Friday, 21 June 2024

Mann based Hughes decision on key factors

LAKE COUNTY – Lake County Superior Court Judge Arthur Mann used five California Supreme Court factors in arriving at his decision to deny a change of venue motion for the trial of Renato Hughes Jr.


The factors and summaries on how Mann ruled on them were as follows:


– Nature and gravity of the offense: Mann said the case was a multiple homicide and it did have racial overtones and the homeowner used deadly force to protect his home. Mann said that this was not unique to Lake County and that anywhere this case was tried the same issues would be present. Therefore, Mann concluded that particular factor was neutral.


– Extent of publicity: Mann said that overall this leaned in favor of granting the motion to change the venue. Mann noted that there was extensive coverage, citing the 72 articles presented by the defense, although in many cases there was duplication.


At any rate, Mann concluded that only half of the population of Lake County read the newspaper (according to data presented by the defense) and only half of this group knew of the case.


Turning to the quality of the coverage, Mann referred to expert witness Craig Haney's citing of the repeated absence of the term "alleged" and concluded that this was not much of a factor. Mann also concluded that the term "home invasion," to which the defense took exception, was really not significant.

     

Mann also found that the publicity was largely factual and included facts that are going to be admissible to the jury.


– Size of community: Mann noted that Lake County has a population of roughly 65,000, only 2.3 percent of which is black. But Mann noted that in its use of these demographics Haney did not take into account the diversity of Lake County and the residents here who previously lived elsewhere, especially in the San Francisco Bay area, which Mann said neutralized this data.


– Status of the defendant: Mann also saw this as a neutral factor. Hughes is an outsider from San Francisco, but a survey commissioned by Haney did not deal with the question of whether the people of Lake County have any animus toward people from San Francisco.


Mann also recalled the testimony of expert Byran A. Stevenson that the image of a burglar in Lake County is a young male of color. Mann said in his experience that is not the image that people of Lake County embrace. Their image of a burglar in Lake County, Mann observed, is a young white male who is a methamphetamine user.


Referring again to comments made by Stevenson regarding racial bias, Mann granted that it exists here as it does everywhere and has to be dealt with as an issue. But it can be dealt with in court here, Mann concluded.


– Status of the victim: Mann also found this factor to be a neutral one, because the victim, Shannon Edmonds, had no particular status in the community and reports of Edmonds' use of marijuana, even allegations that he is a drug pusher, are not the type of information that would contribute to unfairness in the trial of the defendant.


Mann said if dealing with these issues end up showing that the defendant cannot get a fair trial in Lake County, the motion for change of venue will be revisited.


E-mail John Lindblom at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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