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. 

When Marsh committed the murders, prosecutors had the ability to directly file criminal charges against juvenile murderers in adult criminal court.  In 2016, however, California voters enacted Proposition 57.  Prop. 57 changed this procedure and prohibited prosecutors from directly filing criminal charges against a juvenile offender in adult court.  Instead all allegations of criminal conduct against a juvenile (age 14+) had to be initiated in juvenile court regardless of the crime committed.  The only way a juvenile offender could be transferred from the juvenile court and prosecuted in adult criminal court was via a motion to transfer filed by a prosecutor.

In 2018,  despite CJLF’s valiant effort to convince the Court otherwise, the California Supreme Court held that Prop. 57 was retroactive to all nonfinal cases.

Because Marsh’s direct appeal was still pending when Prop. 57 passed,  the Court of Appeal “conditionally reversed” the judgment and remanded it to the juvenile court for the sole purpose of conducting a post hoc Prop. 57 mandated transfer hearing.  The Court of Appeal also directed that:

“If the juvenile court determines that [Marsh] is the proper subject of criminal proceedings, it shall reinstate the criminal judgment.  If the juvenile court finds that it would not have transferred [Marsh] to a court of criminal jurisdiction, then it shall deem [Marsh’s] convictions to be juvenile adjudications and conduct a dispositional hearing within its usual time frame.”

In other words, the original 2014 judgment sat there while the transfer hearing in juvenile court played out.  If the juvenile court were to find that Marsh was appropriately prosecuted as an adult, the original 2014 criminal judgment would be remain as is.  If, on the other hand, the juvenile court were to find that Marsh should have been tried as a juvenile, then the murder “adjudications” (ie: convictions) would stand but the juvenile court would have to conduct a “disposition hearing” to determine the appropriate juvenile “disposition” (ie: sentence).  In California, the maximum “disposition” for a juvenile murderer means release from detention no later than age 25.

Other than remanding the case for a transfer hearing based solely on the California Supreme Court’s ruling that Prop. 57 was retroactive to Marsh’s then nonfinal appeal, the Court of Appeal rejected his appeal on all other grounds.  The California Supreme Court denied review and Marsh did not pursue any further appeals.  The juvenile court then set a date for a transfer hearing.

While the transfer hearing was pending, the California Legislature enacted and former Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1391.  SB 1391 “amended” Prop. 57 and prohibited all 14 and 15 year old offenders from being prosecuted as adults.  SB 1391’s effective date was 1/1/19.

In October 2018, the juvenile court conducted the transfer hearing despite Marsh’s attempts to postpone the hearing to after 1/1/19.  The court granted the motion to transfer and ruled that SB 1391 was not applicable because it was not the law when the transfer hearing was set.  In December 2018, the court reinstated the original 2014 criminal judgment and sentence.

In sum, in late 2018, the juvenile court (1) granted the motion to transfer and (2) reinstated the original 2014 criminal judgment.

Because the Prop. 57 transfer hearing is considered an “extraordinary hearing”, Marsh’s only method of challenging the ruling was via a writ (because there is no right to appeal from the transfer hearing itself.)  He filed a writ which was rejected outright by the Court of Appeal.  Marsh filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court. The California Supreme Court denied his petition, but in doing so stated that it was “denied without prejudice to any relief under Senate Bill No. 1391 (Stats. 2018, ch. 1012) to which defendant might be entitled on direct appeal.”

Because Marsh lost his bid to challenge the results of the transfer hearing, he set his sights back onto the original 2014 criminal judgment.  In December 2018, he filed a notice of appeal from that reinstated judgment.  It is his contention that SB 1391 applies to him because his original direct appeal is still pending due to the “conditional reversal” and remand from the Court of Appeal to conduct a transfer hearing in 2018.  Because it is still pending, it is not final, and he is entitled to the benefit of SB 1391 and he must be treated like a juvenile in juvenile court. The State disagrees and argues that his case was final as soon as the time to appeal to the US Supreme Court lapsed, which was in August 2018.  The Prop. 57 mandated post hoc transfer hearing did not keep his case open and pending. Because it is no longer pending, his appeal is final and SB 1391 does not apply to Marsh.

The California Court of Appeal (3rd appellate district) heard oral argument on August 18th, and appeared to agree with the State’s position.  As Darrell Smith of the Sacramento Bee noted in this article, the judges,

 “flatly disputed Marsh attorney Mark Greenberg’s argument that a 2018 Yolo Superior Court hearing to determine whether Marsh should be tried as a juvenile four years after Marsh’s 2014 murder conviction amounted to a retrial.

A Yolo judge’s ruling in 2018 upholding Marsh’s state prison sentence did not amount to a new judgment, said one of the judges.

“There’s nothing to appeal,” state Associate Justice Hoch told Greenberg. “There’s no retrial. The original judgment (was) reinstated. There was no new judgment.”

This is promising, but nothing is certain.  The judges have 90 days to issue their opinion.

One thing that is for certain is that SB 1391 is a terrible law.  CJLF fought hard to have it struck down as an unconstitutional amendment to Prop.57.  Daniel Marsh is the poster “child” for why this blanket law needs to be repealed.  The juvenile justice system best deals with behaviors that are common to most juveniles.  Daniel Marsh is not like most juveniles.

The pain that surviving family members experience when their loved ones are violently and horrifically murdered by a 14 or 15 year old is no different than the pain felt by surviving family members of those who were violently and horrifically murdered by a person age 16, 17 or 18+.  The devastation families experience from the tragic loss of their loved ones is immense.  Murder victims’ families need legal finality. Scrapping SB 1391 would be a good start.

The Northup and Maupin families recently established the Victim Project in an effort to continue their fight against SB 1391 so that Marsh (and others like him) can remain in adult prison and they can get back to healing.