By Audrey Sawyer and Felecia Johnson
WOODLAND, CA – A man here in Yolo County Superior Court last week, who has spent nearly his entire life incarcerated and is now seeking a resentencing (to remove a prior strike), was kept in custody despite age and health conditions so severe that if released, he would go directly into a care facility.
Dismissing the strike, a first degree burglary charge from 1985, would not be seen as acting in the interest of justice, according to Judge Tom Dyer, who cited the possible risk to public safety.
The hearing started with Dyer stating the accused has a learning disability and has experienced cognitive deficits since childhood, requiring the assistance of a speech therapist and other developmental learning support. While the Board of Parole noted the man earned good grades in elementary school, he might have needed medication for hyperactivity.
Judge Dyer said the accused’s parents worked in the fields and raised 10 children. The accused denied any abuse or neglect. According to him, he did not receive the necessary support for his learning needs, and he did not grow up in an English-speaking home.
The accused had begun using alcohol and drugs as a teenager to cope with a difficult life, according to a previous parole hearing which also stated the background and criminal behavior of the accused was prompted by his substance abuse and lack of positive peer relationships. At the time, there were no treatment options according to the accused, though he was involved in a “catch and release” program.
Most of the charges against the accused involve alcohol/DUIs, though some violence had been noted by the judge, including a recent example about how the accused beat an inmate with a metal rod in 2020, and another alleged 1994 strike where he had chased, with a weapon, a man who had thrown rocks at his dog.
The 1985 strike (the one seeking dismissal) occurred when the accused was 20. He had agreed to be a lookout while someone broke into a home to steal money. The accused hid in a shrub and received three years of probation for that strike.
Regarding release, Judge Dyer said it was likely for the accused to go into a board and care facility. First, the judge added the accused could have taken the proposed eight-year deal but didn’t, and that the accused had been on probation after his first strike.
Judge Dyer did admit the accused has “serious health conditions, he is a 58-year-old with intellectual challenges.” The judge also added the man’s age allegedly would make the accused less of a public safety risk along with the accused’s current health issues.
Judge Dyer argued the accused had not improved himself in prison, citing that the accused has only become more violent, stating, “The court is not confident that he could confront triggers that caused substance abuse and violent outbursts.”
And, the judge suggested the record is indicative of the accused being a violent individual, and that, if released, the court would find it likely that the accused would continue to engage in violent behavior.
Dismissing the 1985 strike would not be seen as acting in the interest of justice, ruled Judge Dyer, citing possible risk to public safety.
The judge added, “As for the resentencing, the accused is entitled to have the two prison priors struck under Penal Code 667.5 subdivision B. The court will reaffirm the sentence in all other respects. The 245(a)1 is the principal term at 25 years to life, and Penal Code 667(a)1 is five years consecutive to the prison term for 30 to life. I know he will be eligible for parole and that will occur irrespective of court’s ruling today. The court does need to resentence for custody credits.”