5-Year-Old Davidson Trial Postponed Again after Pretrial Discussion about ‘Missing’ Discovery

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By Alexander Ramirez

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CA – Harvest Cycle Davidson was in El Dorado County Superior Court once again this week, along with some 80 people watching on the Zoom livestream, facing a murder charge.

They were all present to watch the proceedings for Davidson’s case that started all the way back in 2016 and it looks like it will be ongoing into 2022, even though the day’s matters concerned a motion for pretrial discovery and a motion to continue the trial.

Davidson’s case has been delayed in large part because of the new felony murder law from a couple years ago that made it more difficult to prosecute people for murder, like Davidson, if they participated in a crime that led to murder even though they weren’t involved in the homicide specifically.

Defense Attorney Hayes Gable, Davidson’s attorney, began the court proceedings with testimony from a legal secretary, although El Dorado County Deputy Cast Mandrell began the questioning about the record-keeping and discovery system used in El Dorado County.

Gable was curious about missing discovery in the case.

“When I first arrived at the office, we had a system called DAMION. D-A-M-I-O-N, which was replaced in October 2019 with KARPEL,” the legal secretary said.

Mandrell continued to clarify for the court that, prior to the testimony, there was no contact between him and the legal secretary telling her how to testify, and he merely gave her defense counsel’s motion, what they were missing, and “leave you to your own devices to figure out if things were missing, kind of slew through both systems to determine, exactly, if there were exactly any errors in the discovery package.”

Regarding any missing information in any of the exhibits, the legal secretary explained her process for how to recover any information that may have been lost.

“I’m a very methodical person, so I just went right back to the beginning, went through every package in DAMION…I could go through the whole discovery and look for these numbers and identify any issues or how they could’ve been caused.” She luckily still had access to the system, she laughed.

There were also errors in Exhibit 2, she explained, where it looked like there were pages being skipped when in reality it was just a “glitch in the system,” and any pages that were actually missing were found.

The confirmation of which exhibits were found and which were glitches continued for about 10 minutes before Mandrell confirmed that the secretary’s results were cross-referenced with KARPEL and his questioning ended.

Defense Attorney Gable asked how the secretary knew there were actually documents missing and which were a glitch.

“With the way I prepared the screenshot, in Exhibit 2, you can see that the continuation of the numbers in the documents, you could see that we could not unseal the package once it’s created…Actually checking the packages, it skips itself though you could see the continuation of the document numbers. It just misses out that number.”

Judge Suzanne Kingsbury interjected with a question at this point.

“So, obviously in every criminal case we want to make sure that a defendant and his or her attorney get full discovery and I can understand, although it’s certainly troubling, that you have a system that automatically populates a report, a police report for example, with a series of stamps, numbers from the start of that report to the end of that report,” began the judge.

Judge Kingsbury continued, “So let’s say that the district attorney’s office received a 20-page report from one of your DA investigators, then as you’re doing this audit, are you also confirming that the actual document which is then uploaded to your system has the same number of pages as is reflected by the stamp?”

“It’s actually the same document. So that’s with my knowledge, you’re taking that exact same document and it’s just putting it into an Adobe Acrobat and it’s putting a stamp on it.” The legal secretary would explain that she’s hasn’t seen any pages lost out of a discovery package in her whole time as a legal secretary.

“Is there any way of confirming through an audit that you have not in fact lost pages?” the secretary was asked.

“I did not do that with this audit because I was simply looking for the stamp number but if Your Honor wants me to do that kind of audit…I can do so,” she said, but Judge Kingsbury explained that, although the legal secretary found the reason for the pages being skipped, they should get out any concerns at this time.

“My philosophy with these cases is I only want to see them tried once. That means full and fair discovery and if there are concerns, we need to flush them out now.” Full and fair discovery is the next step for this trial, even if it’s just a supplemental paper here and there, Judge Kingsbury said.

“Things crop up, and better to deal with them now and better to deal with it in the right way now is the court’s perspective,” the judge added, and Defense Attorney Gable agreed.

As for continuing the trial, Gable said, “I’m not prepared to go forward until I get all of the discovery.” Even more so with the additional investigation, he said.

However, Mandrell wanted it on the record that even prior to the day’s discovery the defense wouldn’t be able to continue with the trial, explaining, “We got a no time waiver right now and as far as I’m concerned right now based on what we’ve shown here is we’ve complied with discovery. And so I don’t want the defendant coming back saying later, “Okay there might be discovery later, but we find out sure enough that there’s nothing there, now you violated my speedy trial.”

Gable agreed that, even with what he has right now, he wouldn’t be ready for trial.

As for Davidson’s say on whether he agreed with his attorney’s request to prolong the trial, “For the purpose of investigating, yes, I do.”

The case was set to reconvene on Feb. 4 for a trial setting at 1:30 p.m.

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About The Author

Alexander Ramirez is a third-year Political Science major at the University of California, Davis. He hopes to hone his writing skills in preparation for the inevitable time of graduation.

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