollars. District Attorney Kitty Tetrault asked for bail to be kept at $100,000 as Myers had failed to appear twenty-five previous times in court and could be seen as a flight risk. Judge Geoffrey Goodman denied this and set bail at $30,000 with level five conditions on his release.

Defendant Tyrone Bullock had his case dismissed today has he successfully completed a two-year diversion grant and went above and beyond the goals set for him by his provider. In defendant Hong Pham’s case, Judge Goodman recused himself and changed the home court of the case to Department 63 citing that he submitted an affidavit on this matter back in February of 2020.

Leah Timmerman – Dept 63: On Thursday morning, defendant Frank Daniels pled no contest to the illegal possession of a firearm by a felon and will be on probation for two years and is time served for one day in jail. Daniels was stopped by police for a traffic violation and when asked he stated he had no firearm, he was arrested and when he was booked a gun was found on his person.

Defendant Veronica Amaya also pled no contest to the illegal possession of a firearm by a felon and will serve 120 days on a work project and two years on probation. She was stopped by police in her vehicle and admitted to having a firearm in her purse.

Savannah Dewberry and Alexander Pleitez – Dept 63: On Thursday afternoon, there was one case about a defendant with a history of violence who deliberately maimed an animal and set fire to it was interesting but not enough detail was given about the case to write an article about other than those facts.

However, the very last case covered a defendant’s motion to not have his prior felony convictions, ranging from robbery to avoiding police, impact the sentencing he would receive for his new felony conviction in which he, not only drove away from an officer speaking to him but put them in danger by almost running over their foot as they stand next to the car but also sped in a residential area, hitting another individual, saying his work in his community showed he changed and that his young kids need him since they have very little guidance other than himself.

The prosecution argued that the defendant had already avoided a second strike years prior in a similar incident involving a firearm and reckless driving and that it would be irresponsible not to give a harsher punishment now. Ultimately the judge decided to acknowledge the previous strike and doubled the defendant’s sentence under California’s three-strike law.

Friday, June 4th, 2021
San Quentin Trial
Sophia Barberini – On Friday morning Attorney Matthew Siroka completed questioning Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, who spoke on immunity within San Quentin. Dr. Klausner concluded that approximately 90 percent of San Quentin’s inmate population is immune from the COVID-19 virus, with approximately 80 percent of the population having been vaccinated, and the rest having achieved immunity from previously contracting the virus.

After questioning, Dr. Klausner, Attorney Denise Yates called Rosalinda Rosalez, who found out she would be testifying on June 1, as a witness for the respondents. Rosalez, however, was subject to Attorney Siroka’s questioning because, on May 28, she heard the testimony of Mr. Sheets, who discussed the OSHA violations by San Quentin, which is also what Rosalez would be testifying on. Based on Siroka’s questioning, Judge Geoffrey Howard decided to exclude Rosalez as a witness.

Attorney Yates instead called Rainbow Brockenborough, who is employed by the California Corrections Healthcare Services as the Regional Healthcare Executive for Region 1. Brockenborough served as a commander on the unified command at San Quentin during the surge of the pandemic. The unified command, according to Brockenborough, received counsel Stan Henry, a stakeholder from OSHA who counseled the unified command on potential OSHA violations. Brockenborough asserted that they took all of Henry’s requests into account and were, therefore, surprised when they were met with multiple OSHA violations and fees.

According to Brockenborough, San Quentin will be appealing some of the citations and they have implemented a few reforms as they continue isolation strategies, following CDC guidelines, mask adherences, and more. Brockenborough did concede that it is possible that San Quentin will begin to move to full capacity.

Alexander Ramirez – On Friday afternoon I checked into my afternoon shift at 1:30, and the San Quentin trial shortly after came back from their afternoon recess. A cross-examination of the live testimony started the afternoon session. Sarah Salomon was questioning the testimony on whether or not the recommendations to San Quentin were followed, and to what extent they were followed.

The testimony explained that in response to the recommendations sent to them, San Quentin created an emergency COVID response team, and while they didn’t directly decrease the prison size to half as recommended, they did increase housing availability. Salomon continued to question the statement made in the testimony that believed the recommendations that were implemented in San Quentin led to a decrease in positive cases when shortly after the recommendations were implemented, there was still an increase of some 300 cases in the facility.

After this, it was just a back and forth between the defense and petitioner clarifying facts with the testimony. This testimony was the last of the live witnesses for the case, and there were no rebuttals from the petitioners. Judge Howard would continue to talk about loose ends still left in the case like stipulated exhibits that weren’t followed up on. The opening brief was scheduled for July 7, and no final decision dates were scheduled.

Leah Timmerman is a 4th year Politcal Science and American Studies major at UC Davis. She is originally from Los Angeles, California.


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