Friday, September 10, 2010

Mercer convicted; ex-wife smirks;
defense attorney declines comment

by Tom Nadeau

Timothy Brian Mercer, 43, was convicted in Yuba County Superior Court Thursday of one count of lewd and lascivious conduct with a girl under 14.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated for three days. During that time they asked for five read-backs and declared themselves hung three times. It came out at one point that they were split, 8-4.

Each time they declared themselves unable to agree on a verdict, Judge Kathleen R. O’Connor ordered them back to the jury room and to continue deliberating.

The four outsiders were eventually persuaded to change their minds and Mercer was convicted as charged. The verdict was read aloud about 3 p.m.

A woman was told to leave the courtroom when she blurted out her disbelief.

Immediate incarceration ...

O’Connor ordered Mercer immediately incarcerated. He could be sentenced to as many as eight years in state prison. Sentencing was set for 9 a.m. Sept. 29.

Mercer had no previous criminal record other than a drunk-driving arrest nearly 20 years ago. He had never before been accused of misconduct with children, so far as reported.

As Mercer was shackled and led away, Ruth Browning, the 38-year-old ex-wife who had accused him of the crime, departed the courtroom, smirking.

Browning claimed to have peeked into a bedroom in April 2009 and seen Mercer standing over their 9-year-old foster child, “E,” with his hand placed under the child’s bed covers.

Within days of the alleged incident, Browning temporarily removed “E” and an adopted daughter, 7-year-old “S,” from the home and went to the police.

While Mercer awaited trial, Browning divorced him, took possession of their Marysville home and remarried. Mercer has since resided in a Yuba City motel room.

Prosecutor Melanie Kamber Bendorf delayed bringing People v. Timothy B. Mercer, #09-281 to trial by asking for – and getting – some 42 postponements in related proceedings in Superior Court and Family Law Court.

It took some 15 months for Mercer’s case to reach trial. He never requested any continuances, Mercer told NT.

Numerous evidentiary and procedural rulings by O’Connor worked to Mercer’s disadvantage.

Informed observers who followed Mercer’s case closely have expressed wonderment – nay, amazement – at some of defense attorney Chad Cameron Couchot’s advice and decisions on strategy and procedure.

Mercer said that whenever he questioned tactics and procedure, or made alternative suggestions, he was advised to keep quiet and, in effect, go with the flow.

Couchot declined comment after the verdict hearing.

Bendorf was absent from the verdict reading. She was reportedly on some sort of vacation.


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