Wednesday, April 16, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Topete case heading to trial

By
March 1, 2011 | Leave Comment

Marco Topete faces the death penalty for fatally shooting a Yolo County sheriff's deputy in June 2008. Enterprise file photo

WOODLAND — Hours before he allegedly shot and killed a Yolo County sheriff’s deputy, Marco Topete was involved in another shooting in Woodland, but fled the scene before authorities arrived, Yolo County prosecutors say.

Topete may have believed Deputy Jose “Tony” Diaz knew about the earlier shooting and was intent on arresting him. Prosecutors say Topete also likely knew he was a “three-strikes” candidate facing life in prison if convicted of another serious felony.

“He has nothing to lose in taking the life of this deputy,” Supervising Deputy District Attorney Garrett Hamilton said this week in Yolo Superior Court, where attorneys in Topete’s death-penalty trial argued a series of pre-trial motions.

The discussions offered a glimpse of the evidence lawyers plan to present in the case, information that has not been widely disseminated due to a gag order and the lack of a preliminary hearing in the case.

Instead, prosecutors took the case to the grand jury for an indictment, a hearing that was held behind closed doors and the transcript sealed.

Now, the case is gearing up for trial, with 850 potential jurors being summoned to court in the next couple of weeks. That group will be whittled down to about 85 deemed qualified to hear a death-penalty case.

From those, attorneys will choose 12 jurors and six alternates. The full jury-selection process is expected to take about five weeks.

Attorneys also debated this week the scope of gang-related testimony that will be offered in the case. Prosecutors say they plan to argue that, in addition to his three-strikes status, Topete was a longtime Norteño gang member for whom killing a law-enforcement officer would earn him respect in prison.

“This is, for lack of a better term, a fisherman catching a whale,” Hamilton said.

One count in Topete’s indictment charging him with criminal street gang activity had been dismissed in December but was later reinstated. He also faces a special-circumstance allegation of murder by an active gang participant.

The pre-trial motion process has been largely unsuccessful for Topete’s court-appointed defense attorneys, Hayes Gable III and Tom Purtell, who saw many of their requests denied by Judge Paul Richardson.

They included an attempt by Gable and Purtell to preclude the death penalty as a possible punishment for Topete. They argued that the state’s excessive delay in imposing capital punishment constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

According to Purtell, only 13 of the state’s 700-plus death-row inmates have been executed in the past 30 years. At that rate, it would be 1,400 years before Topete is put to death, he said.

“Our point is that it’s a useless process. It’s a cruel hoax on everybody,” Purtell said.

Richardson disagreed. Later, he chastised the veteran defense attorneys for the lack of discovery materials they have handed over to the prosecution.

Hamilton said all he’s received from the defense are “a bunch of brain scans,” along with a doctor’s opinion that the images — presumably of Topete — are “consistent with the toxic effects of solvents on the brain.”

Richardson said Monday he was “troubled” by the lack of information being produced, including a list of witnesses who are expected to testify on Topete’s behalf.

“That’s inappropriate, and it flies in the face of what’s expected of defense counsel,” said Richardson, who issued a formal court order for the defense attorneys to hand over material by Friday.

Gable, meanwhile, responded that he and Purtell are well aware of the rules of discovery. He said the problem lies with the defense experts, who have yet to provide any written reports they can share with the prosecution.

“We can’t give what we don’t have,” Purtell added.

Topete, 38, read a book during most of Monday’s proceedings, during which he sat in courtroom’s jury box.

But he seemed to play closer attention to discussions of the restraints that court security personnel want him to wear during the trial — leather cuffs around his ankles and wrists that would keep one arm attached to his waist.

Sheriff’s Lt. Carter Vaughn testified that the restraints are necessary due to Topete’s alleged history of “behavioral issues” at the Sacramento County Jail, where he’s been housed while awaiting trial.

Vaughn said Topete has been found with makeshift weapons inside his jail cell and therefore poses a threat to courtroom safety.

But under cross-examination by Purtell, Vaughn admitted that Topete has not been violent or tried to escape during any of his 35 trips to and from the Woodland courthouse since his arrest.

Purtell also argued that the cuffs, if seen by the jury, could be prejudicial against his client.

“There’s a need for dignity and self-respect — innocent until proven guilty, your honor,” Purtell said.

Richardson was expected to rule on the restraint request later this week.

By the time attorneys present their opening statements to the jury, it will have been nearly three years since the 37-year-old Diaz was fatally shot on a rural Dunnigan roadway on June 15, 2008.

The process leading up to trial has been anything but typical.

First, there was the much-publicized public lockout from Topete’s arraignment hearing, followed by an attempt by the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office to get all of Yolo County’s judges disqualified from hearing the case.

That bid was withdrawn when Gable and Purtell took over the defense, though the case went through two judges before landing in Richardson’s courtroom in 2009. Topete later tried a second time to have Richardson disqualified, but an outside judge turned him down.

The case appeared to be back on track until last August, when Topete — frustrated by Richardson’s refusals to delay the trial from October until March — filed a motion to act as his own attorney.

But Topete reversed course in December after discovering that investigators and experts were reluctant to work on his case.

— Reach Lauren Keene at lkeene@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8048. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
    ‘Eco-Heroes’ help get us from here to there

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

     
     
    Home building up in March after frigid winter

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Davis elder-abuse case wraps up

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Alleged serial killings highlight GPS limits

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    CHP seeks owner of lost cash

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Family fiction in miniature showcased at bookstore event

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Local professor subdues unruly man on flight

    By Adrian Glass-Moore | From Page: A3

    Rotarians, students, teachers, parents collaborate on planter boxes

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Yolo Crisis Nursery is in crisis; please help

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Meditation, Buddhism classes offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Seniors can get tips for getting around town

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    School has garden plots for rent

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Sugar overload, on ‘Davisville’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Check out the night sky

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Hop to it: Easter Bunny meets Davis history tour

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Garden doctor: Veggie gardening available year-round

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Animal expert explains dogs’ thinking

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Central Park Gardens to host Volunteer Orientation Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7 | Gallery

     
    Are we there yet?: Self-reflections of a would-be stage mom

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A8Comments are off for this post

     
    .

    Forum

    Still supporting this guy

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

     
    Urban forest under siege

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

    Drought care for our trees

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    .

    Sports

    UCD staff allows 19 hits in Causeway rout

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    DHS softball struggles in nonleague outing

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devils open Boras Classic by splitting games

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
     
    JV/frosh roundup: DHS sweeps a trio of baseball games

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Baseball roundup: River Cats get by Grizzlies at Raley

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

     
    Giants beat L.A. in 12

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

    Sports briefs: Stanford sends Aggies home with a lacrosse loss

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

     
    .

    Arts

    Red Union Blue inks record deal

    By Landon Christensen | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Craft Center exhibit explores ‘Possibilities’

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

    RootStock to host wine themed plein aire exhibit

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    The California Honeydrops to bring danceable groove to The Palms

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    See Flower Power exhibit at Gallery 625

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6