Courts

Saturday, May 14, 2016

County Settles Wrongful Death Suit

Posted By on Sat, May 14, 2016 at 11:18 AM

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The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors approved a settlement agreement this week that includes the payout of $250,000 stemming from a fatal car accident on Avenue of the Giants involving a county employee.

On Jan. 3, 2014 county employee Keith Shuetzle was driving a Humboldt County Roads division truck southbound on Avenue of the Giants approaching Elk Creek Road when, for unknown reasons, he made a left turn directly into the path of a Toyota Corolla driven by 26-year-old Jaime Wheeler. Wheeler and a passenger, Jimmy Lincks Jr., both of Miranda, were injured in the crash and transported to Redwood Memorial Hospital, where they were treated and released.

But Lincks was readmitted to the hospital two days later and died of what appeared to be injuries sustained in the crash.

Wheeler and Lincks’ son, Jimmy Lincks III, filed a lawsuit against the county in 2014, alleging that Shuetzle’s negligence caused the crash, injuries to Wheeler and the wrongful death of Lincks Jr. The county denied the allegations.

The settlement agreement reached this week (attached in the PDF below) will result in the dismissal of the suit without any admission of wrongdoing. 

Settlement Agreement
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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Bullock Sentenced to Life Without Parole for Priest's Slaying

Posted By on Wed, May 11, 2016 at 6:07 PM

Gary Lee Bullock (above left) stands next to his attorney, Kaleb Cockrum, during his arraignment in 2014. - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • Gary Lee Bullock (above left) stands next to his attorney, Kaleb Cockrum, during his arraignment in 2014.
Multiple media outlets are reporting that Gary Lee Bullock has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the Jan. 1, 2014 murder of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church pastor Eric Freed.

A jury convicted Bullock, 46, of Redway, last month of a host of charges, including first degree murder, torture, residential burglary, carjacking and attempted arson stemming from the slaying of Freed in the St. Bernard’s church rectory, a killing that rocked the local community and captured international headlines. In a surprise move to all — including his own attorney — Bullock withdrew his not guilty by reason of insanity plea shortly after the verdicts, apparently resigning himself to spending the rest of his life in a state prison.

See past Journal coverage of the Bullock trial here, and for more on insanity cases in general, see our March 31 cover story, “Sanity on Trial.” And, for more on today’s sentencing and Bullock’s trial, see Ryan Burns’ coverage in the Lost Coast Outpost here.
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Friday, April 29, 2016

Full Report: Judge Allows Bulk of PalCo Marsh Evictions to Proceed, Saying "I Have 11 Litigants"

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2016 at 6:39 PM

A current camp in the PalCo Marsh. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Linda Stansberry
  • A current camp in the PalCo Marsh.
OAKLAND — Eleven homeless people in Eureka cannot be evicted from a long-established homeless encampment on Monday unless the city complies with yet-to-be-determined conditions for their alternative shelter, a federal judge ruled from the bench this afternoon.


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Federal Judge Grants PalCo Marsh Restraining Order, But Only for 11 Plaintiffs

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2016 at 4:11 PM

A camp in the PalCo Marsh. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Linda Stansberry
  • A camp in the PalCo Marsh.

A federal judge has granted a temporary restraining order to prevent Eureka's pending eviction of people camping illegally in the Palco Marsh. Kind of.

Courthouse News Services' Katherine Proctor, who was in court covering this afternoon's hearing, said federal Judge Jeffrey S. White granted a request for the restraining order, but not for all of the more than 100 people currently living in the marsh. Instead, White granted the order only for the 11 plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed Monday challenging the city's May 2 eviction order. The rest, the city can still evict as planned Monday.

White ordered then ordered attorneys on both sides to draft a proposed order from the court by 5 p.m. tomorrow that will either allow the plaintiffs to remain in the marsh after the evictions or provide that the city will find a different shelter option for them that is agreeable to all parties.

Local attorney Peter Martin filed the lawsuit Monday, alleging the city was violating their constitutional rights by evicting them and criminalizing campaign within the city when there are insufficient shelter options to accommodate those being displaced. In a reply brief, City Attorney Cyndy Day-Wilson argued that there are sufficient shelter options for those who desire a legal alternative to camping in the marsh, and that delaying the scheduled eviction would jeopardize millions in grant funds, expose the city to liability and enable an ongoing environmental disaster in the marsh.

Read more about Martin's suit here and the city's reply here. And, check back here for Proctor's full report from this afternoon's court hearing.
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Thursday, April 28, 2016

'Minimum Standards': Federal Suit Seeking to Halt Marsh Evictions to be Heard Friday

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2016 at 8:55 AM

A camp on the waterfront. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Linda Stansberry
  • A camp on the waterfront.
On Monday afternoon, local attorney Peter Martin and Eureka City Attorney Cyndy Day-Wilson got together for lunch. The topic of the day was a lawsuit Martin was working on and looking to bring against the city stemming from its ordering about 150 homeless people in the Palco Marsh to vacate the area by May 2.

Day-Wilson had reached out to Martin in the hopes of dissuading him from filing the lawsuit and, according to Martin, during lunch she explained to him that the city simply didn’t have any money to help relocate the soon-to-be-displaced marsh residents. “I’m always a little bit suspicious of government officials who tell me they don’t have any money, because it seems they have money for the things they deem important,” Martin said.

By the end of the day, Martin had filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of 11 plaintiffs, alleging the city was violating their constitutional rights and the protections of the federal Uniform Relocation Assistance Act. On the surface, the main tenet of Martin’s argument is a pretty simple one: By pushing people out of the marsh and enforcing its anti-camping ordinance when there isn’t enough shelter space to accommodate them, the city is illegally criminalizing homelessness and violating people’s rights.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Bullock Pulls Insanity Plea, Faces Life in Prison for Priest's Murder

Posted By on Fri, Apr 15, 2016 at 12:54 PM

Gary Lee Bullock (above left) stands next to his attorney, Kaleb Cockrum, during his arraignment. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Gary Lee Bullock (above left) stands next to his attorney, Kaleb Cockrum, during his arraignment.
Multiple media outlets are reporting that, four days after being convicted of murdering and torturing St. Bernard’s Catholic Church pastor Eric Freed, Gary Lee Bullock has withdrawn his not guilty by reason of insanity plea, against the advice of his attorney.

According to reports, with the sanity phase of his trial slated to begin this morning, Bullock surprised the courtroom by announcing his intent to withdraw his plea. Humboldt County Superior Court Judge John Feeney then advised Bullock of the rights he’d be giving up, made sure he understood them, and then set the case for sentencing on May 11, when Bullock will face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Bullock Guilty on All Counts

Posted By on Mon, Apr 11, 2016 at 12:26 PM

Gary Lee Bullock stands next to his attorney, Kaleb Cockrum, at his arraignment in January of 2014. - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • Gary Lee Bullock stands next to his attorney, Kaleb Cockrum, at his arraignment in January of 2014.
Multiple media outlets are reporting that a jury today has found Gary Lee Bullock guilty on all counts for the 2014 murder and torture of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church pastor Eric Freed.

After four days of deliberations, the jury came to the unanimous conclusion that Bullock was guilty of first degree murder, torture, residential burglary, carjacking and attempted arson stemming from the Jan. 1, 2014 slaying of Freed in the St. Bernard’s church rectory. Because Bullock has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the case, the trial now moves to a second phase in which jurors will be asked to determine if Bullock was legally insane at the time of the killing.

According to reports, that phase will open Friday and will include testimony from three expert witnesses. If the jury finds more evidence than not supporting Bullock’s being sane at the time of the killing, he will face a sentence of life without the possibility of parole in state prison. But if the jury finds a preponderance of evidence supporting Bullock’s being insane at the time of the crimes, he will be committed indefinitely to a state mental hospital.

For more on the Bullock case, see past Journal coverage here, and for more on insanity cases in general, see our March 31 cover story, “Sanity on Trial.” And, for more on today’s verdict or Bullock’s trial, see Ryan Burns’ coverage in the Lost Coast Outpost here.
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Sunday, April 3, 2016

TL;DR: Five Things You Need to Know from This Week's Cover Story

Posted By on Sun, Apr 3, 2016 at 12:21 PM

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Busy week? We get it. Here are five things you need to know from this week’s cover story, “Sanity on Trial.” They might even entice you to read the whole thing.

The abrupt resignation of Yurok Tribal Chair James Dunlap last month amid revelations about a murder case in his past, coupled with the ongoing trial of Gary Bullock on charges that he murdered St. Bernard’s Catholic Church pastor Eric Freed, has thrust the insanity defense into the local spotlight. In this week’s cover story, we take a look at the not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) defense, what it means and what happens after someone has been acquitted and deemed to be legally insane.

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Saturday, April 2, 2016

New Trial Denied, Sentencing Scheduled for Littlefield

Posted By on Sat, Apr 2, 2016 at 9:42 AM

Timothy Littlefield
  • Timothy Littlefield
A Humboldt County Superior Court judge denied Timothy Floyd Littlefield’s motion for a new trial yesterday, leaving the McKinleyville man facing eight life sentences after his 2013 convictions on 11 child molestation charges.

In December, the California First District Court of Appeals found Humboldt County Superior Court Judge John Feeney abused his discretion in granting a mistrial in the case and sent it back to Feeney for further proceedings. Yesterday, Feeney heard arguments from Russ Clanton, Littlefield’s defense attorney, and prosecuting Deputy District Attorney Andrew Isaac before ruling that the guilty verdicts reached in September of 2013 — which jurors came to after just three hours of deliberation — stand, according to Isaac.

Isaac said Feeney then asked both sides if they were prepared to proceed to sentencing, but Clanton said he was not and indicated he intends to appeal Feeney’s ruling denying his motion for a new trial in the case. Feeney then set sentencing for April 6, though that could be postponed if Clanton follows through with his planned appeal.

Littlefield was arrested in February of 2009 on allegations of repeatedly molesting Jane Doe, his then 8-year-old stepdaughter. He was brought to trial in 2012 but that ended with the jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of convicting him on all counts. The second trial saw unanimous guilty verdicts on all counts, though the validity of those were brought into question by Clanton’s motion for a new trial, which argued that they should be thrown out because a juror mistakenly placed the burden of proof on the defense — not the prosecution.

For more information about the case, view past coverage here.
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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Whitethorn Woman Faces 10-Year Prison Term for Environmentally Destructive Grow

Posted By on Sat, Mar 26, 2016 at 2:50 PM

The scenic King Range National Conservation Area. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • The scenic King Range National Conservation Area.

A Whitethorn woman has pleaded guilty to charges of depredation against the property of the United States, admitting to doing more than $100,000 worth of environmental damage to federal lands as a part of her marijuana cultivation operation.

Melinda Van Horne entered the plea Wednesday, according to a press release, and is free on bond awaiting sentencing in July, when she faces a maximum term of 10 years in federal prison.

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