Sideshow Continues in Murder Trial; Chief Justice Called in To Help

California’s Chief Justice Ronald George has been asked to intervene in the Yolo Superior Court’s handling of the case against a man who has been accused of killing a Yolo County Sheriff’s Deputy. Justice George will appoint an outside judge who will then rule on the motion to disqualify every Yolo County Judge from hearing the case.

Three Judges have already disqualified themselves two because they had worked with the Sheriff’s Deputy in past employment and the third because as Judge, they had ruled on a family law issue involving the defendant.

The other seven refused to disqualify themselves and Judge Rosenberg ruled that he had no power to remove those judges and he refused to disqualify himself.

He is quoted in the Sacramento Bee saying:

“It would be easy to disqualify myself with the stroke of a pen… There being no good reasons to disqualify, I decline to disqualify myself from hearing this case.”

Judge Rosenberg then apparently read aloud his entire nine page ruling into court where he criticized bailiffs and sheriff’s deputies for their decision to prevent access to the June 18 arraignment.

The Sacramento Bee continues:

The judge said he had not known the outer doors of the court building were locked until after the hearing was over.

Deputies had made a “unilateral decision to prevent access” to the public and the suspect’s family, while allowing fellow officers and the victim’s family to enter through side doors, he said.

He said a judge would have to be “downright stupid” to “sanction, condone, or collude with other judges to actually bar the press and the public from an arraignment courtroom.”

A former Yolo County supervisor and state political figure, Rosenberg said he had been accused of many things during his public career. But, “I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of being stupid,” he said.

Sacramento News 10 quotes Judge Rosenberg:

“The public and the press should never be barred from a criminal hearing or trial because of a locked door,” said Rosenberg.

Responding to defense allegations that Rosenberg and other judges delayed their June 18 caseloads to allow their bailiff to attend Topete’s arraignment, Rosenberg said, “… there is not a scintilla of evidence presented that I knew other departments were doing so, nor that I and any other judge ‘colluded’ to close our departments…”

Dean Johansson the public defender then apparently objected to the entire filing being read into the record.

“That was a political speech.”

To which the Judge responded:

“One could say it’s a political (defense) motion. The motion has attacked the integrity of the entire bench.”

Commentary

Basically what has happened to this point is that three Judges have disqualified themselves who have direct past dealings with either victim or the defendant. The grounds for getting the other seven disqualified seem rather steep at this point, although having Justice George intervene to name a judge to rule on the remainder of the motion is rather unusual.

I remain at a loss here as to the defense strategy. I do not understand why they want to remove the judges but keep the case in Yolo County where they would still have to deal with the sheriff’s department.

That said, I think bringing in outside help is a good idea at this point. At the very least, fresh and hopefully unbiased eyes can take a look at the motion and make the key determination–can this guy get a fair trial. Personally I do not think he can get a fair trial at this point in Yolo County.

One can probably find a jury that has not heard about this case–although I always have to wonder about such juries that do not follow the news at all. But I have to question whether the Sheriff’s Department can do their job in a professional way after what we have seen to date.

One can probably criticize Judge Rosenberg for reading his nine page ruling. But I also commend him for asking for outside help here.

At this point it appears that the charges have not been read to the accused. This is an integral part of the criminal justice system where the accused has the right to get the charges read against him in a public hearing that ensures that the state is not merely charging him in an ad hoc or secretive fashion. It is what separates our legal system from those in tyrannical countries.

This episode has become a tremendous sideshow. And it does a disservice to the memory of the fallen Sheriff’s deputy and his family. As such, we would like to see a quick resolution of these side issues so that the main trial can move forward and the defendant can hear the charges read against him.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Categories:

Court Watch

84 comments

  1. You quote Bee as saying Judge Rosenberg said “Sheriff’s made unilateral decision to bar….”.
    I thought at least at first that everyone maintained it was an oversight, an error that the doors were not unlocked….?? change of tune?

  2. You quote Bee as saying Judge Rosenberg said “Sheriff’s made unilateral decision to bar….”.
    I thought at least at first that everyone maintained it was an oversight, an error that the doors were not unlocked….?? change of tune?

  3. You quote Bee as saying Judge Rosenberg said “Sheriff’s made unilateral decision to bar….”.
    I thought at least at first that everyone maintained it was an oversight, an error that the doors were not unlocked….?? change of tune?

  4. You quote Bee as saying Judge Rosenberg said “Sheriff’s made unilateral decision to bar….”.
    I thought at least at first that everyone maintained it was an oversight, an error that the doors were not unlocked….?? change of tune?

  5. It was inevitable that Dave Rosenberg would “politicize” this issue. Remember when he attempted to intervene in the selection of Davis’ Police Chief while sitting on the Yolo bench? Those who have followed Dave Rosenberg’s political career, from the Davis City Council to being a major fund-raiser for (and “midnight” judicial appointee of) former governor Gray Davis understand that he is just constitutionally(no pun intended) incapable of doing otherwise.

  6. It was inevitable that Dave Rosenberg would “politicize” this issue. Remember when he attempted to intervene in the selection of Davis’ Police Chief while sitting on the Yolo bench? Those who have followed Dave Rosenberg’s political career, from the Davis City Council to being a major fund-raiser for (and “midnight” judicial appointee of) former governor Gray Davis understand that he is just constitutionally(no pun intended) incapable of doing otherwise.

  7. It was inevitable that Dave Rosenberg would “politicize” this issue. Remember when he attempted to intervene in the selection of Davis’ Police Chief while sitting on the Yolo bench? Those who have followed Dave Rosenberg’s political career, from the Davis City Council to being a major fund-raiser for (and “midnight” judicial appointee of) former governor Gray Davis understand that he is just constitutionally(no pun intended) incapable of doing otherwise.

  8. It was inevitable that Dave Rosenberg would “politicize” this issue. Remember when he attempted to intervene in the selection of Davis’ Police Chief while sitting on the Yolo bench? Those who have followed Dave Rosenberg’s political career, from the Davis City Council to being a major fund-raiser for (and “midnight” judicial appointee of) former governor Gray Davis understand that he is just constitutionally(no pun intended) incapable of doing otherwise.

  9. “He said a judge would have to be “downright stupid” to “sanction, condone, or collude with other judges to actually bar the press and the public from an arraignment courtroom.”

    Judge Rosenberg attemtps to set up a classic “straw-man” accusation in order to then knock it down. I do not believe that any other Judge(perhaps other than the Commissioner handling the arraignment)is being accused of being directly involved
    in barring the press or public. What they apparently did do was close their own courtrooms down without cause during this arraignment.

  10. “He said a judge would have to be “downright stupid” to “sanction, condone, or collude with other judges to actually bar the press and the public from an arraignment courtroom.”

    Judge Rosenberg attemtps to set up a classic “straw-man” accusation in order to then knock it down. I do not believe that any other Judge(perhaps other than the Commissioner handling the arraignment)is being accused of being directly involved
    in barring the press or public. What they apparently did do was close their own courtrooms down without cause during this arraignment.

  11. “He said a judge would have to be “downright stupid” to “sanction, condone, or collude with other judges to actually bar the press and the public from an arraignment courtroom.”

    Judge Rosenberg attemtps to set up a classic “straw-man” accusation in order to then knock it down. I do not believe that any other Judge(perhaps other than the Commissioner handling the arraignment)is being accused of being directly involved
    in barring the press or public. What they apparently did do was close their own courtrooms down without cause during this arraignment.

  12. “He said a judge would have to be “downright stupid” to “sanction, condone, or collude with other judges to actually bar the press and the public from an arraignment courtroom.”

    Judge Rosenberg attemtps to set up a classic “straw-man” accusation in order to then knock it down. I do not believe that any other Judge(perhaps other than the Commissioner handling the arraignment)is being accused of being directly involved
    in barring the press or public. What they apparently did do was close their own courtrooms down without cause during this arraignment.

  13. Don’t be fooled into thinking Rosenberg necessarly requested the state to intervene. I suspect the state became interested when most likely the defense alerted higher authorities. If I am not mistaken, the state was already looking at this case before the Chief Justice decided to step in. It is not necessarily the case that Rosenberg asked the Chief Justice to intervene, but that the Chief Justice upon defense request has intervened because of the serious nature of the irregularities. It does not surprise me that Rosenberg might make it look as if he had personally requested the intervention of the Chief Justice, or did actually ask the Chief Justice if they are on friendly terms and Rosenberg wanted to avoid further state scrutiny.

    However, let me give fair warning – the legal profession is known for protecting its own, just like law enforcement. Don’t necessarily expect justice to be done by the Chief Justice of the state (pardon the pun). If there is any way the Chief Justice can weasel his way out of making the hard choices, he will do it rather than impugn a presiding county judge.

    That said, it is clear a huge constitutional mistake was made, that will cloud this case indefinitely. I find it curious the county court/DA is completely unwilling to let go of it for the greater good of everyone (including themselves and the victim’s family). Complete arrogance comes to mind. To take the chance this conviction could be overturned on appeal is not worth the risk involved. Why not change venue sooner than later?

    Judge Rosenberg protests too much methinks, as Shakespeare would say. If he doesn’t want to be labled stupid, then for heaven’s sake get rid of a hot potato with all due dispatch. It is for the good of the Yolo County Court, the victim’s family and the community at large.

  14. Don’t be fooled into thinking Rosenberg necessarly requested the state to intervene. I suspect the state became interested when most likely the defense alerted higher authorities. If I am not mistaken, the state was already looking at this case before the Chief Justice decided to step in. It is not necessarily the case that Rosenberg asked the Chief Justice to intervene, but that the Chief Justice upon defense request has intervened because of the serious nature of the irregularities. It does not surprise me that Rosenberg might make it look as if he had personally requested the intervention of the Chief Justice, or did actually ask the Chief Justice if they are on friendly terms and Rosenberg wanted to avoid further state scrutiny.

    However, let me give fair warning – the legal profession is known for protecting its own, just like law enforcement. Don’t necessarily expect justice to be done by the Chief Justice of the state (pardon the pun). If there is any way the Chief Justice can weasel his way out of making the hard choices, he will do it rather than impugn a presiding county judge.

    That said, it is clear a huge constitutional mistake was made, that will cloud this case indefinitely. I find it curious the county court/DA is completely unwilling to let go of it for the greater good of everyone (including themselves and the victim’s family). Complete arrogance comes to mind. To take the chance this conviction could be overturned on appeal is not worth the risk involved. Why not change venue sooner than later?

    Judge Rosenberg protests too much methinks, as Shakespeare would say. If he doesn’t want to be labled stupid, then for heaven’s sake get rid of a hot potato with all due dispatch. It is for the good of the Yolo County Court, the victim’s family and the community at large.

  15. Don’t be fooled into thinking Rosenberg necessarly requested the state to intervene. I suspect the state became interested when most likely the defense alerted higher authorities. If I am not mistaken, the state was already looking at this case before the Chief Justice decided to step in. It is not necessarily the case that Rosenberg asked the Chief Justice to intervene, but that the Chief Justice upon defense request has intervened because of the serious nature of the irregularities. It does not surprise me that Rosenberg might make it look as if he had personally requested the intervention of the Chief Justice, or did actually ask the Chief Justice if they are on friendly terms and Rosenberg wanted to avoid further state scrutiny.

    However, let me give fair warning – the legal profession is known for protecting its own, just like law enforcement. Don’t necessarily expect justice to be done by the Chief Justice of the state (pardon the pun). If there is any way the Chief Justice can weasel his way out of making the hard choices, he will do it rather than impugn a presiding county judge.

    That said, it is clear a huge constitutional mistake was made, that will cloud this case indefinitely. I find it curious the county court/DA is completely unwilling to let go of it for the greater good of everyone (including themselves and the victim’s family). Complete arrogance comes to mind. To take the chance this conviction could be overturned on appeal is not worth the risk involved. Why not change venue sooner than later?

    Judge Rosenberg protests too much methinks, as Shakespeare would say. If he doesn’t want to be labled stupid, then for heaven’s sake get rid of a hot potato with all due dispatch. It is for the good of the Yolo County Court, the victim’s family and the community at large.

  16. Don’t be fooled into thinking Rosenberg necessarly requested the state to intervene. I suspect the state became interested when most likely the defense alerted higher authorities. If I am not mistaken, the state was already looking at this case before the Chief Justice decided to step in. It is not necessarily the case that Rosenberg asked the Chief Justice to intervene, but that the Chief Justice upon defense request has intervened because of the serious nature of the irregularities. It does not surprise me that Rosenberg might make it look as if he had personally requested the intervention of the Chief Justice, or did actually ask the Chief Justice if they are on friendly terms and Rosenberg wanted to avoid further state scrutiny.

    However, let me give fair warning – the legal profession is known for protecting its own, just like law enforcement. Don’t necessarily expect justice to be done by the Chief Justice of the state (pardon the pun). If there is any way the Chief Justice can weasel his way out of making the hard choices, he will do it rather than impugn a presiding county judge.

    That said, it is clear a huge constitutional mistake was made, that will cloud this case indefinitely. I find it curious the county court/DA is completely unwilling to let go of it for the greater good of everyone (including themselves and the victim’s family). Complete arrogance comes to mind. To take the chance this conviction could be overturned on appeal is not worth the risk involved. Why not change venue sooner than later?

    Judge Rosenberg protests too much methinks, as Shakespeare would say. If he doesn’t want to be labled stupid, then for heaven’s sake get rid of a hot potato with all due dispatch. It is for the good of the Yolo County Court, the victim’s family and the community at large.

  17. “But, “I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of being stupid,” he said.”

    THIS is classic Rosenberg. It’s all about ME-ME-ME. Someone should take him aside and remind him that he’s now a Judge, not a wheeler-dealer politician with an overinflated ego.

  18. “But, “I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of being stupid,” he said.”

    THIS is classic Rosenberg. It’s all about ME-ME-ME. Someone should take him aside and remind him that he’s now a Judge, not a wheeler-dealer politician with an overinflated ego.

  19. “But, “I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of being stupid,” he said.”

    THIS is classic Rosenberg. It’s all about ME-ME-ME. Someone should take him aside and remind him that he’s now a Judge, not a wheeler-dealer politician with an overinflated ego.

  20. “But, “I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of being stupid,” he said.”

    THIS is classic Rosenberg. It’s all about ME-ME-ME. Someone should take him aside and remind him that he’s now a Judge, not a wheeler-dealer politician with an overinflated ego.

  21. I don’t believe for an instant that the Judges colluded to fill Dept 9 during the arraignment. What would be the motive for them to do so?

    I don’t believe that this guy has any chance of getting a judge that is any better than the Yolo County Judges. It may look better to have someone from another county come in, but I don’t think that it will change the outcome one way or another.

    I think that some of you are forgetting who the bad guy is with this case. Topete deserves a fair trial, but that is all.

  22. I don’t believe for an instant that the Judges colluded to fill Dept 9 during the arraignment. What would be the motive for them to do so?

    I don’t believe that this guy has any chance of getting a judge that is any better than the Yolo County Judges. It may look better to have someone from another county come in, but I don’t think that it will change the outcome one way or another.

    I think that some of you are forgetting who the bad guy is with this case. Topete deserves a fair trial, but that is all.

  23. I don’t believe for an instant that the Judges colluded to fill Dept 9 during the arraignment. What would be the motive for them to do so?

    I don’t believe that this guy has any chance of getting a judge that is any better than the Yolo County Judges. It may look better to have someone from another county come in, but I don’t think that it will change the outcome one way or another.

    I think that some of you are forgetting who the bad guy is with this case. Topete deserves a fair trial, but that is all.

  24. I don’t believe for an instant that the Judges colluded to fill Dept 9 during the arraignment. What would be the motive for them to do so?

    I don’t believe that this guy has any chance of getting a judge that is any better than the Yolo County Judges. It may look better to have someone from another county come in, but I don’t think that it will change the outcome one way or another.

    I think that some of you are forgetting who the bad guy is with this case. Topete deserves a fair trial, but that is all.

  25. None of us have forgotten that anonymous, in every single one of my articles I have mentioned that this is a distraction from the central issue. Unfortunately they are making it that way. I tend to agree that there was not collusion there, will changing to an out of county Judge make a difference? Probably not. I would be asking for a change of venue.

  26. None of us have forgotten that anonymous, in every single one of my articles I have mentioned that this is a distraction from the central issue. Unfortunately they are making it that way. I tend to agree that there was not collusion there, will changing to an out of county Judge make a difference? Probably not. I would be asking for a change of venue.

  27. None of us have forgotten that anonymous, in every single one of my articles I have mentioned that this is a distraction from the central issue. Unfortunately they are making it that way. I tend to agree that there was not collusion there, will changing to an out of county Judge make a difference? Probably not. I would be asking for a change of venue.

  28. None of us have forgotten that anonymous, in every single one of my articles I have mentioned that this is a distraction from the central issue. Unfortunately they are making it that way. I tend to agree that there was not collusion there, will changing to an out of county Judge make a difference? Probably not. I would be asking for a change of venue.

  29. anonymous 7:35,

    We are not forgetting the seriousness of the case. A man killed another man who has a family. He had a child in the back of his car while speeding to avoid law enforcement.

    Nevertheless, Topete deserves a fair trial. It WILL NOT HAPPEN IN YOLO COUNTY. This case needs to be moved out of Yolo. It is the right thing to do. If this is not done Yolo County will continue to be the laughing stock of the courts in California.

    As for Judge Dave Rosenberg he was definitely grandstanding and giving a political speech. I was glad to see that Dean Johansson called it for what it was. Dean is a smart man with integrity and Yolo is lucky to have him.

    Another person already quoted Shakespeare, but remember for Rosenberg, “All the world’s a stage.”

  30. anonymous 7:35,

    We are not forgetting the seriousness of the case. A man killed another man who has a family. He had a child in the back of his car while speeding to avoid law enforcement.

    Nevertheless, Topete deserves a fair trial. It WILL NOT HAPPEN IN YOLO COUNTY. This case needs to be moved out of Yolo. It is the right thing to do. If this is not done Yolo County will continue to be the laughing stock of the courts in California.

    As for Judge Dave Rosenberg he was definitely grandstanding and giving a political speech. I was glad to see that Dean Johansson called it for what it was. Dean is a smart man with integrity and Yolo is lucky to have him.

    Another person already quoted Shakespeare, but remember for Rosenberg, “All the world’s a stage.”

  31. anonymous 7:35,

    We are not forgetting the seriousness of the case. A man killed another man who has a family. He had a child in the back of his car while speeding to avoid law enforcement.

    Nevertheless, Topete deserves a fair trial. It WILL NOT HAPPEN IN YOLO COUNTY. This case needs to be moved out of Yolo. It is the right thing to do. If this is not done Yolo County will continue to be the laughing stock of the courts in California.

    As for Judge Dave Rosenberg he was definitely grandstanding and giving a political speech. I was glad to see that Dean Johansson called it for what it was. Dean is a smart man with integrity and Yolo is lucky to have him.

    Another person already quoted Shakespeare, but remember for Rosenberg, “All the world’s a stage.”