The following is a press release issued by the Mendocino County District Attorney:
A Mendocino County Superior Court jury returned to court Wednesday morning from its deliberations to announce it had found the trial defendant guilty as charged.
Defendant Cort Patterson Miller, Sr., age 27, of Covelo, was found guilty by the jury of three criminal charges: criminal threats, a felony; felon in unlawful possession of a shotgun, a felony; and violating the terms of a domestic violence restraining order, a misdemeanor.
The normal post-verdict referral to the Adult Probation Department for a background study and sentencing recommendation has been delayed while additional evidence is heard by the trial judge on whether aggravating circumstances exist in the context of the new convictions.
Effective January 1, 2022, the California Legislature changed the long-standing California sentencing practice of allowing local judges to decide whether a particular case is aggravated or mitigated. Such determinations were made at the sentencing hearing and most often based on the investigation by the probation department and information provided in the probation report.
Now, any fact the prosecutor believes justifies the imposition of an aggravated sentence must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt to the trier of fact (meaning a jury unless, as in this case, the defendant waives his or her right to a jury determination of aggravators or the parties enter into a stipulation). (See, Penal Code section 1170, sub. (b)(2).)
So that next phase of the bifurcated trial – a court trial on aggravating circumstances – is calendared to take place on April 25th at 1:30 p.m. in Department H of the Superior Court.
After the findings on aggravating circumstances have been resolved, a referral will be made to the Adult Probation Department and a date and time for a formal sentencing hearing will be announced.
The law enforcement agency that developed the evidence supporting the verdicts returned today by the jury was the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.
The attorney who presented the People’s evidence to this week’s jury was Deputy District Attorney Jamie Pearl.
Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Carly Dolan presided over the three-day trial. Judge Dolan will also preside over the court trial on aggravating circumstances, if any, and she will eventually be the sentencing judge.