COURT WATCH: Judge Dismisses Charge after Prosecution Lacks Evidence of Intent against Mental Health-Challenged Accused 

LOS ANGELES- CA, MARCH 2: Los Angeles Superior Court Stanley Mosk Courthouse March 2, 2004, in Los Angeles Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

By Xinhui Lin

LOS ANGELES, CA – At a preliminary hearing here in Los Angeles County Superior Court this past week. Judge Cathryn Brougham dismissed the charge because of the accused’s mental health state and insufficient evidence to prove her intention to commit residential burglary.

After calling witnesses and looking at evidence, the judge agreed with the arguments of Deputy Public Defender Sonjia Denise White who told the court the accused’s intention when found in a house was unclear, especially noting the accused’s mental illness history.

Throughout the hearing, Deputy District Attorney Kevin A. Swartz emphasized that the accused “broke in” to the house without permission, and that she held onto the jewelry with the intention to steal it.

The hearing began with the witness testimony of a police officer, who was called to report to the scene of the crime. He said he got to the house after around three minutes when he received the call because he was “just in the neighborhood.” Lights in the house were off, but the front door was open with the door handle on the ground, he said.

The officer reported that when he got in and searched the house, he found the accused standing in the master bedroom, with jewelry in her hand, and when “I tried to take her, she said she just got here and was only looking at the jewelry.”

However, after a few rounds of examination, DDA Swartz concluded that because she “broke in” to the house with a damaged door handle, and that she was taking the jewelry, it was clear that her intention was to steal it, constituting a burglary charge.

DPD White asked the officer about the accused’s mental status when she was caught, and the officer said, “It seems she was conscious and knew what she was doing.”

DPD White asked if there was massive destruction in the house, and the officer answered, “No, other than the broken door handle.” Then, the DPD asked the officer if other things were missing from the house, to which the officer responded, “Other than the jewelry on her hand, nothing was touched in the house.”

At this point, DPD White ended the cross-examination, but provided Judge Brougham a thorough statement, urging her to dismiss the charge.

The DPD emphasized the accused has a history of mental illness that causes her to hallucinate, which often results in a “twisted reality.” White added there was a lack of evidence proving that the accused had the intention of taking the jewelry when she was just looking at it in her hand.

As Judge Brougham looked over the accused’s medical record, she agreed the accused’s three-year mental health condition had a huge impact in this case.

When DDA Swartz tried to argue about the charge, the Judge Brougham cut him off and emphasized the lack of evidence to prove the intention of a mentally-ill person.

Judge Brougham decided to dismiss the charge. However, in comments to the accused, said, “I am going to issue you to the mental health program. You need some professional help.”

About The Author

Xinhui Lin is a first-year student at the University of California, Los Angeles, pursuing a double major in Public Affairs and Sociology on a Pre-law track. Her unwavering commitment to addressing social injustices is deeply rooted in her cultural background and her personal experiences while growing up in Shanghai, China. Xinhui keenly observed the pervasive gender and racial inequalities, the subtle yet significant discrimination against minority groups, and the everyday micro-aggressions that disenfranchised individuals face. After exploring the philosophical question regarding the intricate relationship between power, morality, and justice, Xinhui kindled her interest in the intricacies of the criminal justice system – a cornerstone of society meant to epitomize principles of justice and fairness. Her commitment to understanding and improving this system is evident in her aspirations to potentially pursue a career as an attorney, with a strong desire to advocate for disadvantaged individuals.

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