Friday, August 29, 2014

Bob Dunning: Courtroom doors should remain open


From page A2 | January 14, 2014 |

A BALANCING OF RIGHTS … as the double murder trial of 16-year-old Daniel Marsh draws ever closer, we are once again faced with a request from the defense to exclude the public and the press from certain pretrial proceedings … according to Lauren Keene’s recent Enterprise piece, “During a hearing in Yolo Superior Court, Marsh defense attorney Ron Johnson said he plans to file a motion to exclude statements Marsh made to law enforcement on June 17, the day of his arrest. During a Sept. 13 preliminary hearing, a Davis police detective testified that Marsh had confessed to the killings.” …

Keene further notes that “Johnson also wants to close the hearing on that motion to the public — including the media — an issue that will be ruled upon on Feb. 6.” … the ultimate goal of any trial, of course, is to find the guilty “guilty” and the innocent “not guilty” … along the path to the verdict, we must safeguard the defendant’s right to a fair trial while also ensuring that the public is fully informed about what the court is doing in the name of the people … unfortunately, a fair trial — with all that that term entails — does not necessarily mean a fair verdict will be rendered … even in the best of circumstances, the innocent are sometimes convicted and the guilty sometimes walk free …

Johnson, a deputy public defender for Yolo County, may well have a compelling reason why Marsh’s confession should be excluded, but it serves no legitimate purpose to ban the public and the press from learning exactly what that reason is … there is intense local interest in this case and great concern that justice be served … at every step in this process, the doors to the courtroom should remain open, not closed …

GUILT AND INNOCENCE … while we all adhere to the general notion that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, we’re also all human, and as such, most of us have strong opinions about this case … many people that I’ve talked to seem convinced of Daniel Marsh’s guilt, which is their right in a free and open society … jurors are required to adhere to the “innocent until proven guilty” mantra to the bitter end, but the rest of us are free to think whatever we want about this case or any other case …

Be that as it may, most of those same people I’ve talked to seem perfectly open to the possibility that Daniel Marsh is innocent, if that’s where the evidence leads … having an opinion, even a strongly held one, doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind if contrary information is presented …

SPEAKING OF JUSTICE … tickets are still available for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Dinner on Monday evening at the St. James Community Center … the dinner, presented through the efforts of the Rev. Tim Malone, will honor scholarship recipients Amani Lee of Davis High School and Robia Amjad of Pioneer in Woodland … also to be honored with the Nelson Mandela World Peace Award is Mary Anne Kirsch of Davis … the featured speaker will be actor Felix Justice … musical interludes will be provided by the talented and entertaining Capay Valley musician Clarence Van Hook … tickets are available by calling 530-753-6148 …

FILL THAT BAG … as part of a popular and repeating promotion, Office Max occasionally sends out a large brown paper bag with the Sunday paper, offering 20 percent off many items in the store … the promotion used to say everything that would fit in the bag, though that “rule” was never enforced … the Office Max bag is so sturdy that I’m sure you could reuse it a dozen times, but it occurred to me that in the future, Office Max is going to have to charge me a dime if I use the bag …

Yep, under our soon-to-be-enforced bag ordinance, Davis stores aren’t allowed to offer free bags even as a promotion … I’m confident the good folks at Office Max will come up with an even more clever promotion that allows me to keep that dime in my pocket …

— Reach Bob Dunning at



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