Today was supposed to be the sentencing day for co-defendants Carlos Zapata, Christopher Meagher and Elizabeth Bailey after the jury in the triple-joinder trial delivered findings Thursday of five guilty verdicts out of six charges.
Instead, minutes into the hearing’s start, Zapata’s attorney Joseph Tully addressed presiding Shasta County Superior Court Judge Jody Burgess and said that the trio’s sentencing was scheduled too soon, and that he wanted the date pushed out further via a continuance.
Almost as an aside, Tully mentioned the possibility of a motion for a new trial.
Burgess asked Tully to explain the basis for his request. Tully responded that he’d had insufficient time to speak with members of the jury. Tully also said he’d like time to investigate whether a motion for a retrial was feasible.
Burgess said that although he knew the defendants’ attorneys were joining for this trial, he wanted to hear from them individually regarding Tully’s request for a continuance.
Bailey’s attorney Ryan Birss and Meagher’s attorney Timothy Prentiss both said they agreed with Tully. Birss cited a concern regarding a possible verdict inconsistency since the jury found Zapata not guilty on one charge, but guilty of the other. Birss said he wanted time to look into that, as well as to speak with jurors.
Deputy District Attorney Nolan Weber took exception to the defense attorneys’ requests, which he characterized as a bit like “bait and switch”. He wondered why defense hadn’t suggested a continuance the previous day, prior to the scheduling of the sentencing hearing.
There was some back and forth between the attorneys on Weber’s point, followed by Tully’s comment that he’d not agreed to holding the sentencing so soon.
Burgess acknowledged that he’d preferred to have heard these concerns earlier, but said, “Here we are.” He told the defense attorneys that he was not inclined to go out as far as 30 days, that 30 days was “pushing it”. Even so, Burgess said he could see why the attorneys would want to speak with the jurors to determine what could or could not have happened, and to see how they “got what they got” with regard to the verdict.
With that, Burgess granted a two-week continuance. He consulted with his court clerk and the group settled upon 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 28 as the new sentencing hearing date.
“Again, I want to state that this isn’t what I wanted to do right now,” Burgess said, but conceded that he understood the defense attorneys’ wishes (to speak with jurors), and said he wanted to give them the ability to proceed with that process.
However, Burgess also pointed out that the charges were misdemeanors, and that it’s not uncommon with misdemeanors to move directly into sentencing.
During the brief hearing, Zapata appeared fidgety, often drumming his fingers on the railing behind him. He turned his head frequently, looking at people on the left side of the gallery, which consisted of one member of the public, five members of the media, Nathan Pinkney and his attorney Lisa Jensen.
Zapata’s wife Rebecca Zapata sat directly behind her husband in the front row of the right side of the gallery, with a few other women.
Of particular note was the presence of four uniformed marshals who flanked the courtroom, a departure from the usual one marshal who’s been present throughout the trial.
Pinkney sat inside the courtroom holding a piece of folded paper that held his victim’s statement that he was to read before the court prior to Zapata, Meagher and Bailey’s sentencing.
Outside the courthouse, Tully, Meagher, Bailey and the Zapatas chatted; serious expressions all around.
Meanwhile, Pinkney must wait until Oct. 28 to read his statement, assuming the sentencing does occur that day, and that the hearing isn’t derailed by a motion for a new trial.