Author: Kym Stapleton

Marsh Appeal Dismissed

This morning the California Court of Appeal (3rd Appellate District) dismissed Daniel Marsh’s appeal in an unpublished opinion (found here). A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post that detailed this appeal’s convoluted procedural history (here).   The Court of Appeal agreed that the juvenile court’s reinstatement of the original 2014 criminal judgment was final before SB 1391 went into effect.  Because it “did not constitute a new judgment from which to appeal,” the Court of Appeal found it was not appealable, and thus “the appeal must be dismissed.”

The Current Status of The People v. Daniel William Marsh

In April of 2013, Daniel Marsh was 15 years old when he broke into Chip Northup and Claudia Maupin‘s condominium in the middle of the night and heinously murdered them as they slept.  His case was directly filed in adult criminal court and, in 2014, he was convicted by a jury of two counts of first degree murder with special circumstances.  The trial court imposed a sentence of 52 years to life.  The Northup and Maupin families found relief in the verdict and sentence and believed Marsh would be locked up for a very long time.  Unfortunately, their relief was short lived and their fight for justice had just begun.  Continue reading . . .

“Affordable Bail” Does Not Protect Public and Victim Safety

If an arrestee can be “admitted to bail,” (meaning pretrial release is not precluded), California law authorizes four different methods of pretrial release, only one of which has a monetary requirement. Those four methods include (1) money bail; (2) release on own recognizance (“OR”); (3) OR under supervision; and (4) pretrial diversion. At an arrestee’s first court appearance, a judge will decide if he or she should be released on OR (with or without supervision) or on money bail.

The California Supreme Court’s Humphrey decision announced yesterday initially acknowledged OR as a type of pretrial release, but then they completely ignored it as they delved right into the unconstitutional disparities of money bail. The court also glossed over the fact that Humphrey requested OR release under supervision twice and was denied twice. The trial court denied his request for OR release due to the seriousness of the crimes committed (first-degree residential robbery, first-degree residential burglary, inflicting non-great bodily injury on an elder or dependent adult, and theft from an elder or dependent adult PLUS three prior strikes), the vulnerability of the victim (a 79-year-old man), and on the recommendation against OR release from pretrial service’s Public Safety Assessment Report. In addition to public safety concerns, the trial court was also concerned that Humphrey was a “flight risk.”

What is OR release? Had the court taken the time to examine it in a bit more detail, the public would better understand that it is a discretionary non-monetary alternative to cash bail contained in Article I, section 12 of the California Constitution. Continue reading . . .

Courts Must Consider an Arrestee’s Ability to Pay Money Bail in California

This morning the California Supreme Court held that trial courts must consider an arrestee’s ability to pay when setting the amount of money bail in the case of In re Humphrey (S247278).

Humphrey, a repeat offender, was charged with robbery and burglary. Bail was initially set at $600,000, then later reduced to $350,000.  Humphrey’s request for pretrial release on his own recognizance (“OR”) without financial conditions was denied because the trial court found he was a danger to public safety and a “flight risk.”  Humphrey was unable to post bail and remained detained pretrial.  Humphrey filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, arguing that the trial court’s failure to inquire into his financial circumstances and to not consider less restrictive alternatives to money bail was a violation of his constitutional rights.  The California Attorney General initially opposed Humphrey’s position.  However, the AG later changed his position and agreed that Humphrey was entitled to a new bail hearing stating that he would “no longer defend ‘any application of the bail law that does not take into consideration a person’s ability to pay, or alternative methods of ensuring a person’s appearance at trial.'”    CJLF filed a brief (found here) arguing that public and victim safety, and whether the arrestee is considered a “flight risk,” are the primary considerations to be evaluated by a court when initially deciding whether an arrestee is eligible for pretrial release, and, if eligible, what type of pretrial release is appropriate under the circumstances—money bail or release on OR without financial conditions.  It was CJLF’s position that to release Humphrey on an amount that he could afford, or on other less restrictive alternatives, would essentially permit his release on his OR, which is contrary to the trial court’s findings regarding his danger to victim and public safety. Continue reading . . .

Legislative Amendments to California Voter Enacted Law

This morning the California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a statute passed by the state legislature (SB 1391) that prohibits 14- and 15-year-old criminal offenders from being prosecuted as adults.  In the case of in O.G. v. Superior Court (S259011), the issue was whether the California Legislature unconstitutionally amended the statutory provisions of Proposition 57 when it enacted SB 1391.  Prop. 57 was voted into law by a majority of California voters in 2016.  The ballot measure eliminated a District Attorney’s ability to directly file criminal charges against individuals under age 18 in adult court.  The measure instead gave juvenile court judges the sole authority to decide whether violent juveniles ages 14 and older should be prosecuted as adults only after conducting a full evidentiary hearing in the juvenile court.  In 2018, former Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1391 into law.  SB 1391 prohibits 14 and 15 year olds from being criminally prosecuted as adults regardless of the crime committed.  CJLF filed a brief (found here) arguing that SB 1391 unconstitutionally amended Prop. 57.  Today the California Supreme Court held that SB 1391 “is fully consistent with and furthers” the intent and purpose of Prop. 57 and upheld the statutory amendment.

Continue reading . . .

Who decides if a teen killer should be tried as an adult?

On Tuesday morning, the California Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of O.G. v. Superior Court (S259011).  The issue is whether the California Legislature unconstitutionally amended the statutory provisions of Proposition 57 when it enacted SB 1391.  Prop. 57 was voted into law by a majority of California voters in 2016.  The ballot measure eliminated a District Attorney’s ability to directly file criminal charges against individuals under age 18 in adult court.  The measure instead gave juvenile court judges the sole authority to decide whether violent juveniles ages 14 and older should be prosecuted as adults only after conducting a full evidentiary hearing in the juvenile court.  In 2018, former Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1391 into law.  SB 1391 prohibits 14 and 15 year olds from being criminally prosecuted as adults regardless of the crime committed.  In a nut shell, voter enacted Prop. 57 gives juvenile court judges the sole authority to decide whether juveniles (ages 14 and older) should be prosecuted as adults and legislature enacted SB 1391 prohibits 14 and 15 years olds from being prosecuted as adults.  SB 1391 (the legislature) takes away what Prop. 57 (the voters) authorized.  CJLF filed a brief (found here) arguing that SB 1391 unconstitutionally amended Prop. 57.

Continue reading . . .

DNA evidence solves another cold case

On July 31, 1979, a 45-year old mother of four named Dolores Rocha Wulff mysteriously disappeared in the middle of the night with only the clothes she was wearing from her home in Woodland, Yolo County, California.  Five weeks later, a torso was discovered by two fishermen 50-miles away in the Benicia Bay.  Given the limited scientific technology at the time, the torso was never positively identified.  She became known as “Jane Doe 16.”

Immediately after Dolores vanished, the close knit Rocha family searched for her extensively.  They knew that she would not have simply walked out of her children’s lives on her own accord.  Her husband, Carl Wulff Sr., was looked at as the prime suspect.  He was the last one to see her alive and a search of his car produced a bloodstained blanket.  Almost five years after she disappeared without a trace, Carl Sr. was charged with her murder.  But, his case was subsequently dismissed for a lack of evidence.  Carl Sr. died in 2005. Continue reading . . .

Chipping away at cash bail in California

In re Humphrey (S247278) has been fully briefed and pending before the California Supreme Court for almost two years.  As a general rule, a published Court of Appeal opinion has “no binding or precedential effect” while review is pending (Calif. Rules of Court 8.1115(e)(1)).  The California Supreme Court, however, may so order otherwise (Calif. Rules of Court 8.1115(e)(3)).  As reported by Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle, last week, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra asked the court to utilize its authority to reclassify the Court of Appeal’s opinion as “binding and precedential” while the case is pending review.  Becerra claims that the issue of keeping people incarcerated due to “their inability to afford bail has become critically important because of ‘the unexpected change in circumstances caused by the unprecedented impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic.'”

Kenneth Humphrey, a repeat offender, was charged with robbery and burglary.  Bail was initially set at $600,000, then later reduced to $350,000.  Humphrey’s request for pretrial release on his own recognizance without financial conditions was denied by the trial court.  The Court of Appeal decision granted Humphrey a new bail hearing in which inquiry must be made on his ability to pay money bail.  If unable to pay money bail, non-monetary alternatives must be addressed. CJLF filed an amicus brief in the case that can be found here.

Continue reading . . .

How Does One Evaluate An Honest and Upright Life?

Can a person live an “honest and upright life” and conform to and obey the “laws of the land” while confined?

In 2011, Misael Vences Maya, a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., pleaded guilty to driving under the influence with 6 prior DUI convictions and possession of methamphetamine.  He had also served two prior prison terms.  He was advised of the immigration consequences of his plea, which included possible deportation.  Maya was sentenced to 4 years 8 months prison without probation.  In late 2012, he completed his prison term and was immediately transferred to the custody of the Department of Homeland Security.  Because of his felony methamphetamine conviction, DHS commenced removal proceedings pursuant to 8 U.S.C. §1227(a)(2)(B)(i).  While still in immigration custody, California voters approved Proposition 47.  Maya then successfully applied to have his felony methamphetamine conviction reduced to a misdemeanor.  Because it was reduced to a misdemeanor, he then sought to have the conviction expunged pursuant to California Penal Code  §1203.4a.

Continue reading . . .

Cross-Border Shooting Case Decided Today

Today the U.S. Supreme Court held in Hernandez v. Mesa that the parents (citizens of Mexico) of a teenager (also a citizen of Mexico) who was shot and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol Agent on the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border are prohibited from suing the agent for damages under the U.S. Constitution.

CJLF originally joined the case in 2017 to encourage a decision denying the lawsuit.  We argued that in a case involving relations between the U.S. and a foreign country, the judicial branch should not step in but should leave the matter to Congress.  CJLF’s amicus curiae brief in that case (Hernandez I) is available here.

Continue reading . . .