COURT WATCH: Judge Reaffirms Trial, Denying Defense Motion to Overturn Prelim Decision


By Ramneet Singh

WOODLAND, CA – After a long and detailed discussion and debate, Yolo County Superior Court Judge Daniel Wolk this week denied a motion challenging another judge’s decision to pursue a trial, despite Deputy Public Defender Jose Gonzales noting the previous judge’s determination there was no intent to kill.

The “995 motion” involved a felony charge of attempted murder. There were other felony firearm related charges and a separate misdemeanor. There were several enhancements, one of which was a prior felony enhancement.

Deputy District Attorney David Wilson argued that “the two cases cited by the defense, Smith and I believe Ramos, they’re both sufficient evidence post-trial, which means the charge went to the jury.”

The DDA noted other cases “with a similar fact pattern,” and reiterated that he provided enough evidence to try and prove the charge to a jury.

Judge Wolk discussed “People v. Slaughter” and Penal Code section 739, saying “you don’t see what the judge stated at the preliminary hearing as a finding of fact.”

DDA Wilson responded “the magistrate’s issue is with the element of malice…that’s making a legal finding.” After discussing other cases he has looked at, Wilson stated the magistrate focused on malice as “that was issue that he had with issuing a holding order as to count one as he was not seeing the malice.”

DPD Gonzales doubted DDA Wilson’s explanation on the aspect of malice, adding that “for attempted murder, the jury instruction and the finding that the judge was talking about was the intent to kill…he specifically made a finding that the trajectory of the bullet was in a certain direction.”

DPD Gonzales noted the previous judge stated, “There was no intent to kill…all factual findings now need to be seen as giving the benefit of what the court’s rulings were.” He believed that the findings should stand.

Judge Wolk moved the discussion to the evidence and whether or not it “provides a rational ground for believing that the defendant is guilty of the offense.”

He acknowledged that this was different from other 995 motions, and the current court acted “as a court of appeal” and would not reweigh evidence.

DDA Wilson responded to Judge Wolk’s question by citing cases “where appellate courts had found a similar act not only met a burden of proof at preliminary hearing but were sufficient to support a conviction based on a standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.”

DDA Wilson replied that if the previous court had made a legal finding, then “it is just like a traditional 995, was there sufficient evidence to support the charge?”

DPD Gonzales responded that “the court made a comment on an actual, specific piece of evidence that the defense portrays one way and the people portrayed another, but the court found it was a certain way.”

He continued, “The job of a court here is not to just take the Slaughter analysis but rather now to look at all the facts in support of…the non-holding order.”

DDA Wilson noted he cited cases where the bullets did not make contact, and the jury concluded there was enough evidence.

Judge Wolk decided that “what the magistrate did at the preliminary hearing was not a finding of fact. It wasn’t sufficiently explicit…the court can view it as under Slaughter…review that decision as an issue of law.”

He denied the motion, finding “rational ground for believing the defendant is guilty of the offense of Count 1.” A trial setting conference was scheduled for June 20.


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