Daniel William Marsh’s hearing on whether his murder sentence should stand for the 2013 slaughter of an elderly Davis couple began Monday over the objections of his attorneys.
The attorneys wanted a delay until after the New Year, when a just-signed California juvenile sentencing bill takes effect and bars 14- and 15-year-olds from being tried as adults for certain serious crimes.
But Yolo Superior Court Judge Samuel McAdam wasn’t having it.
“The law doesn’t go into effect until Jan. 1. It is Oct. 1,” he said. “There’s nothing prohibiting us from going forward with this hearing.”
For the next several hours, McAdam listened as prosecutors and Marsh’s probation officer described doctors’ findings of a teenager mature beyond his years, a diagnosed psychopath, a sophisticated, manipulative killer who was aware of what he was doing when, at the age of 15, he sneaked into the home of Oliver Northup and Claudia Maupin in April 2013.
“Daniel Marsh is not suitable for juvenile court. The findings are so grave, not only in the manner in which he sneaked into the home, but by the manner in which he killed,” Yolo County deputy district attorney Andrea Zambor said in her opening statement. “He eviscerated them. He was diagnosed a psychopath. Quite frankly, he can’t be rehabilitated.”
Marsh, now 21, was ordered by an appellate court earlier this year to return to Yolo Superior Court from state prison where he was serving a 52-years-to-life sentence in the slayings.
The court’s ruling followed a different juvenile justice measure: Proposition 57, the 2016 ballot measure requiring that judges, not prosecutors, determine whether minors charged with certain crimes are tried in juvenile or adult court.
Marsh was sentenced before Proposition 57 went into effect, but the appeals court concluded retroactively that the case go to a transfer hearing to decide where the case will be heard.
The scheduled five-day hearing that started Monday will determine whether Marsh’s prison term stands or whether he is to be retried in juvenile court, which would allow him to be released from custody at age 25. Appellate judges in their ruling said that outcome was a near-impossibility.
The court on Monday heard chilling details of the crime: Minutes after Marsh, then weeks shy of his 16th birthday, sliced open a screen and entered the Davis couple’s home, Northup, a longtime attorney and popular local musician, and Maupin, a Davis church official, were dead.
Marsh repeatedly stabbed the pair, then mutilated their bodies, leaving objects inside their wounds. He had fantasized about killing and was fascinated with serial killers and the gore-filled images he found online, jurors learned at his 2014 murder trial.
His crimes went unsolved for weeks as he planned other killings before two friends went to Davis police.
“It’s very sophisticated. He was aware of what he was doing. He appreciated the consequences and the risks,” Christina Tranfaglia, a Yolo County probation officer, said of Marsh’s macabre plan carried out in the bedroom of the couple’s south Davis condominium.
“Each time he was met with a barrier, he had a momentary time to say, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t.’ He had the opportunity to run, but at every opportunity, he continued forward.”
Marsh’s attorneys had sought to delay such testimony until January. With Gov. Brown’s signature Sunday turning SB 1391 into law, they argued that moving ahead before the new law takes effect would be an “extraordinary waste” of time and resources.
“From the Legislature to the governor, they have made it very clear that the current position is that children 14 and 15 should not be prosecuted as adults,” said Yolo County deputy public defender Andrea Pelochino. Later, she argued Marsh’s “ability to rehabilitate is profound.”
Pelochino said Marsh should be allowed to “try to put something positive out in this world.”
Mary Northup, Oliver Northup’s daughter, sat in a rear row of McAdam’s courtroom taking in the testimony. She and Sara Rice, Maupin’s granddaughter, who also attended the Monday hearing, spoke forcefully last month in Sacramento in opposition to SB 1391.
Outside court, Northup recalled her attorney father’s words and considered the young man convicted of killing him.
“My father believed in the law. He said though the system is imperfect, it offers the possibility of justice - but it doesn’t guarantee justice,” she said.
“I don’t believe (Marsh) is capable of change. We don’t have the technology to help him become somebody else and I don’t think he has the will.”