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Eight Years for Murder?

Isaiah Bennett pled to two counts of possession of methamphetamine, just before he was sentenced to eight years in state prison for fatally assaulting a poor old blind beggar, Jimmy Isenhart, on the streets of Ukiah. It wasn’t Bennett’s first go-round (as they say in the parlance of incarceration), he’d done time in the local jail under former Governor Jerry Brown’s Realignment program for, among other things, statutory rape, a crime that also made him a youthful father, and it wouldn’t take a prophet to see that his crimes were growing increasingly more serious.

Bennett

Judge Keith Faulder had a letter from Bennett’s mother, and another from Dr. Kevin Kelly who evaluates criminals for the county. Bennett’s lawyer, the glib Daniel Moss of the Office of the Public Defender, asked Judge Faulder to give Bennett the mitigated term of six years and strike the prison prior on the strength of Bennett’s early admission, having pled guilty on the day of arraignment. But Faulder was inclined to follow the probation report and recommendation, and Deputy DA Luke Oakley’s comment that kicking a man in the face who was sitting down and legally blind amounted to unprovoked callousness, an aggravating factor that outweighed the mitigating early admission.

Bennett had multiple convictions and multiple violations of probation. Bennett said he wanted to make clear to the court how difficult life was for him. He told the judge he couldn’t just look at a piece of paper (the probation report) and know what his life was like. Bennett said he had had a hard time breaking away from Willits (again, we note that Bennett has been portrayed by law enforcement as a transient) and invoked his alcoholic father, and that he didn’t have any guidance or family support and that he was now a father himself. He mentioned his drug addiction and poor decisions, but said again that the court and the probation people had no clear idea what his life was like.

Isenhart

Faulder agreed he had no idea of Bennett’s life, noting that some people have greater difficulties than his honor will ever have, but the other person in this case, Jimmy Isenhart, had more problems than most, was legally blind, homeless, who couldn’t have known that his life would end because some random someone was angry and frustrated.

Faulder said, “When asked about your conduct you said you were more sad for yourself because now you would be going to prison. That is a very callous assessment of someone else’s life. And your main concern is the time you’ll spend.”

“I was a little frustrated that day,” Bennett said. “The amount of effort I put into it —– I never wanted to end up doing a lot of things. It’s not the best way, just the way it is. I didn’t know the victim had died.”

Faulder mentioned Dr. Kelley’s report again and went through the mitigating and aggravating factors, and wondered aloud why the People had charged the case the way they did when all the facts pointed to murder. But Faulder went along with the case as charged and sentenced Bennett to four years for assault with three years consecutive for the great bodily injury (death) and added another year for the prison prior, for a total of eight years in the state prison. There was also a restitution fine of $2400 for the victim’s burial expenses, $70 in court costs, and Bennett had credit for 77 days served. Two terms of 120 days each for the violation of probation (possession of meth) were to run concurrently with the prison sentence. 


Sane Enough To Shoot, But….

Coan

The first degree murder charges against Kelly Ann Coan, accused of shooting her Caspar landlord, Jamie Shipman, dead two years ago, has been stalled once again from proceeding to trial due to her mental incompetency. 

Defense attorney Andrea Sullivan declared a doubt as to Ms. Coan’s competency in 2017 and Dr. Terrell, Dr. Kelley, and Dr. Holden all agreed Coan was mentally incompetent shortly after the shooting on the multi-tenant Caspar property. Ms. Coan was supposedly restored to competency at the jail in 2018, but Ms. Sullivan said Coan was still not in full possession, and the court agreed.

Ms. Coan was then sent to Napa State Hospital for “restoration to competency,” and on January 31, 2019, the psych docs said she was still not well enough to stand trial. But then in August, Dr. Hahn, brought in for an opinion more conducive to the prosecution, said “she has an intact ability to stand trial,” and Deputy DA Scott McMenomey wanted to get the trial started. 

But again Ms. Sullivan said no, Coan wasn’t competent. So Dr. Kelley prepared a report in November, in which he disagreed with Dr. Hahn, and found she was unable to assist in her own defense in a rational manner.

On December 4th, a court trial began to determine if she was or wasn’t. Both McMenomey and Sullivan submitted briefs, Judge Keith Faulder read them over the course of a week, and last Thursday made his decision.

“She is clearly an intelligent person,” Faulder said. “She has a degree in criminal justice, and has worked as a legal secretary. But what’s missing to the court is a DSM diagnosis. Whether or not she’s malingering, was not found by Dr. Hahn or Dr. Kelley. The two reports are in conflict and the burden is on defense to prove she’s more likely than not to be incompetent.”

Ms. Sullivan said, “She can keep herself together for about an hour, then just falls apart. Also, she can mask her behavior and appear normal for a while, but she’s deeply delusional, and I don’t think she ever will return to competency. She’s good at faking it, she can mask her symptoms, but cannot compartmentalize her delusions.”

Mr. McMenomey said, “The burden is on defense and statistical evidence is required. Dr. Kelley seems to be hedging his interpretation and, while I don’t disagree with defense, I take exception to what Dr. Kelley relies on. There was some harassment on the multi-tenant property but none of it raises to the level of this defendant not being competent to stand trial when Dr. Hahn says she has an intact ability to do so.”

Judge Faulder said, “In the absence of any evidence she’s malingering I’m going to find defense has met the burden, though it’s a very close call. So criminal proceedings will remain suspended and placement for restoration will begin.”

McMenomey said, “There was a malingering comment in Dr. Kelley’s report.”

“I saw it,” Faulder said. “But neither Dr. Kelley nor Dr. Hahn followed through on the protocol and the diagnosis was inconsistent with malingering. What I’m saying is, the formal diagnosis has never been filled out, so she’ll be returned to the state hospital for restoration.”

Ms. Coan’s son was originally charged in the homicide as well, but due to the efforts of Tony Serra, the kid got off with time served, since all he did was tell a lie to the detectives to help his mother. Apparently, it’s going to take more than a fib to the cops to help her now.

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