The attorney for a Davis double-murder suspect wants torture allegations against his client dismissed, arguing in court papers that prosecutors failed to prove the special circumstance charge at 16-year-old Daniel Marsh’s preliminary hearing last month.
Yolo County Deputy Public Defender Ron Johnson contends that evidence presented at the Sept. 13 hearing demonstrated only an alleged intent to kill, and that higher courts have ruled that torture cannot occur without a living victim.
Yolo Superior Court Judge Timothy Fall, who presided over the hearing, ruled there was sufficient evidence for Marsh to stand trial on two counts of first-degree murder with enhancements for use of a knife, plus the special circumstances of multiple murders, torture and lying in wait.
Marsh, a Davis High School student, is accused of fatally stabbing Oliver “Chip” Northup, 87, and Claudia Maupin, 76, each of whom suffered more than 60 knife wounds during the April 14 killings, Yolo County Chief Deputy Coroner Gina Moya said on the witness stand.
But Moya “never testified to the amount of time between the initial injuries and the ultimate death of either victim,” Johnson wrote in the 10-page motion filed Friday. He added that, while graphic, Moya’s testimony suggested that many of the couple’s injuries — including evisceration — were inflicted post-mortem and without prolonged suffering.
And while Marsh allegedly confessed to police that he felt “exhilarated” during the killings and inflicted the postmortem wounds because “it just felt right,” “neither of these reported statements can be attributed to a torturous intent,” Johnson wrote.
“The torture-murder special circumstance requires proof that a defendant intentionally performed acts that were calculated to cause extreme physical pain to the victim,” the motion says.
Johnson declined to comment further Monday.
Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Cabral, who is prosecuting the case, said he intends to file a response next week to Johnson’s motion, which he described as “pretty standard.” A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Nov. 1 before Judge Paul Richardson.
Marsh has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
Davis police Detective Ariel Pineda testified during the Sept. 13 hearing that Marsh said he gained access to the victims by cutting through a screen at the rear of their Cowell Boulevard condominium, then entering the residence through an open window and attacking the elderly couple as they slept.
A fourth circumstance initially charged in the case, heinous and depraved murder, was dismissed just prior to the preliminary hearing at the request of Cabral, who later said it had been deemed unconstitutional and had been charged in error.
The case is set to go to trial during the week of March 3.
— Reach Lauren Keene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene