Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Jury still out on Mercer verdict

by Tom Nadeau

The Yuba County jury is still out on whether Timothy Brian Mercer, 43, touched a foster child with “lewd and lascivious” intentions.

The deliberations come amid one of the Yuba County District Attorney’s more dubious prosecutions launched some 17 months based on suspicions raised by a wife with questionable motives and a Child Protective Services willing to act on them.

Mercer, a Marysville resident, is officially charged with one count of California Penal Code section 288(a), aka, “lewd and lascivious,” based on allegations leveled in April of 2009 by his now former wife, currently known as Ruth Browning.

People v. Mercer object of scrutiny ...

According to Browning, 38, she observed him standing over 9-year-old “E” sometime around with his hand under the child’s bed covers. Within a few days of the alleged incident, the wife had removed “E” and an adopted daughter, “S”, aged seven, from the home and initiated divorce proceedings.

No similar incidents were ever reported against Mercer. He has no prior criminal record other than an arrest for drunk driving in the early 1990s. If convicted he could be sentenced to state prison for up to eight years.

While the charges were filed more than a year ago, the prosecution has dodged bringing the case to trial by asking for and getting some 42 postponements in proceedings against Mercer in both Superior Court and Family Law Court.

Mercer said he has never asked for a continuance.

The prosecutor is Deputy District Attorney Melanie Kamber Bendorf. The defense attorney is Chad Cameron Couchot.

Mercer was initially held or $100,000 bail, but after some time it was negotiated down to $25,000 and he has remained free on bond pending trial.

Mercer’s case has been followed by persons concerned about Child Protective Services alleged abuses of power. Among the interested observers is Kay Coke of the National Foster Parent Coalition for Allegation Reform (NFPCAP).

Notable Trials will have a more detailed report on the Mercer case after the jury of six men and six women reaches a verdict, or declares itself hung.

The jury went out Tuesday to debate the main charge and several lesser charge options, only to send word out to Judge Kathleen O’Connor about 2:30 p.m. that afternoon that they were split.

O’Connor called them back and read a prescribed admonition to remain polite to each other but try harder to come to a decision. The jury went back out and debated more until about 4:15 p.m. when they summoned the bailiff to tell him they wanted to go home for the night.

They will resume deliberations at 9:30 a.m. today.


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