Thursday, August 19, 2010

Simlick preliminary hearing to go Sept. 8

by Sam Pierce

A Sutter County judge set a preliminary hearing Wednesday into charges Joseph Hayden Simlick falsely imprisoned a girl and then caused her parents to be burned to death in a fire at their Sutter home July 29.

Superior Court Judge Chris Chandler scheduled the hearing for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 8. Meantime, Simlick, 21, of Rio Linda, remains held without bail at the Sutter County Jail.

People v. Simlick, cases #10-1786 and #10-1787 charge Simlick with special circumstances murder in the deaths of Jack and Susan Martin, both 46, and with false imprisonment for holding their daughter elsewhere against her wishes.

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

Simlick has pleaded innocent to all charges.

If convicted of the murders, Simlick could be sentenced to death or life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Courtroom packed again ... Read more »

'LM' mental health assessment
ordered by Yuba County judge

by Tom Nadeau

A new felony case filed in Yuba County Superior Court is disturbing in several ways.

The defendant in People v. “L.M.”, case #F-10-358 -- (full name withheld due to of the nature of the still-pending case*) – is charged with two counts of Penal Code section 288(a), lewd and lascivious acts against a child under 14 sometime between January, 2010 and May 2010.

Judge Debra L. Givens Wednesday ordered further proceedings be delayed pending the defendant’s assessment by two mental health experts.

The defendant was arrested and charged in early August, with the case filed in Superior Court Aug. 5.

A relatively rare case ... Read more »

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sparks attorney wants Yuba DA's answer

by Tom Nadeau

Justin Scott, attorney for Dustin W. Sparks, told Yuba County Judge Kathleen O’Connor Monday that he has been unable to wrest a straight answer out of the prosecution whether it will consider bargaining a plea in a double homicide case reaching back to 2005.

The prosecution’s long delays and dodges were both mysterious and onerous inasmuch as Sparks was not even the alleged shooter in the deaths of Scott Davis and Christopher Hance.

Michael Huggins has already been convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 16 years in state prison for the deaths which occurred on a medicinal marijuana farm in Linda.

The Yuba DA later charged Sparks with the more serious crime of murder in the first degree in those killings, despite the fact he had fled the scene before the men were shot.

The legality of the first degree murder charges was appealed to higher state courts, with the state Supreme Court eventually sending the case back down to Yuba County Superior Court.

The case is now slated for further adjudication, with pre-trial hearings to start Sept. 14.

Scott told O’Connor Monday that Sparks – who has already spent four years in custody awaiting some definitive action on his case – has made it clear he would consider entering a negotiated plea of guilty, if it led to a sentence of no more than 11 years.

But, Scott said, the defense has yet to receive a reply to the offer, yea or nay, from District Attorney Patrick McGrath.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Byrne said he would consult with McGrath. O’Connor set further hearings on the matter for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 30.

Monday, August 16, 2010

WaPo: New study eyes ‘bought’ judges

The problem may be clear, but the solution is not, report suggests.
While Washington politicians argue over the role of money in federal elections, a growing number of states are starting to grapple with their own challenge: a tide of special-interest money flowing into local judicial races.

An exhaustive study scheduled to be released Monday shows that spending on state Supreme Court elections has more than doubled over the past 10 years, to $207 million, mirroring the surge in contributions and expenditures for other kinds of political races during the same period.

The report, produced by a trio of nonpartisan policy groups, found that much of the increase has been fueled by outside groups funding attack ads of the kind commonly found in partisan races for the White House, Congress or governors' mansions. Industry groups, trial lawyers and others are increasingly targeting specific judges for removal over rulings that hurt their financial bottom line, the report shows.

The findings come amid mounting evidence that 2010 is likely to mark a new watershed for spending in a midterm election year. The study also underscores a growing debate in legal and political circles over the influence of campaign money in judicial races, particularly in 22 states where top judges face challengers or 16 others that hold "retention" elections for judges.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has joined her former colleague Sandra Day O'Connor in calling on states to give up the practice of electing judges, arguing that raising campaign money and promising outcomes on the bench is antithetical to a fair judicial system.