Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Simlick held to answer in double homicide case; he's looking at possible death penalty

by Tom Nadeau

In a courtroom packed with the families and friends of the victims and relatives of the accused, Joseph Hayden Simlick pleaded innocent Tuesday to charges he killed Jack and Susan Martin, whose bodies were found Friday in their burnt-out home in the town of Sutter.

If convicted of special circumstances murder, Simlick, 21, could face the death penalty or life in state prison with no possibility of parole, Sutter County Superior Judge Chris Chandler said.

People v. Simlick, felony cases #10-1786 and #10-1787, also charge Simlick with felony violations of California Penal Code sections 236 and 237, both involving false imprisonment.

As so far disclosed by law enforcement, Simlick is suspected of unlawfully holding the Martin’s youngest daughter for some five days prior to the parents’ deaths.

Delay denied ...

Defense attorney Linda Parisi asked Chandler to postpone Simlick’s entry of plea, but Assistant District Attorney Jana McClung successfully objected to any delay.

Parisi, a lawyer out of Sacramento, later said it was uncertain whether she would continue representing Simlick. Another attorney might be retained, she said. Mark R. Van Den Heuvel, a well-known Sutter County defense attorney, was present at the hearing, but said nothing.

Chandler ordered the parties back to court 1:30 p.m. Aug. 18 to set the date for a preliminary hearing.

The atmosphere in the Tuesday arraignment was heavily charged, due in part by the aggressive demeanor of sheriff’s deputies and the curt manner of court bailiffs.

About 15 law enforcement personnel – some uniformed, many in plainclothes – ringed the public seating section in Department 1. Maintaining courtroom decorum may not have been the only motive behind the massive show of armed force.

At one point, a uniformed female officer, apparently a bailiff, loudly proclaimed the venue to be “my courtroom” – a sweeping claim of personal ownership Judge Chandler might want to take note of.

Another uniformed bailiff told spectators that any noisy outburst would result in immediate ejection, not just from the courtroom, but from the courthouse entirely.

Federal agents and courthouse personnel guarding the Sacramento hearings in US v. Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski -- the so-called “Unabomber” who slew three and injured 23 others over a 20-year span – were never that hyped up, nor did they openly threaten the public with such extreme retaliatory measures.

At the end of the 25-minute arraignment, spectators remained seated while guards ushered the tall, dark-haired defendant out of the courtroom to a transport vehicle parked behind the courthouse.

Individuals approached by members of the press declined comment. Victim family members met with officials in the District Attorney’s Office.


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