Solano superior court -
Deputy Joseph Solano
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Failure to show up for jury duty could cost hundreds of dollars in penalties, Solano County Superior Court officials warned residents Thursday.
Nearly 100 Solano County residents learned that the hard way this month when the court issued $250 fines to those that failed to respond to their jury summonses and a subsequent hearing in order for them to explain their absence. Twice this year, the court has heard a special order to show cause calendar for residents who fail to report for jury service.
According to court officials, failure to respond to a jury summons may result in finding of contempt of court. Failure to report could also lead to incarceration or sanctions up to $1,500.
In Solano County, court officials have created a court calendar for jury service no-shows. Recently, 128 residents appeared on that list.
Of those, fifteen agreed to perform jury duty within the next thirty days. Additionally, fourteen were excused from jury duty for qualifying reasons such as no longer being a resident of Solano County, not being a U.S. citizen or having a disability with a letter from a treating physician.
Those that did not respond were sanctioned $250.00, court officials said.
Jury service is at the heart of the democratic process and relies on citizens to ensure equal access to justice, officials said.
“One of the most important components of our judicial system is the right to a trial by jury. Jurors provide fair and just results for those who come before the court,” Presiding Judge E. Bradley Nelson said in a statement.
Jury service is also a rewarding experience, according to court officials.
“After serving jury duty, many jurors describe their service as interesting and enlightening. Most jurors find they enjoy being part of something so important,” said Jury Services Operations Manager Sabra Forbes.
If you receive a jury summons and you are ineligible, it is your responsibility to complete the jury summons checking the reason you are ineligible, signing it under penalty of perjury and returning it to the court, officials said.
For more information about jury duty, visit the court website at www.solano.courts.ca.gov.
Previously convicted in federal court, Matthew Daniel Muller, 44, charged later in Solano County Superior Court for a 2015 Vallejo kidnapping and rape case that made national headlines, has been admitted to Napa State Hospital and been compelled to take antipsychotic medication.
Admitted to the Napa hospital in June and forced to take the medications, legal proceedings against him have been suspended until he is restored to mental competency.
Under state law, a defendant who is considered unable to help in his or her defense or understand court proceedings cannot be tried. However, once they are deemed competent, criminal charges can be reinstated and the defendant can be scheduled to face more court proceedings, including a jury trial.
On Aug. 25, Judge Daniel Healy ordered Muller, a Harvard-trained lawyer and Gulf War veteran, ordered the defendant to take the medications. On Sept. 7, Healy heard a periodic progress report from the Department of State Hospitals, and, two days later, issued an order to compel involuntary treatment with the medication.
Online court records there are no pending court appearances for Muller, so, for the time being, he will not face a jury trial in Healy’s courtroom, Department 2, in the Justice Building in Vallejo.
The state case against Muller — who was convicted and sentenced in 2017 in a Sacramento federal courtroom to 40 years in prison for kidnapping a couple and raping the female victim before releasing her near her family’s Southern California home — was filed on Jan. 26, 2018.
On Sept. 25, 2020, Healy suspended criminal proceedings and, on Sept. 28, ordered a so-called “1368 doctor’s report” to determine if Muller was able to aid in his own defense.
At one point in the case, the court received a notice that Muller had been admitted to a jail-based competency program, a specialized program for defendants who have been deemed incompetent to stand trial by the courts.
On Nov. 2 last year, Healy received a doctor’s report and later ordered Muller placed in the care of MHM Services, a nationwide firm which contracts with governmental agencies for inmate care and has offices in Vallejo, a secured facility.
Court records did not indicate the doctor’s determination but, typically, if a defendant is transferred from custody to a mental health services agency, they are likely deemed incompetent.
Later, on Dec. 4, after a placement evaluation from MHM, Healy ordered Muller committed to one of five California state hospitals for a maximum term of two years. On Dec. 21, the judge received an update regarding placement alternatives and care from MHM Services and the defendant had been placed in the treatment program.
Muller’s last court appearance nearly two months ago came after a lengthy series of defendant motions, going back to October 2018. A jury trial had long been set for fall 2020, but it is unclear when that will occur. Although he once served as his own lawyer, Muller is now represented by the Solano County Alternate Public Defender.
A state preliminary hearing for Muller, formerly of Orangevale, was held more 2 1/2 years ago. He is charged with what can only be described as a crime so incredible that Vallejo police at first considered it an elaborate hoax.
During the preliminary hearing, Muller — a former Marine — listened to the female victim in the case, Denise Huskins. She recounted some of the events that began on March 23, 2015, when the defendant entered the Mare Island home belonging to Huskins and Aaron Quinn, who are in their 30s.
Federal court records indicate that Muller restrained them with zip ties, blindfolds and headphones, then drugged them both. Muller left Quinn behind in the home with a warning that he was being watched on camera and told him not to call the police.
Muller placed Huskins into the trunk of Quinn’s car, then drove off and switched vehicles, with Huskins still blindfolded, driving her to a South Lake Tahoe family home, where he raped her twice. Muller held her for two days before driving her to Southern California, then released her near her family’s Huntington Beach home.
Vallejo police called the reported abduction a complete fabrication for which the couple should apologize. Huskins and Quinn subsequently filed a defamation of character lawsuit against the police department. Police later apologized to the couple who, in 2018, reached a $2.5 million settlement with the city of Vallejo and its police department.
Muller was arrested in South Lake Tahoe on June 8, 2015, after evidence, including a video of Muller and Huskins, was found at his mother’s home.
In the state case, filed by the Solano County District Attorney’s Office on Jan. 26, 2018, Muller faces six felony charges. They include kidnapping, two counts of forcible rape by force, robbery, burglary and false imprisonment.
Muller has pleaded not guilty to the charges and was confined for months in Solano County Jail in Fairfield, with bail set at $2.25 million.
He filed a 35-page speedy trial request on Feb. 13, 2019, citing, among other things, his health condition and saying he suffered assault while in custody.
Quinn and Huskins decided to pursue the state case so he could be held accountable for his crimes in addition to the federal conviction, Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams told The Reporter in 2019.
Solano County must honor a nearly 100-year-old map for a subdivision in the Suisun Valley.
That is the ruling of a Solano County Superior Court judge in a case that could have far-reaching implications for future development in the county.
In his ruling, Judge Paul Beeman said a 1909 subdivision map for land along Abernathy Road was filed in compliance with the laws of the time and that the county cannot retroactively apply newer development law to restrict development there.
The case stems from a dispute that arose in 2006 when property owner Raymond Ferrari, owner of Abernathy Valley Inc, began the steps for developing a 10-acre portion of 140 acres plotted on the old map. The land is zoned for agriculture on current county maps.
The County Planning Commission approved a “certificate of compliance” for the map.
Then-Supervisor Duane Kromm objected to the decision and it was appealed to the full board which, on a 3-2 vote, overturned the planning commission”s decision and denied recognition of the map.
Ferrari subsequently filed suit, asking that the supervisors” rejection of the map be overturned.
There is a statewide history of uncertainty surrounding such old maps. It stems from a California Supreme Court ruling that created a 36-year gray period when deciding the validity of such maps. The court ruled that prior to 1893, no comprehensive planning laws existed, and therefore maps prior to that would not be recognized.
In 1929, California”s modern planning standards emerged. The court ruled that those old maps are legally binding.
That placed Ferrari”s 1909 map squarely in the 36-year gap.
In his ruling, Beeman noted that the county contends the 1909 map was deficient because it didn”t include endorsements of all the owners whose property is depicted on the map.
“However, the map does contain the endorsement of Wiliam Pierce, and only his property was to be subdivided on the map. Therefore, only his signature was required “under the law that existed at the time, Beeman wrote.
He added that the law of the time constituted a “law regulating the design and improvement of subdivisions” and would therefore be grandfathered into future development regulations.