My View: New Social Media Campaign against Daniel Marsh Raises a Number of Troubling Questions

2013 Murder Scene on Cowell Blvd in Davis

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – There is no doubt, the crime that occurred here in Davis in 2013 was a horrifying and senseless crime.  The fact that it was a 15-year-old, raised in Davis and who attended our schools, only made it more terrifying.

But as the Third Appellate Court is set to hear arguments over whether Marsh, who is now in his early 20s, should be released at the age of 25 under new laws that preclude juveniles under 16 to be sentenced as adults, the law also allows a prosecutor to ask a judge to hold people longer if their release would endanger public safety.

That is just one reason why this campaign seems troubling and inappropriate to me.  As I have stated many times over the last eight years now, I think we need to look more carefully at some of the rhetoric here.

Leading the way on this is Crime Victims United, a powerful voice that has helped to steer many states, including California, to take a more punitive approach to law enforcement.

The group came together with the family, other Yolo County Crime Victims and, of course, the Yolo County DA’s victims services to create the group “Hear Us YOLO.”

“This coalition will ensure the voice of the victim is heard, that the rights of the victim are upheld and that we bring back balance in the legislature,” said Nina Salerno, president of Crime Victims United, at the Friday morning news conference at Yolo County District Attorney’s Office.

DA Reisig, speaking at the press conference held in his offices, said that this group wants to “make sure the voices of victims are heard loudly and clearly.”

He added, “It seemed victims’ voices and rights haven’t been heard or considered.”

From the family, is Maupin’s eldest daughter Victoria Hurd along with her daughter Sarah Rice.

“If he wins this appeal on Aug. 18, he could be out on the streets of Davis as early as May 14, 2022,” she said.  “He will be unsupervised, without parole, and his record will be sealed.

“This will be my family’s third hearing and I’m standing here before you today because as traumatizing as it is for my family and those who were close to my mother and Chip, this dangerous law directly affects your families,” Hurd said. “There will be a clinically diagnosed psychopath who has gruesomely murdered not one but two people and admitted to finding it exhilarating, walking free.”

The family of the victims—Claudia Maupin and Oliver “Chip” Northup—no doubt went through one of the most horrifying experiences that you can imagine.  But is a social media campaign the way to do it?

One of the questions I have is whether Chip Northup himself would have approved of this campaign.  Northup spent his career as a defense attorney, he was a stanch opponent of the death penalty, and he even attended our 2012 Death Penalty event in Woodland.  Early in the process his son made a public statement to the effect that his father would have been the first to have defended this kid.

Another concern of mine is the role of the DA’s office in this matter.

“Hear Us YOLO” has a page on the YoloDA.org website and describes the purpose: “The purpose of Hear Us YOLO is to empower survivors in educating the public about victimization, terminology and resources. Putting victim awareness and issues on the forefront.”

“I strongly support balanced criminal justice reform that reduces recidivism and advances public safety — and this can only be accomplished when crime victims are a fundamental part of the process, when their voices are heard and their rights upheld,” said DA Jeff Reisig. “This is why providing steadfast victims advocacy ranks high on my office’s Bill of Values, and why we created Hear Us YOLO.”

“Hear Us YOLO” is under the direction of Crime Victims United as well as the DA’s Victim Advocates Unit.

Applications are in fact sent to Victim Services Program Manager, Laura Valdes, using her county email address.

Is this the proper role of a DA’s office, particularly going public on a case that will argued in five days before a court?  Is the DA involved in an ex-parte manner of attempting to influence the decision of that appellate court?  Is that itself proper?

Finally, I worry about the demonization of Marsh himself.

One of Hurd’s comments yesterday struck me—his record will be sealed.  And that might be a concern about some juvenile offenders, but a quick Google search of Marsh reveals that no matter of sealing his records will undo the tremendous volume of records portraying his crime in graphic details.  No need to worry about that issue.

There is a good deal of amateur psychology going on in the community.

Hurd, for instance, called him “a clinically diagnosed psychopath.”

That has been a common refrain—he tortured his victims, was exhilarated.  There are claims he showed psychopathic tendencies and was seen as an aspiring serial killer.

During the trial, a psychiatrist diagnosed Marsh with severe depression and anxiety.  Forensic psychologist and psychopathy expert Matthew Logan said Marsh is a psychopath, scoring 35.8 out of 40 on the Psychopathy Checklist.

James Rokop, another psychologist, testified that Marsh was a sexual sadist who killed solely to gratify himself.

But there is a lot we don’t know about this stuff.  Several other examining physicians disagreed.  Dr. Merikangas for instance, a neuropsychiatrist and neurologist, found there was no evidence that Marsh suffered from anti-social or sexual sadism.

It is easy with a vicious and senseless crime to project our worst fears, but we are talking about a person who was 15 years old at the time of his act.

Even Dr. Hare, who developed the psychopathy checklist, warned in his book it is hard to make an accurate assessment and one shouldn’t try to do it without extensive training.

Plus—is this a permanent condition?  Everyone is treating it like it is.  But as Merikangas testified at trial, Marsh had manic depressive disorder, dissociative disorder, de-personalization, among other things—and in addition to mental illness and violent thoughts, Marsh was detached from both parents.

In 2018, Daniel Marsh had an extensive hearing to determine if he was suitable for release under Prop. 57.  While Judge McAdam ruled that he was not, in an 18-page finding, he made several findings of interest.

One of the more interesting aspects of it was the role of Dr. Soulier, who diagnosed Marsh in 2013, was threatened by Marsh who said he would kill him and as a result, he terminated his examination.

Writes Judge McAdam, “Dr. Soulier is the only medical expert before the Court, who actually interviewed Marsh for this hearing, which he did towards the end of July 2018, as reflected in his second report dated September 17, 2018.

“Thus, Dr. Soulier can actually compare the 2013 Daniel Marsh to the 2018 Daniel Marsh—no other expert can.”

Judge McAdam also makes some other very pertinent findings.

Dr. Logan testified that Marsh scored 35.8 out of 40 on the PCL-R scale for criminal psychopathy.  He testified that “a person of Marsh’s profile virtually cannot be rehabilitated.”

While there is some research supporting this generalized conclusion, it is also true, as the judge points out, that Dr. Logan did not personally interview Marsh.  Moreover, he conceded that “some of the factors that make up the PCL-R are dynamic and that retesting a juvenile as he matures would be a helpful risk assessment tool.”

Further, he warned in his testimony that this is not designed to be a risk assessment tool.

The judge notes that Dr. Logan does not use PCL-R when assessing the risk of recidivism, he used three different tools—none used in this case.

Writes Judge McAdam: “[F]rom what we know about the development of the brain between childhood and adulthood, that understanding further warrants caution when relying heavily on a PCL-R conducted in 2015 at the age of 18. There is no question that the crimes here were committed by a psychopath who was also suffering a mental illness.”

McAdam adds, “The more difficult question is whether he is still a psychopath with criminal desires and whether that personality trait can be rehabilitated.”

Importantly, he also points out that both experts testified that most psychopaths are not criminals.

Thus McAdam, concludes in 2018, “The claim that Marsh is a dangerous psychopath is not dispositive here.”

What he finds more important is the understanding of the scope of the individualized rehabilitation in this case.  His thoughtful analysis showed concern that the trauma experienced could be a trigger, and asked, “what happens when he is not in a controlled setting?”  He adds, “This is where the fragile psyche is a concern.”

The judge ultimately found, “Based on the record before the Court and given that he has not addressed the main traumas in his life at all in the five years since the crime, there is virtually no chance that Marsh will be rehabilitated before he turns 25 years old—it is certainly not a likelihood.”

However, upon observing the testimony of Marsh, he said, “The court did not find him to be making any effort to manipulate or mislead the Court in any way.”

The judge found he had made since progress, but that “it all falls far short, given the enormity of the problem—namely, a fragile emotional condition that can be triggered by events that others can simply resolve with therapy and support.”

I can also say that Marsh, who is serving in Donovan, is in a place with some individuals that the Vanguard has been working with.  What I have basically heard is that Marsh hardly resembles the person that he has been portrayed as in the media.

While I think people will tend to discount this point, remember that incarcerated people generally have a good sense for whether something is an act or sincere.

The whole point of having a juvenile justice wing of the criminal legal system is the acknowledgement that juveniles are not merely mini-versions of adults.  Their brain development up until 25 years of age is not complete.  Add in a whole bunch of mental health diagnoses and you have a recipe for trouble.

But with treatment, work, and maturation, that is not necessarily a permanent condition.

None of this is to say that he should be released tomorrow or even at the age of 25, which would be in May of 2022.  Prosecutors have the ability to request a judge hold Marsh longer for public safety concerns.

I do believe that this crime warrants additional time, that Marsh still probably has progress to make, and that the community would be uncomfortable and understandably so with his release at this time.

We should make these decisions, however, in an evidence-based manner that takes into account current diagnoses by actual mental health experts—not the understandable pain and suffering of the family, not the attempts to scare the public by the DA, not the extremist rhetoric of Victims United, but rather the sober calculus of experts trying to figure out the best course forward in a case that is anything but typical.

This is the exact time to ramp down the rhetoric, but not raise it up.  And this is precisely why I am troubled to see the Yolo DA and Crime Victims United join forces with a still and understandably grieving family to raise the temperature in the room.

I tend to agree overall with Judge McAdam—that Marsh has made good progress from the reports that we have seen, that he continues to face considerable obstacles, that until the courts and professionals are convinced that he has addressed those issues, he remains a potential danger to the public.

Fortunately, AB 1391 does not leave the courts without tools here.  They will simply need to rely on current and future diagnoses to guide them—and that’s fine.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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20 Comments

  1. Tim Keller

    I have long felt that the prison system needs to be broken up into several different types of facilities with different intents…. I won’t pitch my overall concept here…. But one of the types of facilities that I think should suggest is for people like Mr. Marsh.

    Once he has served his punitive “jail time”..  he is still not safe to be released back into society – but that does not mean that he deserves more punishment.   They should make colonies for people like him.  Small towns with small apartment type housing.  Cameras everywhere…. But not a huge population of guards directing every aspect of everyone’s day.

    give them jobs, maintaining the place, or tele-working for an outside company… get them into a routine of working….  If they can make it there and show that they can live a “normal life” in that kind of contained environment… maybe at some point he gets released into society… if he attacks someone else…. He goes back into the normal “jail”..    either way, we have a way of giving someone like this a little bit of a leash to resume normalcy in life… without having that experimental period being conducted out in the general community

     

  2. robinrainwater

    David Greenwald, this is nearly exactly how I see this. I am really concerned about the scary psychological information that was used so early for this case as well- and by people who are state led. The weight of the PCL-r which is really biased based on clinical intuition is large in this case and scores as high as he was given are usually pretty difficult without multiple criminal factors.  The risk of Marsh getting out at this hearing are practically nonexistent and so this is pure theater against a law which is applied to the majority and with reason. In MOST cases, juvenile crime is often conducted with a juvenile brain which doesn’t yet think of long-term consequences. This crime was not the average juvenile crime for which the law was targeting but it is working as it was supposed to- and he will be held as an exception. This is kinda an attempt to “throw the baby out with the bath water”. It’s also disturbing that a campaign is being run using county resources. And I’m glad to see a thoughtful judge looking at it and parsing out difficult points here.

    1. David Greenwald

      Thanks Robin. The ex-parte angle here no one is really sure about. I know when I tweeted the article, it was immediately retweeted by someone with their campaign who linked their own stuff. Not sure if it’s a real person or a bot.

  3. Ron Glick

    You take the bait every time. I’m sure Reisig wants you to argue for perp rights for Marsh. He will bathe in the afterglow of any article you write about him getting in the way of Marsh ever being released. Calling him out for having links to a group that wants to stoke fear of Marsh won’t play in Yolo County. This community is scarred s**tless of Marsh. Keep it up and the only question that will remain on Election Day will be what suit will Jeff wear to his swearing in for his fifth term.

    If Rodriguez wants to run a credible campaign she will run as far away from articles like this as fast as she can.

    1. David Greenwald

      Hi Ron – I knew when I wrote this piece it would not be popular in some quarters, although I was actually a bit surprised with the amount of agreement I got on Facebook.

      There are several important points that I felt the need to make. One is that Marsh probably poses considerably less threat in the future than has been made out to be. The determination that he was a psychopath for instance was based on an examiner who never directly interviewed him.

      But the more important issue is that there is no danger of him being let out. Marsh and his family are being used by Crime Victims United and to less extent by Reisig to campaign to repeal 1391.

      They lay out the process by which the person can remain in custody after the age of 25.

      The standard: “Is the person physically dangerous to the public because of his or her mental or physical deficiency, disorder, or abnormality which causes the person to have serious difficulty controlling his or her dangerous behavior?” (Welf. & Inst. Code § 1801.5).

      That’s a pretty easy standard to meet in this case.

      They continue: “If the court or jury determines that releasing the (no longer) juvenile offender is dangerous to the public, he or she may remain committed for up to two more years. “

      “What happens when the two more years is up? The whole process as just described must happen again, and again, and again… (Welf. & Inst. Code § 1802).”

      That’s kind of like a parole hearing. Why is that so bad? If anything, I support that process. It means that we are not keeping someone in custody indefinitely for decisions made when they were just 15 or 16, but rather for decisions made in real time.

      Bottom line: Daniel Marsh is not going to be released any time soon, anyone who says otherwise doesn’t understand the process or is trying to scare the public.

      In their petition Crime victims actually acknowledged that he won’t be let go.

      I agree, probably don’t want to run a campaign based on my comments and articles here, but I have the luxury of not running a campaign.

      1. Ron Glick

        Your world is an echo chamber.

        David: “That’s kind of like a parole hearing. Why is that so bad?”

        The victims family answers:“Our judicial system does not offer justice,” Rice said. “It does not allow us to heal and it does not allow for closure. My family is exhausted. We have been fighting for over eight years.”

        David, your position would be to re-traumatized these people every two years forever.

        1. David Greenwald

          So how do you decide when it’s time for him to be considered for release? (Remember parole hearings happen every two to three years – Charles Manson had them for decades even though everyone knew he would never get out).

          1. Don Shor

            So how do you decide when it’s time for him to be considered for release?

            Given the nature of the crimes my guess is most reasonable people would say never.

        2. Ron Glick

          I guess you missed Jones V. Mississippi decided April 22, 2021 where the U.S. Supreme Court allowed life without parole for a murder committed by a 15 year old.

          At any rate Marsh was sentenced to 52 years to life so  my guess is that in 52 years he will come up for parole.

           

          1. David Greenwald

            Sorry, you couldn’t LWOP a minor at the time of Marsh’s sentence. But under a host of juvenile laws, he was going to come up for parole around the age of 25 anyway. He won’t be released any time soon given the nature of his crime (nor should he). Crime Victims United isn’t attempting to close a loophole here (a lot of people might support that approach), they are attempting to end the juvenile reforms altogether.

          2. David Greenwald

            California is governed by its own state law, SB 394 signed into law by Governor Brown banned LWOP sentences in California and also stipulated that those sentenced as a minor are eligible for parole in year 25 of their sentence.

        3. Matt Williams

          The victims family answers … “Our judicial system does not offer justice,” Rice said. “It does not allow us to heal and it does not allow for closure. My family is exhausted. We have been fighting for over eight years.”

          Ron Glick adds … “David, your position would be to re-traumatized these people every two years forever.”

          .
          Ron, I would say to Mr. Rice that healing is elusive (but attainable) even under the best of circumstances, and I believe that closure is completely unattainable, sort of like getting new housing in Davis that is truly affordable.

          With that said, I agree with Ron’s added statement. There will almost surely be re-traumatization each time there is a parole hearing.

  4. Ron Glick

    Manson was sentenced to death but got a reprieve when the death penalty temporarily got struck down by the State Supreme Court. Only because of this anomaly was Manson entitled to parole hearings.

  5. Bill Marshall

    Let’s unpack this… title of this (social media) article is,

    New Social Media Campaign against Daniel Marsh Raises a Number of Troubling Questions

    # 1 question should be, why is VG piling on?

    Like the Emptyprize, you report out

    …. scored 35.8 out of 40 on the PCL-R scale for criminal psychopathy

    Ahhh… “sells papers”… got it.

    Instead of focusing on the mechanics, in general, you focus on the individual, and you play into (and encourage others) the very game…

    Ahhh… “sells papers”… got it.

    Somewhat disgusting. It this is a measure of ‘reporting’ and/or ‘journalism,’ wallow in it yourselves.

    There is another family dealing with someone who went from being a cited hero for likely saving a life, to having things go horribly sideways.

    1. David Greenwald

      Actually you mischaracterize what I reported.

      You stopped after psychopathy and ignored where I called the finding into question?  Why?  Because it makes me look bad?  Because you failed to read past that word?  Why do you misrepresent what I wrote?

      Full reporting:

      Dr. Logan testified that Marsh scored 35.8 out of 40 on the PCL-R scale for criminal psychopathy.  He testified that “a person of Marsh’s profile virtually cannot be rehabilitated.”

      While there is some research supporting this generalized conclusion, it is also true, as the judge points out, that Dr. Logan did not personally interview Marsh.  Moreover, he conceded that “some of the factors that make up the PCL-R are dynamic and that retesting a juvenile as he matures would be a helpful risk assessment tool.”

      The reason I commented on this is that’s what Hurd referenced in her press conference.  I gave the full story and I actually added the fact that Logan did not personally interview Marsh calls his diagnosis into severe question.  In fact, I note that Dr. hare, who developed the scale cautioned people not to do precisely what Dr. Logan did.

        1. David Greenwald

          Appreciate that. I felt like it was necessary because part of the centerpiece of Hurd’s press conference was that she was claiming March was a proven psychopath and I think the evidence there is questionable.

        2. Bill Marshall

          Much better clarification.  Perhaps it could have been stated as clearly in the body of the article…  I might not have even posted had both clarifications been clearly stated in the article.

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