COURT WATCH: Judge Orders Prosecution to Turn Over Key Contact Information to Defense in Murder Case Earlier than 30 Days before Trial

By Darlin Navarrete 

WOODLAND, CA – Yolo County Superior Court Judge Daniel M. Wolk Tuesday reviewed a motion to compel discovery filed by the defense, in which it argued denying contact information for a possible interview was a Brady violation by not providing evidence to the defense.

However, the prosecution responded the defense could have access to case information 30 days before trial and obtaining this information sooner was in an attempt to conduct a fishing expedition.

The judge eventually did order the prosecution to turn over the information requested by the defense this week.

The accused was present and in custody and is charged with felony murder, and an enhancement: use of deadly weapon, both crimes allegedly occurring in July of 2010.

Defense Attorney David J. Cohen explained to the court that Defense Attorney Clint C. Christoffersen was unable to attend as a result of illness and he was not able to obtain the file of the case in order to review it for the hearing since the file was at Defense Attorney Christoffersen’s home in San Francisco.

Cohen sent an email to Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hays at 6:30 a.m. discussing the situation. Defense Attorney Cohen proceeded to request to return the following day.

DDA Hays objected because four witnesses and the victim’s family members took the day off to attend this hearing. Judge Wolk then allowed two family members to speak to the court.

Judge Wolk then decided to review the motions on file since the preliminary hearing was not able to take place.

The defense had filed a motion to compel discovery, wanting to obtain the contact information of a prime witness who was a surviving passenger in this case, and claimed the prosecution was refusing to release this information until 30 days before the trial.

Judge Wolk responded by referring to Proposition 115 and the validity of the Holman case in this situation. DDA Hays responded, “The Holman case still applies,” adding the defense has no guarantee this witness is going to allow them to interview him and providing this information would allow the defense to then subpoena him for possible essential details to the case.

DDA Hays continued, noting there were no witnesses to prove that this witness lied in the interview or that he doesn’t remember things—concluding her claim that the defense was attempting to obtain this contact information as a means of a fishing expedition.

Defense Attorney Cohen explained an interview with the witness will receive Brady information, the contact information itself was not the Brady violation they were arguing for, rather conducting the interview.

The defense reminded the court they are allowed to request information by submitting a review request before the 30-day trial mark to the trial and it can be approved by the court. Cohen explained wanting to obtain information promptly to be able to use it in court.

Judge Wolk referenced Penal Code § 1054, which covers the disclosure of contact information such as names and addresses from each side. Judge Wolk also noted Magellan v. Superior Court and how this case does not preclude the defense from requesting information prior to 30 days before trial mark.

Judge Wolk, on the Brady violation brought on by the defense, stated, “The info here is not Brady.”

Judge Wolk asked for the four witnesses to return March 8 for a preliminary hearing on this case and granted the Motion to Compel Discovery asking the prosecution to provide contact information to the defense by Friday.

About The Author

Darlin Navarrete is a first-generation DACA student with a bachelor's in Political Science with a concentration in Race, Ethnicity, and Politics from UCLA. Being an honors student, Navarrete enjoys an academic challenge and aspires to attend law school and become an immigration attorney. Her passion for minority rights and representation began at a very young age where she identified injustices her family encountered and used them as outlets to expand her knowledge on immigrant rights and educate her family. Outside of academia, Navarrete loves spending time with her family, working on cars, and doing community service.

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