A hearing Monday may determine the future of a Sacramento inmate attacked last month by another inmate while awaiting sentencing.
Sacramento County prosecutors are willing to release Clifton Donald Harris to his family, pending his sentencing in a 2015 assault, since he is “medically incapacitated,” they said in a request. Harris, a career criminal, faces up to 96 years to life in prison when sentenced.
Public Defender’s officials said they are wary of attempts to have Harris, 60, released without a clear plan for his care. Harris was diagnosed last year with small cell lung cancer while in Sacramento County custody and was receiving treatment, according to court transcripts.
“We’re exploring what we can do for him. We have an obligation to a client who is gravely disabled,” said Sacramento County Supervising Assistant Public Defender Steven Garrett. The office was unaware until Wednesday of Harris’ attack. “If (Harris) is released, he’s released to what?” Garrett asked. “What are his options? What does his family want? We just want to do the right thing and, right now, we don’t know what that is.”
Sheriff’s officials on Friday said Harris was assaulted June 16 at the main jail and was transported to a hospital, identified as UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento by the Public Defender’s office. Sheriff’s Sgt. Nick Goncalves, a department spokesman, did not provide details of the incident, citing a District Attorney’s Office investigation. Goncalves also did not elaborate on the extent of Harris’ injuries, citing patient privacy statutes.
It is unclear whether Harris’ medical care would be paid by the county if released. A Sacramento Superior Court judge is to hear arguments Monday at 1:35 p.m.
While in Sacramento County custody last year, Harris was diagnosed with – and was being treated for –small cell lung cancer, according to court transcripts.
Harris faces a possible life sentence in the December 2015 assault on a man at his Sacramento home, during which he stabbed the victim with a screwdriver before ordering his dog to attack him, according to information in a probation report. Harris was convicted of the crimes in July 2016, court records show.
Harris has more than 14 felony and misdemeanor cases on file in the Sacramento and Solano county courts dating to 1979, including drug possession, assault and robbery convictions.
In the handwritten request filed July 3, prosecuting Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Daniel Jensen stated he was “willing to have him released on his own recognizance, and to the custody of his family, pending judgment and sentencing,” presumably due to the seriousness of Harris’ injuries. The request also sought to reschedule Harris’ July 28 status conference.
Harris’ sentencing had been set for September 2016, but was pushed to October, then again to December after Harris’ court-appointed attorneys filed a rare motion calling for Sacramento Superior Court Judge Donald Currier’s removal from Harris’ case.
The defense motion, filed in Sacramento Superior Court, accused Currier of violating judicial ethics and Harris’ due process rights by launching his own investigation into whether Harris had properly earned good conduct credits in custody. The filing alleged that Currier enlisted court bailiffs to seek out and print Sheriff’s Department records on Harris’ behavior in jail.
Currier originally agreed to step aside, then changed his mind and fought the recusal, court records show. A Sacramento judge later reassigned Harris’ case to Sacramento Superior Court Judge Delbert Oros.