COURT WATCH: Public Defender Files Second Racial Justice Act Motion for Black Accused – Cites Prosecution Due to ‘Racial Animus’

By Annie Rudolph and Madison Whittemore

WOODLAND, CA – Yolo County Chief Public Defender Tracie Olson continued to pursue an accused woman’s second motion to disclose information under the Racial Justice Act and urged the court to vacate the accused woman’s trial here in Yolo County Superior Court this week.

The Racial Justice Act, according to the California Penal Code section 745, “forbids the state from seeking or obtaining a criminal conviction on the basis of race, ethnicity, or national origin.” The accused must prove “good cause” to pursue a RJA claim.

And, on Sept. 27, CPD Olson filed a motion, on behalf of the accused, for the court to order the disclosure of all relevant discovery so that she may file a Racial Justice Act (RJA) claim.

However, during Monday’s hearing, Deputy District Attorney Preston Schaub questioned the legitimacy of the accused’s RJA motion and urged Judge David Reed to move forward with the accused’s trial.

DDA Schaub argued that “priority is getting this trial heard and done as soon as possible” and claimed the trial is independent of the RJA motion.

Schaub dismissed the validity of the RJA motion and explained “a couple different words” in a text message referenced by CPD Olson are not strong enough evidence for the RJA motion to be granted.

For example, the text message said, “Ima shoot Cho sh*t up,” and was sent to the accused’s son which is followed by a number of threats and racial slurs (including the N word).

In response, CPD Olson remarked, “I think this is really indicative of why we have a Racial Justice Act motion, when the (DDA) dismisses a ‘couple of words’ not being a big deal, he is talking about the N word… this family called this little boy the N word in text messages…And continue to harass and persecute (the accused)… this is point in case why the DA’s office should not be responsible for the outcome of this case.”

In fact, in Olson’s written motion, multiple exhibits show racial slurs being used by a complaining witness’s cousin who messaged and threatened the accused’s son after the Sept. 19 incident.

PD Olson’s motion asserts “the animus directed to her by or on behalf of the alleged complaining witness is, at least in part, race based.”

In September 2019, the accused, Black and a mother of five with prior experience as a childcare center owner, faced charges of endangering a child’s well-being.

These allegations stemmed from an incident where she intervened to protect her son from a white child who was physically assaulting him. During this intervention, the accused inadvertently scratched the alleged aggressor’s neck while removing him from her son.

The accused is also charged with a misdemeanor that allegedly occurred Jan. 30, 2020, when the accused’s same son was found with bruises on his cheeks and arms from his mother allegedly hitting him with a hanger as a form of punishment.

More than two years later, a complaint was filed by Deputy District Attorney Preston Schaub for a felony charge of infliction of corporal injury on a child.

Despite DDA Schaub claiming the accused displayed a “high degree of cruelty” in her previous actions, a court judge reduced the accused’s Jan. 30 felony charge to a misdemeanor in 2022.

Before any arguments were heard from CPD Olson this week, DDA Schaub noted the prosecution team’s concerns regarding the case, indicating his concern about how long the case has been ongoing and how many continuances have been granted.

“The takeaway is that this case happened back in 2019. It’s been a series of cases…(the prosecution is) trying to get speedy trial rights enforced and for the case to be heard as soon as possible,” DDA Schaub explained, also referencing the 40 to 50 continuances the accused’s case has been granted.

However, CPD Olson rebutted and explained to Judge Reed, “Everything he (the DDA) suggested is inappropriate and I’ve explained to him already why,” further referencing how RJA motions are a lengthy process with “many steps,” which is why the Oct. 23, 2023, jury trial should be vacated.

In fact, to show support of how long RJA can take, CPD Olson referenced 401 cases that she received information about that relate to other cases where RJA was used. However, she explained that despite getting access to the cases, it’s difficult to get complete information which explains why it’s such a long process.

“When we get that information, we don’t get full information. For instance, outcomes—case outcomes—are going to be highly relevant to whether or not people are being treated the same when the District Attorney chooses to file and make offers on cases,” Olson explained, making it explicitly clear that she needs more time to look at the 401 RJA cases.

The accused claims that by pursuing the wishes of the alleged victims, the DDA is seeking a conviction based on racial animus (resentment towards minority groups). The DDA said he would offer diversion in the accused’s pending case but the alleged victim has refused this possibility and insists on pursuing a criminal conviction for the accused.

The accused also noted that both she and her family feel like they are in constant fear for their own safety and are continuously threatened, harassed, and followed wherever they go. According to PD Olson’s written motion, the accused’s personal information was posted on social media and flyers around West Sacramento, violating her privacy and endangering her family.

PD Olson contended that as a result of this harassment, the accused has disenrolled her son from his previous school, lost her business license, and is no longer able to support her family without income from her business.

Olson added the accused’s memo, in accordance with the Racial Justice Act requirements, provides “good cause” for the state to disclose necessary and relevant information to the accused.

At the end of CPD Olson’s motion, she cites Ibram X Kendi’s Denial is the Heartbeat of America in which he writes that “the heartbeat of racism is denial.” Olson’s motion ends by concluding, “Everyone will agree racism exists. No one will admit they are responsible for it.”

Judge Reed was persuaded by the public defender’s written and oral arguments, and agreed to vacate the trial date, and granted CPD Olson time to do further research and analysis on 401 RJA cases.

About The Author

Madison Whittemore is a rising junior at the University of California, Davis where she studies political science and psychology. After completing her undergraduate studies, Madison wants to go to law school and study criminal law while working to improve efforts for prison reform and representation for lower income citizens.

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