Monday, September 13, 2010

Mercer gets visitors in Yuba jail

by Tom Nadeau

TMercer3_9-13-10_Mercer-visit

The scene was the visitor waiting room in the lower level of the Sixth Street entrance to the Yuba County Jail. The time was just after 8 p.m. Sunday night. I was there to see Timothy Brian Mercer. It was the first time he was allowed callers.

“You’re about the 10th person asking for him,” the jail deputy said through the plexi-glass barrier.

“You’ll have to get in line,” the deputy added, pointing to a small group seated across the room. They included a mother, Maria Hall, and her two teenage girls, Christina and Katelyn; two men who appeared to be together, and; a third man – an older, baseball-capped dude who sat apart.

Friends stand by him ...

Mercer had been convicted a couple of days earlier of one count of lewd and lascivious behavior with a girl under 14.

The crime had been alleged by a wife with an outside boyfriend. “E” confirmed the allegation, but only after extensive prompting by an investigator.

Mercer vehemently denied the charge and insisted on fighting it out in court.

For more than a year, the prosecutor delayed Mercer getting his day in court by invoking numerous postponements.

When it did come to trial, the judge barred the jury from hearing most of Mercer’s exculpatory defense points by ruling the points inadmissible.

His court-appointed attorney put on a minimal defense. He counseled Mercer to not testify on his own behalf.

Mercer lost.

Mercer is now looking at a sentence that could range from a maximum of eight years in state prison or – if he’s very lucky and enough stink is raised about the questionable verdict and the judge has any compassion left in her prosecution-favoring heart – he could get as little as five years on probation. It all depends.

Either way, he will forevermore have to register annually as a sex offender.

In the meantime, Mercer awaits judgment and sentencing, which is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 27 in Department #5 of the Yuba County Superior Court.

But back to the story.

The door to the jail’s visiting bay is unlocked and the on-duty deputy signals us through. We all go in. The plexi-glassed booth where Mercer is waiting is small and has only one wall phone. The others tell me to go first.

“I’ll be brief.”

I pulled out my notebook and opened it to the page with my points listed.

First I tell him he’s looking OK, which is only partly true.

He looks to be in good spirits, certainly, and he is carrying some official-looking forms. But his orange jail garb is shabby from previous wear and permanently stained.

I ran through my questions: How was he doing? Did the jail doctor see him? Was he getting used to his new environment? Any trouble so far?

Fine. No. Yes. None.

Then I passed on the advice some experienced people had suggested he be told: Get his mandatory appeals papers in as soon as possible. Immediately file for a re-trial. An appeal and a re-trial are different things. The appeal to a higher court is routine and more or less mandatory. A re-trial is less often requested and, if granted, remains in the local court. Few re-trials are granted.

I continued listing the points of advice I’d been asked to convey to Mercer: Try to get as many letters of support from responsible parties filed with the court as soon as possible. Tell these supporters – friends, past employers, ministers, etc. – to make their letters clearly individual and personalized. Don’t use form letters.

The papers Mercer had with him were the appeals request forms he had to fill out.
He said his attorney had claimed not to have any.

“When I told the guard what (the lawyer) had said, he said the forms were available in the jail. He got them for me,” Mercer said.

“Yes, well, I guess ….” What more could be said about news like that?

My five minutes were up and I hung up the wall phone, waving good-bye. Maria and her girls moved forward to see him. I chatted with the two younger men. The old guy in the baseball cap hadn’t entered the visiting area.

The two were Dallas Weiher and Bill Smith.

“Smith?” I repeated, with a dubious, squint-eyed look He’d probably heard the jokey wiseguy insinuation a million times before.

“No, really,” he laughed, good-naturedly.

The two knew Mercer from church.

Weiher said he ran a dry wall business and that he sometimes hired Mercer to help him out. He said he had found Mercer to be a pleasant, trusting guy who would drop everything to go to the aid of others, even at the most inconvenient times.

Meanwhile, in the background, there was a mini-drama playing out at the visiting bay where the mother and daughters were talking with Mercer. The women were crying. Mercer’s consoling words were silenced by the plexi-glass barrier.

None of the women had been in a jail before, they later told me. Now they were there in the institutional scene bare walls, bolted-down stools, orange sweatsuits, plexi-glass separations, other prisoners and families pleading their own troubles into the wall phones.

The mother and girls were obviously overwhelmed by the sheer hopelessness of Mercer’s plight. They broke off and came over to talk to me. Weiher and Smith moved into the tiny booth to talk with Mercer.

The teary mother wore a black boot cast over an injured foot and used a cane. I got the mother’s name and contact numbers.

The younger girl couldn’t stop crying. She said she was going to look for Kleenex. Instead, I gave her one of the several soft Viva paper towels I carried in my vest pockets.

Looking at the woman, the two girls and the two men over at the booth talking to Mercer, I realized I could boil the whole story down into one thematic word: disbelief.

2 Comments:

Blogger alexisaacrodriguez said...

timothy mercer helped me and my mom out he gave me a guitar and keyboard and i hung out with him alot he was a good guy

January 5, 2011 at 9:52 PM  
Blogger Charlene said...

I have recently heard that this might be overturned. Has anyone heard about it? Anyone keeping up with it?

June 18, 2012 at 2:31 PM  

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