Yolo County Jail Locked Down, Attorneys Unable to Gain Access to Their Clients

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Woodland, CA – Attorneys have been struggling to visit their clients in person at the Monroe Detention Center in Woodland.  That situation got worse as there was reportedly an explosion of positive COVID cases over the recent holiday weekend.

Chet Templeton, a Sacramento-based attorney representing Joseph Gonzalez, on trial for murder, told the Vanguard on Thursday that he has visited at least ten different jails and “this is the only county, I had any kind of issue or problem with visiting my client at all.”

Templeton, “They won’t allow any kind of any in-person visitation where you have the ability to either meet face to face, or even the ability to talk through even a, a small slot so you can slip papers back and forth and kind of talk about it.  They don’t have that ability at all.”

He said that he had this problem the first time in June 2021 but when he brought it to a judge’s attention, the judge was about to issue an order to show cause when the jail relented.

But things have changed since then.  Templeton said that “now the judges are backing them up and they’re not letting anybody visit in person.”

Templeton said, “It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen with any jail that I’ve ever been at, ever.”

This is not the first time this issue has come up.  Back in October, Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira filed an order to show cause against the sheriff’s department due to restrictive COVID health policies preventing her from an in-person visit with her client before his trial the following week.

At that time, Judge Fall strongly suggested 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.

However, it appears that with the first new surge of COVID cases at Monroe, the policy has gotten more restrictive.

Chet Templeton said, “When I talked to County Counsel this week, and I have no reason to disbelieve the County Counsel, Judge Rosenberg toured the jail facility last week and just denied a similar order to show cause that I had been raising last summer, saying in light of the current conditions and using the Yolo County Health Officer, this is going to be permitted for right now.”

Templeton said, “I guess they just had their highest and biggest outbreak that they’ve ever had, I guess last week.”  But he added, “So did Sacramento County, they had a pretty big one too, but they still allow the attorneys to visit their clients and pass papers and talk to them at their own discretion.”

That denial occurred in a case represented by the Public Defender’s Office.  The Vanguard was unable to reach an attorney there for comment.

A month ago, the Vanguard reached out to the Sheriff’s Department.  At that point, in late January, Captain Matt Davis explained, “Currently, inmates in the Yolo County jail have access to legal counsel via in person visits (through glass), via telephone, and via Zoom.  Inmates have the usual access to medical staff.”

He indicated, “Unfortunately, due to the ongoing pandemic, inmates do not yet have access to personal visits.”

Davis added, “We do have inmates with COVID right now so there is, for the safety of those in our care and custody, a facility quarantine in place.  We hope this can be lifted early next week.”

However, as the situation got worse, the jail was placed on lock down following a new outbreak of cases.

This puts a huge strain on defense attorneys who need to have the full trust of their clients in order to adequately and effectively represent them—especially in cases where the client is facing serious charges.

Communications between clients and attorneys is protected by attorney-client privilege.  And while the jail routinely records phone calls and other conversations, they are not supposed to do so for attorneys.

Templeton said he has general trust for jail officials on this.

“There have been numerous incidents in the past with various different counties,” Templeton explained, where they acknowledged “we accidentally recorded your conversation.”

He said, “This happened so many times that I have documented.”

While those conversations are not admissible, it’s impossible to unring the bell after they’ve heard information that could be used against the client.

“My current client has a very very strong distrust for law enforcement.  I mean, they control those phones, they control those room.  They control those portals,” he said.  “I don’t trust them myself.  I’m not even that distrusting of law enforcement.  I’m pro-law enforcement, but I completely distrust the way the jail set it up.  I have no strong believe that those things aren’t recorded for their later use if they so desire.”

Templeton said that earlier he came to the jail to go over some documents with his clients.

“All I’d (ask) is 15 minutes, and they wouldn’t give it to me,” he said.  He had to drive to Monroe from Sacramento and they wouldn’t even give him a room to speak through the glass because all those rooms are set up for doing Zoom in the court.

“I was like, dude, I’m coming from Sacramento—45 minutes each way, set aside my afternoon for this,” Templeton explained.  Oh, we’re sorry.  Never have I experienced anything like this with any jail, ever.  I’ve been practicing for 20 years.”

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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