By Fiona Davis
WOODLAND – Frustrated in attempts to visit with her client at the Yolo County Jail, Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira filed an order to show cause against the sheriff’s department. At issue was the jail’s restrictive COVID-19 health policies preventing her from an in-person visit with her client before his trial next week.
In response to this request, Judge Timothy Fall seemed inclined to grant the order to show cause and have a hearing prior to the start of the trial. He expressed frustration with the County Counsel’s Office to respond to the order and their inability to resolve the problem before bringing it in front of a judge, telling them, “Make sure you don’t get this far next time.”
Humberto Tejeda, Jr., faces trial next week, having been charged with several felony counts related to “assault by force likely to produce great bodily injury” and “battery with serious bodily injury” in May of this year.
He has pleaded not guilty, with his trial scheduled to begin this coming Monday.
However, during the defendant’s trial readiness conference this Wednesday, Tejeda’s appointed attorney, Martha Sequeira, requested an order to be issued for the County Counsel’s Office for the jail to show cause.
Sequeira explained that in order to be ready for trial this coming Monday, she needed to visit the defendant to show him some pieces of video evidence related to his case.
“That’s the only thing we have to do left to be ready,” the public defender told the court.
However, due to the county jail’s current health ordinance, Sequeira has been unable to meet with her client in person or to complete this final stage of preparation.
In response to Sequeira’s request, Ronald Martinez—a Yolo County Counsel attorney representing the jail—initially objected to the order being issued, telling the court that the County Counsel’s Office was not “made aware of the original” and that they “have no idea what the basis of that order was.
“What the public defender’s office is requesting is to usurp the jail’ safety protocols, and I don’t believe there was good cause to usurp the safety protocols in the middle of the pandemic,” Martinez stated.
Judge Fall then corrected Martinez, telling the attorney that his client “was given notice of the order and the county did not seek relief from that order.
“It may be that the order should not have been granted, and that’s why the county would seek relief from the order,” Judge Fall continued. “So today.. Either, you have a motion to be relieved from the order, or I issue the order to show cause and you come and say “we didn’t have to obey it because it wasn’t a lawful order.”
Martinez then changed his stance, telling the judge that he would no longer be objecting to the request.
Once the order was issued, Judge Fall inquired about Monday’s trial date, stating, “We need to have a hearing on the order to show cause counsel.”
Sequeira made it clear that she did not want to push back the trial date any more than was absolutely needed. While she needed to speak to her client about the video evidence, the defendant had not waived his right to a speedy trial.
For this reason, Sequeira hoped to meet with her client this coming weekend, in order to make it possible to keep the Monday trial date.
In light of the public defender’s statement, Martinez told Sequeira, “In these extraordinary circumstances, the jail could facilitate a Zoom meeting … just allow them to prepare for trial.”
While the public defender responded positively to this proposed alternative, indicating that it would work to at least partially solve the initial problem, Judge Fall expressed frustration with both lawyers, stating that potential solutions should have been discussed “well before [he] called the case.
“Frankly, I would like alternatives to be presented before I call cases for hearings, because I am not a settlement judge … Why this wasn’t all worked out before today, is beyond me,” he told Martinez and Sequeira.
He then made it clear that the Public Defender’s Office and the County Counsel’s Office should make it a priority to “sit down and work out a way to accommodate” the evident issues caused by the county’s health policies.
“That’s not an order … but it is an indication that if that doesn’t happen, and I have one of these [cases] again, that will be problematic for both sides,” he warned.
With this Judge Fall held the order to show cause, and confirmed Tejeda’s case for Monday, Oct. 25.