Serious Criminal Case Dismissed in Riverside County Due to Lack of Courtrooms
On March 7, 2006, Tony Wagner and his friend, Scott lamb, went into a residence occupied by Jerry Jackson in the city of Hemet, California, which is located in Riverside County. They were accompanied by Jackson’s ex-girlfriend, Celeste Trzepacz, who wanted to get her dog back form Jackson. After an exchange of words, Lamb and Jackson got into a fistfight. According to Trzepacz, prior to the fight, Lamb removed a handgun from his waistband and handed it to Wagner. Trzepacz went inside the residence and, while inside, she heard three gunshots. When she came back out of the house she saw that Jackson had been shot and was on the ground. He had gunshot wounds to both knees. Trzepack believed that Wagner was still holding the gun. Wagner was interviewed by the police and he initially denied being present. He eventually told police that he shot Jackson but claimed that Jackson was coming toward him.
On March 23, 2006, Wagner was charged by the Riverside County District Attorney’s office with one count of assault with a semiautomatic firearm along with additional allegations and enhancements alleging that he personally used the firearm and that he inflicted great bodily injury. Mr. Wagner’s case slowly crept through the criminal justice system in Riverside and it was finally set for trial the day before the Defendant’s constitutional speedy trial rights would have been violated. On that day the trial court Judge, Helios Hernandez, concluded that there were no available courtrooms in all of Riverside County to hear Mr. Wagner’s case and the case was dismissed the following day despite strenuous objections from the District Attorney’s office. The District Attorney’s office then appealed the decision to dismiss the case.
On appeal, the District Attorney’s office argued that the Trial Court erred by dismissing the case because it improperly failed to give priority to this case over other civil cases in its effort to locate a courtroom. The DA also argued that the court erred by failing to conclude that court congestion and mismanagement constituted good cause to continue the case.
As to the alleged failure to give this case priority over other civil cases, the court held that the trial Judge did not abuse his discretion by finding there were no available courtrooms because some of those civil courts, such as the family and guardianship courts, are involved in protecting children. The court further reasoned that if criminal cases were always given priority over civil cases in Riverside County then no other cases but criminal cases would ever be heard. As to the court mismanagement and congestion claim by the DA’s office, the court found that lack of resources, not mismanagement or congestion caused the delay. Therefore, because a continuance of the matter would have violated the defendant’s right to a speedy trial, the case was properly dismissed.
To add insult to injury, the court found that the DA’s choice to appeal the trial court’s ruling precluded them from re-filing the case. The end result: a man who shot another man in both knees, whether or not in self-defense, was looking at a lengthy prison sentence and he will not ever have to go to trial and/or answer for his alleged crime. This case highlights the necessity of hiring an experienced law firm like Wallin & Klarich. Wallin & Klarich attorneys are familiar with the particular southern California court your case is pending in and are zealous advocates for your rights.
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, please contact the experienced Riverside defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich. Wallin & Klarich has over 30 years of experience handling criminal defense. Let Wallin & Klarich advise you and ensure your rights and freedom are protected under the law. Contact Wallin & Klarich for a consultation at 1-888-280-6839. Also, visit us online at www.wklaw.com to learn more about your case and what can be done.