Crime - Sacto 911

Yolo judge rejects defense bid to remove DA from Baby Justice case

Samantha Green appears in Yolo Superior Court during a preliminary hearing in the death of her infant son on Monday, November 2, 2015, in Woodland, Calif. Justice Rees’ body was found in remote Rough Cut Slough near Knights Landing on Feb. 25, 20 days after his birth.
Samantha Green appears in Yolo Superior Court during a preliminary hearing in the death of her infant son on Monday, November 2, 2015, in Woodland, Calif. Justice Rees’ body was found in remote Rough Cut Slough near Knights Landing on Feb. 25, 20 days after his birth. rpench@sacbee.com

A judge rejected efforts by Samantha Green’s attorneys to have Yolo County District Attorney’s Office tossed from her murder case on accusations of improperly obtaining Green’s medical records after her arrest in the death of her infant son.

Yolo County public defenders, in a lengthy March motion, accused Yolo County prosecutors, sheriff’s and district attorney’s investigators of breaking the rules, first by using an improper search warrant to obtain Green’s psychological records in March 2015 after Green’s arrest, then by summarizing the reports despite a court order that they be sealed.

The records were maintained by Yolo County jail’s medical provider, California Forensic Medical Group. The Monday decision was announced by the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office.

Green’s attorneys argued in the motion that the information should never have been disclosed, leaving Green at a disadvantage as she heads to trial, saying prosecutors are now “infected with knowledge” of Green’s mental state.

Yolo prosecutors, in their response, argued that they had Green’s information for months with a judge’s permission before handing over copies to defense attorneys during discovery in April 2015, adding that the summary of the records prepared by a DA’s investigator was not different evidence, but the same records that had been approved for release.

Prosecutors also asked why Green’s defense – months later and weeks before trial is to begin – is only now asking for the District Attorney’s Office to be removed from the case, dismissing the recusal effort as a “stratagem.”

“Defendant is certainly aware that she will be challenged on why she did not request recusal long ago,” the prosecutors’ motion read. “This failure suggests that so-called factual ‘infection’ is not a real concern at all.”

Green’s attorneys argued that a judge in June 2015 quashed a Sheriff’s Office search warrant used to obtain Green’s records and ordered the records returned to the court. Attempts by prosecutors to unseal the records failed last July and again in January.

However, a district attorney’s investigator had summarized Green’s records on orders from prosecutors last June before they were ordered sealed, according to the defense motion. The investigator’s summary was then uploaded into the district attorney’s computer network, defense attorneys argued.

“The prosecutor had ample time to review these documents and prepare to rebut all issues of mental state,” defense attorneys argued in their motion, calling Green’s information, in prosecutors’ hands, “a bell that cannot be unrung because the records helped shape their investigation including defense strategies and theories.”

Yolo County prosecutors in March appealed the judge’s order to quash the search warrant to the 3rd District Court of Appeal in March, public defender’s attorneys said in their motion.

Green faces trial April 25 in Yolo Superior Court, accused of killing her infant son in February 2015. The baby, 19-day-old Justice Rees, was recovered in a remote slough near Knights Landing.

Prosecutors say exposure to the elements led to the death of the infant clad in a onesie and a diaper. Justice’s body was recovered from the slough amid overgrown trees and brush Feb. 25, 2015. According to testimony at her preliminary hearing last November, Green told a Woodland police officer she had passed out next to Justice in the slough and that he was unresponsive when she awakened. Green said she swam across the murky slough for help, the officer testified.

The previous day, Feb. 24, 2015, authorities rushed to a resident’s call of Green excitedly calling for help from a levee road saying that she had been kidnapped. Investigators later learned that Green and fiancé Frank Rees had planned to meet a female friend in Knights Landing, but that Rees departed alone after the couple had an argument at a Woodland gas station.

Green later returned to the Woodland home they shared with Rees’ parents, picked up her infant son and headed for Knights Landing to find Rees, investigators said. Green ended up on a levee road, holding her baby inside her coat.

Defense attorneys say Green had no intention of killing her son. Prosecutors say her actions put Justice Rees in harm’s way and rose to the level of a murder charge.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith

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