Delays persist in retrial of suspect for dependant abuse
Jury selection got under way last week in the retrial of the licensed caregiver convicted three years ago in connection with the 2002 death in Orick of Joi Henderson Wright, but it remains unclear whether opening arguments will begin any time soon.
Joseph Pierre Rollin stands accused of felony abuse of a dependant adult, with the enhancements of causing great bodily injury and proximately causing Wright’s death.
If he is convicted of the charge and the jury additionally finds both enhancements to be true, as a previous jury did in 2004, Rollin could face an additional 28 months in prison.
But without the enhancements, Rollin, who has been in custody since his capture in April 2003, could be eligible for release immediately, even if convicted on the felony charge.
Humboldt County Deputy District Attorney Ben McLaughlin, who is prosecuting Rollin this time, said the decision to retry the suspect was based on a variety of factors.
“Essentially, the impetus for going forward is to make sure he can no longer be a care provider in the state of California,” McLaughlin said Monday, “and obviously consideration for the family and the victim.”
Wright, 42, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, is believed to have died on or around March 19, 2002, in a condemned trailer in Orick.
Records on file at the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office indicate that at the time of her death she weighed only 60 pounds and was swathed in a soiled disposable diaper.
Rollin was convicted in September 2004, but the conviction was overturned on appeal in December because statements he allegedly made before being read his Miranda rights were used as evidence against him at trial.
Pretrial maneuverings have proceeded slowly since March, when Rollin was returned to Humboldt County, and stacks of motions filed by both the prosecution and defense — along with three separate weeklong recesses already scheduled within the next six weeks — are unlikely to speed things up.
In one motion alone, Rollin’s lead defense attorney Barry Morris asks the court to exclude seven categories of evidence Morris calls “speculative,” including testimony about “events that never happened.”
Other motions filed by Morris and his co-counsel, Matthew Fregi, challenge testimony from Wright’s mother as “irrelevant,” call statements and remarks by various involved parties “unduly prejudicial” and seek to exclude as hearsay some remarks made by witnesses who testified at the first trial.
McLaughlin filed responses to those motions and added a few of his own, requesting that the court admit postmortem photographs of Wright and post-Miranda statements made by Rollin.
McLaughlin said arguments about the motions could begin Thursday, but the courts will be closed next week for the Thanksgiving holidays.
Testimony could begin the following Monday, but would then recess for another week beginning Dec. 3 when the judge goes on vacation.
That leaves only two weeks before the courts close again the week of Christmas.
McLaughlin said approximately 140 prospective jurors were being screened to hear the case.