10.05.2007

ER - Rollin retrial confirmation delayed

Rollin retrial confirmation delayed
by Heather Muller , 10/4/2007

Two evidentiary motions filed by attorneys unrelated to the prosecution or defense in the retrial of Joseph Pierre Rollin upended court proceedings Wednesday and delayed a trial confirmation hearing.

Rollin, a former registered caregiver, is charged with dependent abuse resulting in the 2002 death of Joi Henderson Wright, 42, who suffered from advanced multiple sclerosis and weighed only 60 pounds when she died of pneumonia in March of that year.

The motions to quash were filed by the Humboldt County Counsel’s Office in response to subpoenas filed by the defense.

At issue were documents pertaining to services provided to Wright by Adult Protective Services, a division of the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services, as well as records of testimony presented before the 2002-03 and 2003-04 grand juries, which investigated the Wright case.

Deputy County Counsel Rosanne Zuber argued in the first motion that most of the APS documents requested were confidential.

Defense attorney Barry Morris, from Hayward, disagreed, telling Judge Harold Neville that the documents were subject to disclosure, and any suggestion to the contrary was “simply a bogus argument.”

Morris said he was seeking two categories of documents from APS, the first having to do with general policies and procedures of the department, and the second showing the process that led to the decision to terminate services to Wright.

His statements suggested that he plans to put the DHHS on trial, saying in court Wednesday that the documents are needed to show “why the APS abandoned a woman … six months before her death.”

The second motion to quash was argued by Deputy County Counsel Wendy Chaitin, who said records of testimony requested from the 2002-03 grand jury were no longer in existence, and that release of records that do exist from the 2003-04 grand jury could be ordered only by the court’s presiding judge, John Feeney, who was unavailable Wednesday.

After hearing both sides, Neville agreed in part with Chaitin.

“I think the argument is before the wrong judge,” he said, a statement that sparked a series of courtroom changes, with six lawyers, a cart full of documents and numerous supporting staff parading from one courtroom to the next, until everyone ended up back where they started without the arguments having been heard by the right judge.

In the end, Zuber voluntarily released documents detailing general policies and procedures to Morris and his co-counsel, Matthew Fregi, from Martinez, and Neville continued the other matters, including trial confirmation, until Oct. 17.

District Attorney Paul Gallegos won a conviction against Rollin in 2004, but the verdict was thrown out on appeal after a higher court determined that Gallegos used statements during the trial that were made by the defendant before he had been read his Miranda rights.

Deputy District Attorney Ben McLaughlin will prosecute the case this time around, with jury selection expected to begin later this month.

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