Friday, April 1, 2011

Schatz hearing: cameras banned;
jury pick, trial start set for April 11

by Tom Nadeau

OROVILLE -- Husband and wife Kevin P. and Elizabeth H. Schatz were in Butte County Superior Court this week to finish tidying up a few legal issues remaining before their joint murder trial starts April 11.

The Paradise couple are accused of killing one girl foster child they were caring for and seriously injuring a second girl last year.

Butte County sheriff’s deputies arrested the pair early last year. They were arrested Feb. 5, 2010 on charges of murder, torture and cruelty to a child. Both later pleaded innocent to all charges.

Kevin Schatz, 46, is represented in People v. K. Schatz, (CM#032009), by attorney Michael O. Harvey. Elizabeth Schatz, 42, is represented in People v. E. Schatz, (CM#032008) by attorney Kevin A. Sears.

Judge Kristen A. Lucena granted a joint defense motion Wednesday to deny a television media request to record that day’s hearing.

Sears had argued the couple’s appearance in orange jailhouse garb might prejudice potential jurors yet to be selected.

The defendants customarily wear street clothes when they appear before jurors.

According to testimony in earlier hearings, Lydia, 7, died and Zariah, 11, was seriously injured from beatings allegedly administered by the couple using by a quarter-inch plumbing line.

The prosecution, led by Butte County District Attorney Michael Ramsey, also alleges that the girls were beaten in “Biblical chastisements” in accordance with stern religious beliefs the accused couple allegedly hold.

Lucena Wednesday ordered the couple to return to courthouse Department 6 3:30 p.m. April 7 and 8:30 a.m. April 8 for further pre-trial hearings.

Jury selection is expected to start April 11 and the trial to last about three weeks, Ramsey said.

Various religious groups and their websites have taken considerable interest in this case. More than a half-dozen spectators who appeared to be present strictly for the Schatz hearing were observed in the courtroom.

All were quiet. One declined to comment on the day’s events.

with Sam Pierce

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Simlick DA seeks death penalty,
while defense attorney bows out

by Tom Nadeau
with Sam Pierce

Accused killer --- Joseph Hayden Simlick was in Sutter County Superior last week where all bets were called off in his double-murder trial -- at least until May 13.

When Judge Chris Chandler mounted the bench he was clearly not in a chipper mood.

Looking down at a sheaf of legal papers, Chandler announced in a stern tone that some new issues that had come up in the oft-delayed Simlick matter. Specifically:

-- Prosecutor Jana McClung announced the Sutter County DA now wants to revise the state’s current charges against the 21-year-old Loomis man to include the death penalty.

-- Defense attorney Linda Parisi wanted to be vacant her role as Simlick’s privately retained attorney.

-- And, in view of those developments, a public defender would have to be found to take over Simlick’s case. That proved to be county legal contractor attorney Mark Van den Heuvel.

Arrested some seven months ago, Simlick has yet to have a preliminary hearing into the multiple felony charges against him

The skinny, pale and short-haired Simlick was arrested in July, 2010 on suspicion of two counts of murder in the deaths of husband and wife Jack and Susan “Suzie” Martin, both 46.

Firefighters responding to a garage fire at the Martin‘s Mulberry Street home reportedly found the two bodies. Details of the victims‘ disposition and the fire were withheld at the time by the Sutter County sheriff’s investigators.

Simlick was arrested soon after and was then arraigned on two counts of murder, burglary and false imprisonment charges stemming from a July 25 incident involving Kendall Martin, one of the Martin’s daughters.

Simlick had reportedly been breaking up with the girl.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges

It was then 8:30 and a busy 9 a.m. regular court calender was closing in fast. There really wasn’t much time to properly address the pros and cons of the motions and Van den Heuvel had to be chased down.

Chandler wondered: could the matter be moved to 1:30 p.m.?

Apparently not. Parisi had a previously-scheduled matter set for 1:30 p.m. in Sacramento County Superior Court 45 miles away.

Chandler decided told the two attorneys he would deliver his rulings on the issues raised at 8:55 a.m. Sharp. Be there.

In the hallway McClung said the introduction of the new special circumstances allegation had nothing to do with Parisi’s announcement she was bailing out.

The decision to amend the charges was made the previous week, McClung said.

Later, Parisi said two factors caused her to ask to be released from her role as Simlick’s defender: the family was running low on money and the prosecution’s decision to invoke the death penalty would only things more expensive.

When they all returned at 8:55 a.m. Van den Heuvel also appeared.

Chandler got write down to brass taxes. He accepted Parisi’s withdrawal and noted the prosecution’s motion to call for the death penalty.

Van Den Heuvel’s accepted an appointment as public defender for Simlick and worked out a first court appearance in the matter, which Chandler set for 8:30 a.m. May 13.

That done, some spectators adjourned for breakfast at a nearby coffee shop. Speculation abounded.

One of the more interesting guesses was that the prosecution cranked it up to a death penalty case to complicate matters and make things more expensive, knowing the defendant’s family would be less likely to afford the more expensive process.

That would precipitate Parisi’s departure. Parisi is a sharp, well-respected defense attorney, well regarded around Sacramento courthouses.

Perhaps a local public defender would be easier to “work with.” Could that consideration have figured in the DA’s decision to seek the death penalty?

One can never know for sure.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Leary motion to quash debated;
judge calls it 'crucial' to the case

by Tom Nadeau

Pre-trial hearings are usually ho-hum, but what the courtroom jousting revealed Thursday in People v. Leary ranged from the dull to the disturbing.

Former sheriff’s Lieutenant Michael Leary faces six criminal counts arising from his stormy relationship with notary public Alyc Maselli and fraud and other allegations she brought in connection with a change of title for a $610,000 residence at 3301 Marina Cove Circle, Elk Grove.

Maselli claims she shared the property title and was paying her portion of the mortgage.

Moreover, in the course of their relationship, Maselli made domestic violence claims that included allegations of kidnapping and false imprisonment. No charges were filed after sheriff’s investigators concluded her claims were unfounded.

Leary, 50, counters Maselli’s claims of ownership by saying he only added her name as a secondary on the title because he mistakenly believed she could not live there unless he did so.

She was a tenant, he insisted, not an owner. Besides, she ceased paying her rent months before the mess erupted and the checks she claimed were for rent were in fact checks to herself for cash she kept.

And you ain’t heard the half of it yet … Read more »

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Judge to hear motions in Leary trial; victims rights group harbors opinions

by Tom Nadeau

The prosecution and defense huddled in chambers with Sacramento Superior Court Judge Ben Davidian yesterday afternoon dickering over which of several motions would be considered in the matter of People v. Michael Leary..

Davidian emerged late in the day to announce that no public action would be taken on any of the proposed motions would be heard until today, Thursday.

Proceedings continue in Department 37 on the fifth floor of the courthouse at Eighth and H streets.

Davidian also advised representatives from a McGeorge School of Law-based victims’ rights group that has taken an interest in the Leary matter to get their arguments assembled and return today.

Judge will hear motions ... Read more »

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Siavii found guilty of killing Kalb;
LWOP, plus 25 possible sentence

by Tom Nadeau

A Sacramento jury found admitted drug trafficker Poe Blue Siavii guilty today of all charges arising from the May 5, 2008 execution-style slaying of Joshua Kalb.

Siavii could be sentenced to a prison term of life without parole, plus 25 years, Deputy District Attorney Chris Ore said.

The extra 25 years came from special circumstances of “lying in wait” enhanced by the use of a gun, Ore explained.

Siavii “showed no emotion” when the verdict was read, Ore said, adding: “Justice has been served.”

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge James L. Long set the sentencing time and date for 9 a.m. Nov. 22, 2010.

No good guys ... Read more »

Monday, October 25, 2010

Siavii jury asks for 2 read-backs

by Tom Nadeau

About 3 p.m. Monday the jury in People v. Poe Blue Siavii, #08F07611, called for a read-back of two portions of the trial testimony.

The first request was for a read-back of the testimony given regarding the pretext call made by key prosecution witness Steven Riddick to the defendant.

Riddick was "the third man" in the drama revolving around the 2008 killing of drug dealer Joshua Kalb.

The second request was for the court reporter to read back the testimony of defendant Siavii.

It could take some time ... Read more »

Santana, Vasquez goes federal

by Tom Nadeau

Despite more than two years of filings and cross-filings, charges and counter-charges, motions and denials, court dates and canceled court dates, the issues involved in People v. Santana, Vasquez are now every place except at trial.

The visiting judge has continued People v Santana, Vasquez #08-825 to an indefinite time while 3rd Appellate District look at writ #C066008, filed by attorneys both for Jesse Santana and David Vasquez.

Those pleading documents were filed Sept. 13. Answers to those were subsequently filed by the state Attorney General’s Office which took over the case after the Yuba County District Attorney stepped aside.

No date certain has been set on when the 3DCA will rule in the matter, or for that matter, comment on it.

How it got there ... Read more »