By David M. Greenwald
Woodland, CA – The Yolo County DA’s Office has been pushing the court appearance for weeks.
In a tweet, they said: “Today the 3rd District Court of Appeal considered whether the killer of Claudia Maupin and Oliver ‘Chip’ Northup will be released early. Now we wait… the judges have up to 90 days to issue their opinion.”
The Davis Enterprise even dutifully published the link to where the public could log on and watch the 30-minute hearing. What must the public have been thinking? Instead of arguments over the whether to release Marsh, the public was treated to a very technical issue before the court.
In fact, they weren’t even going so far as to rule on the constitutionality of SB 1391, which was settled this past February, when California’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously to uphold SB 1391.
Rachelle Newcomb for the AG’s office argued that the legal wrangling here “has resulted in numerous challenges for the victims’ family. But thankfully the law and the facts that ensure the appellant’s continued incarceration are uncomplicated and straightforward.”
The issue here, she argued, was that the court needed to abide by long-established law regarding the date of finality.
Newcomb cited “this court’s plain language in its February 2018 opinion regarding two matters, its conclusive rejection of all challenges to the jury’s determinations of appellate’s guilt and its unmistakable direction to the trial court not to alter appellate’s 52 year prison sentence if and in this case notable when, it determined that appellate’s heinous crimes rendered him unfit to be tried in appellate court.”
In other words, the issue before the court was not whether or not to release Marsh, but rather whether he even had the ability at this point to apply SB 1391 retroactively, and the three-judge panel seemed disinclined to side with Marsh in this matter.
And, even if they had, all this would do would be kick it back to the juvenile court which already made this determination on Prop. 57 grounds back in 2018. And even then, the worst case scenario is probably a hearing every two years about his suitability for parole.
All of this makes for dry viewing, so, instead, Jeff Reisig took to the Fox News airwaves to make his case. For years I have heard from people who defend Fox News—arguing that the bad stuff is really the commentators and that the news itself is unbiased.
This is not what I saw on the two-minute segment yesterday. The piece was one-sides, slanted and overtly biased.
Two people were interviewed for the story—Yolo County DA Jeff Reisig and the victim’s granddaughter, Susan Rice. There was no counter-weight. No one from Marsh’s side, no one who would defend criminal justice reform.
And the language itself was loaded.
First of all, like everyone else, Fox News misstated the nature of the hearing, arguing that Marsh’s “defense team will make their case for an early release at today’s appeal hearing.” (Which is not exactly what they did—again, they made a case for being allowed to appeal the matter further, not whether to release him).
The reporter laid the groundwork, calling the murder horrible and describing graphically what occurred.
Then she warned that “he could soon walk free because of so-called criminal justice reform here in California.”
The accuracy of that comment is not only in question, but the attack on criminal justice reform throughout is palpable.
Just to drive home the point of how bad the crime was, Reisig goes on Fox News to describe how he “evicervated the bodies” and “he removed internal organs.
“It was in fact the most violent and the most heinous crime I have ever seen in 25 years,” Reisig described.
Fox then reports, “An appellate court is revisiting the case today because of a law signed in 2018 by then-Governor Jerry Brown which allows juveniles convicted of violent crimes to be eligible for release, to be eligible for parole by the age of 25.”
They go on to say that relatives want the law amended “so that especially vicious killers, like Marsh, stay locked up.”
Of course none of that has any bearing on the Marsh case, and even if they did amend the law, it is unlikely that it could apply to Marsh’s case—in fact, it may be that SB 1391 doesn’t apply to Marsh’s case either.
The story endied with the News Anchor opinion: “This is just an absolutely brutal and shocking story.”
What was shocking and brutal here was the misleading and one-sided coverage of this story by Fox which made no effort to find out the other side of the story, and the fact that the Yolo DA would go on the right-wing icon’s airwaves to make his case in a way that continues to mislead the public about what is actually going on here.