Crime

The Covelo Six Plead Not Guilty to the Murder and Torture of Traci Bland and Kyle McCartney

The Covelo Six [Pictures from the Mendocino County Sheriff Office’s Booking Logs]
Joseph Hoaglen

On Wednesday morning, all six Covelo residents accused of the November murder and torture of Traci Bland and Kyle McCartney appeared in Courtroom A  of the Mendocino County Courthouse via webcam. Appearing virtually before Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Keith Faulder, represented by six different public defenders, every defendant pled not guilty to the charges of murder in the first degree, kidnapping, carjacking, and torture.

As the morning session began, the courtroom was frenetic, with nearly a dozen attorneys standing in the gallery and sitting in the jury box. Judge Faulder mentioned several times the need to be efficient with scheduling so the attorneys could carry on with other duties.

Janet Azbill

Two of the Covelo Six (Joseph Hoaglen and Janet Azbill) did not appear before the court and granted their public defenders the ability to represent them for the plea. In court proceedings, it was revealed that Joseph Hoaglen was unable to appear before the court due to testing positive for COVID-19 and subsequently being held in quarantine. 

Britton Leonard Azbill Senior

Britton Leonard Azbill Senior, the eldest member of the Covelo Six, appeared on a webcam next to Mendocino County Public Defender Robert Smith wearing a surgical mask. His dark hair flowed down onto his green jail-issued outwear and bright orange long johns peering from underneath. His posture was upright, and his countenance was resolute. Represented in Courtroom A by attorney Kevin Davenport, Azbill was allowed to wave at his niece and sister, who sat in the gallery observing the proceedings.

Joaquina Joaquin

Joaquina Joaquin, the last member of the Covelo Six to be taken into custody after being found in Richmond, California, appeared on webcam in the classic black and white horizontally striped prison jumpsuit and bright orange shoes. Defended by attorney Albert Kubanis, Joaquin seemed to be detached and monotoned. At one point, Judge Faulder was assessing whether Joaquin understood the implications of waiving her rights to a speedy trial, and she said, “Sure.” Judge Faulder requested Joaquin respond with a “yes” or “no,” to which Joaquin asked why the trial was being delayed and said cantankerously, “I don’t want to do what [the rest of the defendants] are doing.” 

Samson Musselini Joaquin

Samson Musselini Joaquin appeared via webcam wearing an orange jumpsuit with white long johns underneath. A surgical mask covered Joaquin’s face, and his knee fidgeted throughout the proceedings. Represented by Public Defender Jane Cole Wilson, Joaquin pled not guilty to all charges and special allegations. When he was excused, Joaquin waved at Wilson and gave her a thumbs up. 

David Joaquin

The last member of the Covelo Six to appear before the court was David Joaquin. He was wearing a red jumpsuit, and a black mask hid his face. Represented in court by attorney Doug Rhoades, Joaquin was visibly cold, folding his hands across his chest and at times shivering. 

All six defendants consented to waive the requirement that the trial must occur within 60 days of the arraignment. The pre-preliminary meeting was scheduled for February 25, and the official preliminary meeting was planned for March 10, 2020. 

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