WOODLAND — The extensive number of stab wounds suffered by an elderly Davis couple is sufficient evidence for torture allegations against their accused killer to stand, a Yolo Superior Court judge ruled Friday.
Judge Paul K. Richardson’s ruling derailed an attempt by Daniel William Marsh’s defense attorneys to eliminate one of the three special-circumstance allegations their client faces, in addition to two counts of first-degree murder.
Marsh, 16, also is charged with committing multiple murders and of lying in wait in connection with the April 14 deaths of longtime attorney and musician Oliver “Chip” Northup, 87, and his wife Claudia Maupin, 76, in the couple’s Cowell Boulevard condominium.
Seated between his two court-appointed public defenders, the teen occasionally shivered in the chilled courtroom as one of the lawyers, Andrea Pelochino, argued the main points of a motion to dismiss the torture allegations.
She said that although testimony delivered at Marsh’s Sept. 13 preliminary hearing was “graphic and sensational,” detailing the more than 120 stab wounds the couple had sustained in addition to evisceration, “the people failed to produce evidence of the special circumstance of torture.”
And while prosecutors offered proof of an intent to kill, torture evidence must be “separate and distinct” from that of first-degree murder, Pelochino asserted. In their written motion, the defense also argued that many of the stab wounds could have been inflicted after death, and that torture cannot occur without a living victim.
All that’s irrelevant, countered Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Cabral, who said that Richardson must give deference to Judge Timothy Fall’s prior ruling on the torture allegations at the preliminary hearing and not re-weigh the evidence.
In his written response to the defense motion, Cabral also said it’s uncertain how long the victims endured the stabbings before dying of their wounds, the number and severity of which are enough to support the special circumstance as charged.
Richardson ultimately agreed, noting that the legal definition of torture encompasses the infliction of severe pain that causes the victim extreme physical or mental discomfort.
“The sheer volume of stab wounds was indicative of the intent to torture,” Richardson added. “Neither Mr. Northup nor Ms. Maupin died immediately” after the attack began, and the stabbing continued “even as (Maupin) pleaded for him to stop.”
Marsh is due back in court Dec. 6 for a status conference hearing. His trial is scheduled to begin March 3.
Charged as an adult, Marsh is ineligible for either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole because of his young age. If convicted, he faces 52 years to life in prison.
In addition to members of both the victims’ and the defendant’s families, Friday’s hearing also was attended by a Davis Police Department school resource officer, whose presence was intended “to provide overall support to our teen population,” department spokesman Lt. Glenn Glasgow said.
A number of teenagers, reportedly friends of Marsh and his older sister, have regularly attended Marsh’s court hearings, including the September preliminary hearing that involved explicit descriptions of the victims’ injuries.
Glasgow said the officer “would have been able to assist with any discomfort that our youth may have experienced from being at such a hearing as well as assist with any disruptions that might take place involving Davis teens.”
— Reach Lauren Keene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene