Marin County Man Claims Innocence, Seeks Reduction in Sentence through the Dismissal of Gun Enhancement

Courtesy Photo

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Marin County – Paris Ragland is seeking resentencing and is requesting the court dismiss his enhancements in his case in the furtherance of justice.  Ragland was convicted of 12 counts in two series of events from 2015, including robbing a woman and beating her unconscious with his gun—but he continues to maintain his innocence and believes that prosecutors have failed to show him at the scene of the crime.

He will be back in court on Monday, March 7.

“Mr. Ragland has consistently denied he was the person who committed those crimes. He knows the crimes were serious. He knows people suffered. In our system of justice any defendant who maintains they are innocent is entitled to a trial,” his attorney writes in a response brief for resentencing.

Ragland was found to be involved with receiving stolen property which was linked to multiple robberies.  He failed to cooperate with detectives and ended up charged with the underlying crimes himself.

However, when put in a line up the victims failed to identify Ragland and affirmatively stated it was not him.  They picked someone else out of the line-up.

Ragland would be offered a deal for 20 years, which he did not take and ended up convicted on all charges.

According to Ragland’s account, the detective pointed at his picture and asked the victims was that the suspect, and they said no three different times.

His attorney explains, “Upon conviction, a man who continues to say he is innocent of crimes is simply saying ‘I did not do this horrible crime:’ We all know wrongful convictions occur.”  She adds, “A person who continues to say they are innocent should not be forced to make insincere statements about remorse when they deny committing the crime, simply to be considered for reduction in their sentence.”

His attorney notes in her brief, “During his trial no eyewitness identified him as the robber or the person who injured the victim of great bodily injury. His identity and thus the conviction was partly based on his use of stolen credit cards and a single drop of blood on gun found in defendant’s car. Circumstantial evidence obviously convinced the jury Mr. Ragland was the perpetrator.”

A jury, however, found him guilty on all counts and the enhancements true, leading to a 30-year and four-month sentence.

For the purposes of this hearing, Ragland understands that the court accepts as true all jury findings and knows that he will be sentenced for the crimes that he was convicted of.

At this point, his attorney notes, “He is not asking for his conviction to be overturned. He is asking the Court to look to SB 81 and the changes to 1385 as well as changes in 12022.53 and dismiss the enhancements in the furtherance of justice.”

SB 81, authored by Senator Nancy Skinner and signed into law last October by Governor Newsom, requires “a court to dismiss an enhancement if it is in the furtherance of justice to do so.”

It notes, “The bill would require a court to consider and afford great weight to evidence offered by the defendant to prove that specified mitigating circumstances are present. The bill would provide that proof of the presence of one or more specified mitigating circumstances weighs greatly in favor of dismissing an enhancement, unless the court finds that dismissal would endanger public safety, as defined.”

His attorney notes that the most important changes to section 1385 of the Penal Code involves the use of enhancements to take a sentence over 20 years.  She writes, “It is only by adding the enhancements that Mr. Ragland’s sentence is thirty years.”

In Judge Couzens’ sentencing analysis, it “makes it clear that the legislature disfavors use of enhancements to take a sentence over twenty years.”

Couzens writes, “if there exists a configuration where the sentence could be longer than 20 years because of the application of the enhancement, unless the court finds the dismissal would not be in furtherance of justice, the court must dismiss the enhancement.”

Ragland argues that “the great weight of evidence in his case is that the enhancements unjustly punish him well in excess of twenty years and that justice will be served if the gun enhancements are dismissed.”

His attorney is arguing for a ten-year reduction in the sentence.  He has already been incarcerated for nearly seven years.

Writes his attorney, “There is no dispute that the current offenses are serious but twenty years is surely enough time to satisfy even the most vociferous advocate for harsh punishments.”

She continued, “The People’s continued invocation of Mr. Ragland’s lack of remorse ignores the reality that he went to trial because he denied committing the offenses. To say that he lacks empathy because he continues to maintain innocence is not logical. Mr. Ragland looks at the harm the real perpetrator caused and is appalled by the violence—he does have empathy for the victims but he cannot show remorse for crimes he maintains he did not commit in order to minimize a sentence.”

Ragland also maintains that race played a role in this conviction as well.  His attorney notes that Marin is “a relatively safe community” and “crimes such as the one Mr. Ragland was convicted of are few and far between.”

She writes, “He has presented a statistical analysis of the disparity between the number of black and white defendants sentenced to prison for all crimes in this county and suggests those numbers are adequate to show that race is a factor in sentencing.”

Under the Racial Justice Act, it does not require overt acts of racism by either the district attorney or judge.

“Unconscious bias is present in all people and to deny it exists is to ignore the social upheavals going on in our nation and the conversations around equity that are informing the legislative reforms in California,” his attorney argues.

She adds, “Hardly a week goes by where there is not a story involving a person of color shot by law enforcement, released after being wrongfully convicted or providing statistics that illustrate that people of color are disproportionally stopped by police officers.”

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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