Friday, December 18, 2015

Wow! Back to full staff! The DA’s Office now has 16 full-time Deputy District Attorneys.

Two new deputy DAs hired by Humboldt County District Office - John Chiv/Words Worth

Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming today announced the hiring of two new Deputy District Attorneys: Michael McDonald of Blue Lake and Jamie Murdock of Orange, California. Both will be handling misdemeanor caseloads....

Maggie Fleming has hired 9 prosecutors this year. MORE

Despite Paul Gallegos' incompetence, the Attorney General's Office fixed this... (w/UPDATES & Bumped)

Timothy Littlefield cuffed and taken unto custody, no bail, whispers I love you to his father twice - John Chiv/Words Worth
...Citing the recent decision by the Apellate Court, the length of prison sentence he faces and "the substansial risk of absconding," Timothy Littlefield was ordered remanded into custody as requested by the Humboldt County District Attorney's office....

After the guilty verdict in the second trial, Littlefield faces upto 155 plus years to life unless a motion for a third trial is granted or additional evidence is provided by the defense regarding the second trial....
I'll give Russ Clanton credit for trying. A defense attorney's job is to try every trick in the book, and he did.

People request bench warrant for Timothy Littlefield, defense counsel tries unsuccessfully to change Judge Feeney's mind - John Chiv/Words Worth
Bennett vs Clanton, after three rounds of defensive and passionate advocacy by Mr. Russ Clanton, who represents Timothy Littlefield, Jr.; questioning and effort by Judge John Feeney to accomodate rescheduling; the People represented by Deputy District Attorney prevailed.
◼ UPDATE: Review of appellate hearing and custody status scheduled in Timothy Littlefield's case for tomorrow - John Chiv/Words Worth Dec 17, 2015

Note: Commenters express concern that Littlefield might skip town. Can't IMAGINE what would have given them THAT idea...

Apellate court reverses Littlefield mistrial decision by Judge Feeney - John Chiv/Words Worth

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Appellant v. TIMOTHY FLOYD LITTLEFIELD, Defendant and Respondent. A141929 (Humboldt County Super. Ct. No. CR091204S)

In sum, we find juror M.L.’s statements regarding his mental processes during jury deliberations are irrelevant in assessing the validity of the verdict. As these statements were the only evidence defendant presented in support of his motion for a new trial, the trial court abused its discretion in granting the motion.


The trial court’s order granting defendant’s motion for a new trial is reversed. We remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Littlefield Mistrial Overturned, Guilty Verdicts Stand - Thaddeus Greenson/North Coast Journal
In the wake of Littlefield’s conviction — which saw jurors deliberate for just three hours before returning 11 guilty verdicts — his attorney, Russell Clanton, provided the court with a sworn declaration from a juror in the case saying he voted to convict Littlefield because the defense hadn’t proven him innocent. The juror later recanted that version of events in testimony before the court but, because the foundation of our criminal justice system is built on the tenet that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty, Feeney declared a mistrial in the case.

In its ruling issued today, the appellate court said that evidence showing a juror’s mental state is inadmissible and irrelevant to the question of whether a verdict is proper. Consequently, the appellate court overruled Feeney’s mistrial declaration and remanded the case back to his court for further proceedings.

So what’s that all mean? Now back in the local court, the defense will have a chance to present Feeney with whatever other evidence of juror misconduct it might have. To win a mistrial declaration, the defense will essentially have to prove that the juror in question not only mistakenly believed the defense had the burden of proof but that he convinced other jurors of the same during deliberations, or at least attempted to. **

If the defense is unable to do that, then Littlefield will be back facing eight life sentences.
(** Note that the opinion EXPRESSLY addresses that very point, and states that that did not happen)
◼ Earlier: "We expect a prosecutor to know the law." comment about former DA Paul Gallegos (UPDATED)



A jury found defendant Timothy Floyd Littlefield guilty of two counts of sexual intercourse or sodomy with a child 10 years old or younger, one count of penetration with a foreign object, one count of lewd and lascivious acts upon a child, and seven counts of sex or sodomy with a child. Defendant moved for a new trial based on jury misconduct. In support, he presented a juror declaration suggesting the juror believed defendant had the burden of proof at trial. The juror recanted at an evidentiary hearing, testifying he had not personally written the declaration or read it carefully before signing. The trial court nevertheless granted defendant’s motion for a new trial. The Attorney General now appeals, arguing the juror’s declaration and testimony were irrelevant and inadmissible under Evidence Code1 section 1150. We agree and reverse.

...A jury found defendant Timothy Floyd Littlefield guilty of two counts of sexual intercourse or sodomy with a child 10 years old or younger, one count of penetration with a foreign object, one count of lewd and lascivious acts upon a child, and seven counts of sex or sodomy with a child. Defendant moved for a new trial based on jury misconduct. In support, he presented a juror declaration suggesting the juror believed defendant had the burden of proof at trial. The juror recanted at an evidentiary hearing, testifying he had not personally written the declaration or read it carefully before signing. The trial court nevertheless granted defendant’s motion for a new trial. The Attorney General now appeals, arguing the juror’s declaration and testimony were irrelevant and inadmissible under Evidence Code1 section 1150. We agree and reverse....

The jury found defendant guilty of all counts charged.2 Defendant subsequently moved for a new trial, arguing jury misconduct prevented fair and due consideration of the case. In connection with the motion, defendant submitted a declaration by juror M.L., dated March 2014. The declaration stated, in relevant part: “I told [defendant’s investigator] that I did not feel that the defense had ‘proven’ their case. I also said that the defense also did not have any evidence to back up their theory of what happened.”

Prior to the hearing, defendant filed a revised declaration by juror M.L., dated May 2, 2014, stating: “I told [defendant’s investigator] that I did not feel that the defense had ‘proven’ their case. In that, I meant that the defendant, Timothy Littlefield or his attorney did not prove all or part of their defense. It was my belief that they were obligated to do this in order to find Timothy Littlefield not guilty. I said that the defense also did not have any evidence to back up their theory of what happened.”

The trial court held an evidentiary hearing on the matter on May 8, 2014. At the hearing, juror M.L. testified he believed the district attorney had the burden of proof at trial. When asked by defense counsel about the statements in his May declaration, M.L. responded: “But I misspoken [sic] there. And it’s the district attorney has the burden of proof, and I thought that you were rebuttal when things were brought up.” M.L. also indicated he had not drafted the declarations himself, and he had not read the May declaration in its entirety before signing it....

The Attorney General argues the trial court erred in granting defendant’s motion for a new trial because its ruling was based on evidence of juror M.L.’s mental processes, which are inadmissible under section 1150.3 The Attorney General also argues the trial court’s finding of juror misconduct was not supported by substantial evidence, since M.L. consistently testified at the evidentiary hearing that he understood the prosecution had the burden of proof. Defendant argues the evidence concerning M.L. was properly admitted and, in any event, the People waived the section 1150 issue by failing to object below. Defendant further argues M.L.’s declaration alone constitutes substantial evidence of juror misconduct. We agree with the Attorney General, as we find M.L.’s statements regarding his mental processes were of no consequence in assessing the validity of the verdict.

...there was no need for the trial court to resolve the inconsistencies in M.L.’s various statements, as they were all inadmissible and irrelevant to the issue presented. Section 1150 provides that evidence of a juror’s subjective mental processes, such as those described by M.L., are inadmissible for the purposes impeaching a verdict. Specifically, the statute states: “Upon an inquiry as to the validity of a verdict, any otherwise admissible evidence may be received as to statements made, or conduct, conditions, or events occurring, either within or without the jury room, of such a character as is likely to have influenced the verdict improperly. No evidence is admissible to show the effect of such statement, conduct, condition, or event upon a juror either in influencing him to assent to or dissent from the verdict or concerning the mental processes by which it was determined.” (§ 1150, subd. (a).) “Thus, jurors may testify to ‘overt acts’—that is, such statements, conduct, conditions, or events as are ‘open to sight, hearing, and the other senses and thus subject to corroboration’—but may not testify to ‘the subjective reasoning processes of the individual juror . . . .’ ” (In re Stankewitz (1985) 40 Cal.3d 391, 398 (Stankewitz).)

...Contrary to defendant’s contention, People v. Lewis (2001) 26 Cal.4th 334, does not hold otherwise. In that case, the court stated section 1150 “does not prohibit admitting a statement that reflects a juror’s reasoning processes if the statement itself amounts to juror misconduct.” (People v. Lewis, at p. 389.) But this merely means that a juror may commit misconduct where, for example, he or she makes an erroneous statement of the law to other jurors during deliberations. Stankewitz, the authority on which People v. Lewis relied, is illustrative....

In contrast, here, it appears juror M.L. did keep his opinion to himself. There is no indication M.L. discussed his thoughts on the parties’ burden of proof with other jurors, let alone that he held himself out as an expert on the matter....

Saturday, December 12, 2015

"The responsibility for this tragedy to have occurred should be solely laid out right upon the front of both of their feet."

◼ A comment, left by NorCalGuy101, here: Jason Warren’s Surviving Victims Discuss Cruz Waivers, the Death Penalty and the Importance of Cultivating Goodness - Ryan Burns/Lost Coast Outpost

...Warren has now been found guilty of murdering Hoopa woman Dorothy Ulrich, and doing so after lying in wait and torturing her. He was also found guilty of murdering HSU lecturer Suzanne Seemann and attempting to murder her friends and fellow educators Terri Vroman Little and Jessica Hunt. The three women were out for a run that morning when Warren, driving a car he’d stolen from Ulrich, passed them in the opposite direction, turned around and ran them down from behind at high speed.

The trial lasted a month, and the tragic morning itself is now more than three years past....

Seemann said his compulsion to be there every day stemmed partly from a kinship with Suzie’s parents and Hunt and Vroman Little and also Ulrich’s mother, Shirley Ortega. They were there to represent the deceased and to bear witness, he said. But he was also aware that the fate of the man who killed his wife was being placed in the hands of two attorneys — prosecutor Paul Sequeira and defense attorney Glenn Brown — and he wanted to hold them accountable.

“We needed to convey that there can’t be any mistakes,” Seemann said.

The Cruz Waiver

Or any more mistakes, he might well have said. From the beginning, this case has been tinged with anger and blame over a legal maneuver that allowed Warren to commit the crimes. Roughly a month before the murders, Warren was granted a Cruz waiver, part of a plea deal that allowed him out of jail and promised a lighter sentence. In exchange, Warren agreed to obey all laws and show up for his a Sept. 7, 2012, sentencing hearing. He did neither, of course, and thus the Cruz waiver proved to be a catastrophic error in judgment.

Judge Timothy Cissna, who heard the double-murder case, was the one who granted the Cruz waiver, but Hunt said she’s more angry at the deputy district attorney who was in the courtroom at the time and especially his then-boss, former DA Paul Gallegos.

“That’s who I blame,” Hunt said. “Part of their job is to be on top of who is getting processed in the courtroom, to be able to speak with authority about yes or no, that’s an OK person to get a Cruz waiver.”

In the aftermath of the crimes, Gallegos refused to admit that Warren should not have been set free. While saying he wished to God that his office had opposed the Cruz waiver or that the judge hadn’t granted it, Gallegos was quoted in the Times-Standard saying, “I don’t question the decision that was made. It was the right decision for that time.”

Seemann said that “decision” was likely ill-informed. “I actually arranged for a Public Records Act request to see what policies that office had for Cruz waivers, and what we discovered was that they had none,” he said. “So I think there was clearly a lack of clarity and direction” in the office....


"...there was clearly a lack of clarity and direction” in the office...."

And there it is. In a nutshell. From beginning to end, what defined Paul Gallegos' term in office as Humboldt County DA. It was evident in the beginning, and he never made any attempt to improve. Never. Law enforcement sounded the alarm early on. Prosecutors warned. This blog came about in part because so many had so much information they were afraid to speak themselves. The Grand Jury called it out. People who left the office described conditions in the office (and still do). And he never made any attempt to improve.

It was slipshod.

And people died. Not just the two in this case, either.

In the end, though, you can add the pot community to the list of those who are to blame. These two people were sacrificed on the altar of Humboldt weed. They kept him office, with their votes and their money. Knowing. And make no mistake, They Knew.

And, Ryan Burns article, linked above, is an excellent piece.

So sorry it had to be written.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

After deliberating for only two hours, the jury found Jason Warren guilty of all charges UPDATED

Jason Warren to be sentenced January 14, weapons and items of evidence with blood to be returned to the People
After a ten minute court hearing this morning in which Judge Timothy Cissna made a Court finding that Jason Warren's prior juvenile allegations were true and considered a strike under the three strike law, a sentencing date for Warren for set for January 14 at 8:30 a.m.

Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming appeared in court for the People. Mr. Glenn Brown present with Warren.

Certain adjudications of juvenile crimes are considered a strike under the three strike law.
Jury finds Jason Warren guilty of all charges - John Chiv/Words Worth 3:09

"I am grateful Maggie chose the person she did to try this case," said Ms. Vroman Little. "I feel relieved. Vindication has not been a part of my vocabulary." - John Chiv/Words Worth 4:45

I echo that. The prosecutor in this case is a master.

Jury Finds Warren Guilty on All Counts - Ryan Burns/Lost Coast Outpost 3:11 updated at 4:32
A sentencing hearing will be held 20 days after that matter is settled, but those issues are mostly formalities since the crimes Warren has now been found guilty of carry an automatic sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.
Warren guilty on all counts - Paul Mann/Mad River Union

Defense Sprinkles Piecemeal Doubts in Closing Argument of Warren Double-Murder Trial - Ryan Burns/Lost Coast Outpost 1:43

"They were cowardly attacks on defenseless women from behind, similar to others" - John Chiv/Words Worth 10:56

Closing arguments over, jury is deliberating Jason Warren's fate - John Chiv/Words Worth 10:52

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Closing Arguments, Warren.

"Dorothy Ulrich was aware of the pain, you can hear her screaming. Was a decision being made while she was being stabbed and beaten by a sword while she begged for her life" - John Chiv/Words Worth - John Chiv/Words Worth 5:06
"Beaten while someone is screaming in agony, saying stop, please stop, please stop, I can't take it anymore."

Mr. Sequeira referred to Dorothy Ulrich's swollen hands and said that Warren beat her "as she begged to live a little longer. Can you imagine the mental anguish? The defendant had the ability to stop. What did he say? Shut up and be quiet. He might as well have said Shut up and be quiet, I'm killing you."

"She is not here to testify but her last words, she told you who killed her."
Closing arguments start in Jason Warren trial after an hour and half of jury instructions - John Chiv/Words Worth

‘He Tortured Her to Death’ Prosecutor Argues in Closing Statement for Warren Double-Murder Trial - Ryan Burns/Lost Coast Outpost 6:27
He also added some context to the dry legal definitions. Murder in the first degree requires malice aforethought, whether implied or express, Sequeira said. Like if you were to “smash someone’s head with a sword,” he added, referencing the alleged murder weapon in Ulrich’s death.

Lying in wait involves concealing your purpose and waiting for an opportunity to act before unleashing a surprise attack. That doesn’t necessarily mean a bad guy jumping out from behind a bush, Sequeira said. It could be someone who was hanging out with the victim all day, as Warren did with Ulrich.
Warren prosecutor: Trial shows trail of murder - Jessie Faulkner/Times-Standard
Premeditation and deliberation, Sequeira said, is about the process of making a decision.

“We all know that Dorothy Ulrich made a fatal mistake in that she brought the defendant into her house,” he said.

For 18 hours, Sequeira stressed, Warren was in Ulrich’s home. While the prosecutor said he had decided not to replay the audio capturing the sounds of the assault that killed Ulrich, he pointed to that four minutes of pain, fear and desperation as torture, one of the special allegations Warren faces. That argument continued with attention on two wounds the medical examiner found on Ulrich’s chest.

“They’re not very deep,” he said. “They’re like jabs and pokes. Who does that unless they intend to inflict long and extended pain?”
11 days. 4 weeks. 3 years. And now...

May the families find peace, and relief, when this is over.

Brisso v. Bertain: Alleged Conflict Of Interest

Anti-Slapp, constitutional rights and abuse of legal system, Brisso vs Bertain duke it out in lawsuit by Leo Sears against Greg Dale, Jack Crider and other Humboldt Bay Harbor Commissioners - John Chiv/Words Worth
FPPC opens investigation into Leo Sears' allegations about the Harbor District, FPPC also rules that Greg Dale can use campaign funds for this civil lawsuit - John Chiv/Words Worth

Harbor district seeks to dismiss conflict of interest lawsuit - Will Houston/Times-Standard 11/06/15,
Suit alleges conflict of interest in Harbor District vote - Times-Standard
Eureka resident and longtime taxpayers advocate Leo Sears filed a civil lawsuit on Monday alleging the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District violated state law when its board of commissioners voted to accept a $1.25 million loan from Coast Seafoods Co. to clean up hazardous waste at the district’s former Samoa pulp mill site and to extend the company’s tideland lease of more than 1,400 acres.

The lawsuit names 2nd Division Commissioner Greg Dale — who is running for reelection — and alleges there was a conflict of interest with the Coast Seafoods manager serving on the board when the lease extension and loan provisions were made. Dale was absent from the meetings when the decisions took place. The four other commissioners and the district’s executive director are also named in the suit.
Harbor Board President: Conflict of Interest Lawsuit ‘Has No Merit,’ Was Filed to ‘Slander’ Commissioner - Richard Marks, Harbor Commissioner/Lost Coast Outpost 10/8/15
LoCOLLOQUY: Leo Sears Writes LoCO About His Lawsuit’s Timing, and of His Alleged Train Non-Buffdom - Hank Sims/Lost Coast Outpost
On the Eve of Harbor District Election, Rail Buffs File Conflict of Interest Suit Against Sitting Commissioner - Hank Sims/Lost Coast Outpost
The suit centers around several contracts between the district and Coast Seafoods, a large seafood company based in Washington. Those contracts include the lease of oyster bed space in Arcata Bay and a processing facility in the former pulp mill in Samoa, which the district acquired two years ago. They include, in addition, a $1.25 million loan that Coast Seafoods gave to the district to help finance the removal of mass quantities of hazardous materials left at the pulp mill site by its former owners.

Sears and Bertain accuse him – and the district generally – of having violated California Government Code Section 1090, which broadly states that local governments may not enter into contracts with the employers or businesses of those elected officials who serve on the local government’s board, if the board member in question can be said to have benefited financially from the contract.

The sentencing of Michael Youravish: life without possibility of parole

"As he lay in a pool of blood, his last words were I believe in Jesus. " Forrest Lovejoy's mother compares Youravish to a butcher saying her faith has not been diminished - John Chiv/Words Worth

Judge Feeney sentences a defiant, unremorseful Michael Youravish to life without possibility of parole for the brutal murder of Forrest Lovejoy - John Chiv/Words Worth Dec 1, 2015
Three family members spoke and their statements were so powerful that all of us in the courtroom were moved, except Youravish who just sat there with no emotion.
Youravish Sentenced to Life in Prison Without Parole For 2013 McKinleyville Murder Lost Coast Outpost
From the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office:
On June 17, 2013, Michael Raymond Youravish lured Forrest Croft Lovejoy into the woods in McKinleyville and stabbed him to death, inflicting over 30 stab wounds. Mr. Youravish was subsequently arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

On November 3, 2015, a Humboldt County jury returned guilty verdicts against Michael Raymond Youravish for first-degree murder committed intentionally by means of lying in wait.

On December 1, 2015, Mr. Youravish was sentenced by the Honorable John Feeney to the maximum term of life in State Prison without possibility of parole. Mr. Lovejoy’s birth-mother, step-mother and step-father made statements at the sentencing. They thanked the court, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and its investigators and the District Attorney’s Office. They described Forrest as a trusting, fun-loving man with a goofy sense of humor who was well loved by his family. Mr. Youravish declined to comment.

This case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Zachary Curtis.
And with that, one less murder trial in the queue.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

11 days. 4 weeks. 3 years. And now...

Predictions? Guilty on all counts?

Warren Trial, Day 11: Both the Prosecution and Defense Rest - Ryan Burns/Lost Coast Outpost 11/30/15
Jason Anthony Warren’s defense attorney, Glenn Brown with the county’s Alternate Counsel office, made no opening statement, called only two witnesses to the stand and took less than three hours to mount a rather feeble defense of his client, who stands charged with two counts of murder, one with special allegations of torture and lying in wait, and two counts of attempted murder....

And so, nearly four weeks after the trial began and more than three years since the crimes were committed, it was the defense attorney’s turn to argue his side...
Defense rests in Warren case, closing arguments Dec 2, deliberations to start same day - John Chiv/Words Worth 11/30/15
Jury will be back for instructions, closing arguments Wednesday, December 2 and is expected to start deliberations the same day.
"No, we are talking about the difference between negligence and intentional" - John Chiv/Words Worth 11/30/15
Using google maps, Walker's (the defense's main witness) own words and reports, Mr. Sequeira got the jury's attention and was able to completely unravel Walker's theory and report.
Jason Warren's juvenile record where he admitted to stabbing and assault put on record, defense traffic collision expert testifies - John Chiv/Words Worth 11/30/15
This morning the People read into record exhibits that will be admitted into evidence this morning about Jason Warren's juvenile record in 2001 where he admitted to attempted murder of a taxi cab driver, Cid Miller, and another admission of assault on a man, Fred Her, riding a bicycle. Both men testified for the People earlier in the trial.

Special Prosecutor Paul Sequeira, well done, sir.


◼ Previously: KNOWING Warren's history, Paul Gallegos let him out on a Cruz waiver.
Gruesome. No other word for it.
Jason Warren's juvenile record to be offerred in jury trial for limited purpose regarding his mental state
The Jason Warren Trial - at long last
Warren Dodges again.
At long last...
Warren case was called on in an open courtroom, Judge Marilyn Miles has been assigned the case UPDATED
Warren trial set for September 14
It seems the DA's Office has not learned its lesson re: Cruz waivers
Gallegos IS seeking the death penalty against Jason Anthony Warren
Paul Gallegos gets continuance in defense request to dismiss Warren case
Warren held to answer on pair of murder charges
CHP to DA: Jogger’s Death Was Murder
A History of Violence, and a history of plea deals that should sicken you