The following is a press release issued by the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office:
Defendant Samson Musselini Little Bear Joaquin, age 25, formerly of Covelo, was convicted by plea late Thursday morning in the Mendocino County Superior Court of two counts of murder in the second degree.
The defendant’s jury trial had been scheduled to begin last Monday, June 20, 2022, but not enough jurors responded to their jury summons to allow jury selection to take place so that the trial could move forward. As a consequence, the case was moved to Thursday of the week so that the parties could check the future availability of witnesses before the court set a new trial date.
During the intervening days a compromise settlement was struck and the case resolved short of trial.
As memorialized in the written plea form submitted to the court, defendant Samson Joaquin admitted that, “With express and implied malice aforethought, [he] unlawfully and intentionally killed Kyle McCartney and Traci Bland with a splitting maul/fire axe” on November 19, 2020 in a remote area north of Covelo.
An important component of the resolution, of course, was that the defendant agreed to a stipulated state prison sentence of 31 years to life, the maximum allowed by law for the two murder convictions and the weapon use admission entered into the court record.
Defendant Samson Joaquin was also required to waive all pre-sentence custody credits that he normally would have earned and received absent a waiver. Specifically, the defendant waived all credits for actual time in custody and any additional credits for statutory “good time/work time” from the date of his arrest to the date of his formal sentencing hearing in July.
The defendant was also required to waive his appellate and writ rights on all issues, if any, related to the case.
The last of six co-defendants, defendant Samson Joaquin’s guilty pleas entered on Thursday morning brings to a close a multi-defendant prosecution in which all involved — to differing degrees — were convicted for their respective roles in what can only be described as a pre-Thanksgiving day of senseless and brutal acts of violence in 2020.
The other co-defendants previously convicted and already sentenced to state prison are:
Joaquina Patrice Joaquin, age 26 – was sentenced to 31 years, 4 months in state prison for carjacking, kidnapping, assault by force likely to cause great bodily injury, attempted witness intimidation, possessing drugs in jail, and a prior Strike conviction;
Joseph Joshua Hoaglen, age 39 – was sentenced to 25 years, 4 months in state prison for carjacking, kidnapping, assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, personally inflicting great bodily injury, and use of a non-firearm weapon;
Janet Faye Azbill, age 35 – was sentenced to 14 years, 8 months in state prison for carjacking, kidnapping, assault by force likely to cause great bodily injury, and personally inflicting great bodily injury; and
Leonard Britton Azbill, Sr., age 62 – was sentenced to 6 years in state prison for being an accessory after the fact to murder with a prior Strike conviction.
Co-defendant David Lee Joaquin, Jr., age 27, is pending sentencing for his limited involvement in the November 2020 day of violence. He stands convicted by plea of being an accessory after the fact to murder with a prior Strike conviction.
However, while out-of-custody waiting to be sentenced, defendant David Joaquin found a way to locally pick up a new felony charge for vehicle theft, committing a new felony while another felony case was pending, and having suffered a prior Strike conviction.
He also found a way to pick up new charges in Siskiyou County and has been convicted over there, again while awaiting sentencing on the November 2020 case, and sentenced in the Siskiyou County Superior Court to 8 years in state prison.
When all of defendant David Joaquin’s cases resolve here in Mendocino County, it is very likely he will be looking at an additional four years, 8 months in state prison … consecutive to the Siskiyou County commitment.
The law enforcement agencies that developed the underlying evidence leading to the convictions listed above were the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Justice crime laboratory in Eureka, the Department of Justice DNA laboratory in Redding, and the District Attorney’s own Bureau of Investigations.
District Attorney David Eyster has been the attorney personally prosecuting this case and all involved defendants from late 2020 to present.
Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Ann Moorman accepted defendant Samson Joaquin’s two guilty pleas and a weapon use admission Thursday morning. She will preside over the sentencing hearing and impose the stipulated life sentence on July 20, 2022 at 1:30 p.m. in the Ukiah courthouse.
The question most often asked at this point in a case is how long of an actual prison sentence will this defendant be required to administratively serve by the state prison authorities versus the judicial sentence imposed by a local judge?
Due to changes in criminal statutes and ongoing tinkering by the state legislators in Sacramento, as well as the voters directly and indirectly through ballot measures, this has become a difficult question to answer.
New state prison regulations were enacted in 2017 to “take advantage” of sentencing reforms approved by the voters when the majority voted to pass Proposition 57, the so-called “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016.” Proposition 57 and these state prison regulations effectively overrode many prior statutory limitations on expedited release credits that could be earned by all inmates, including lifers.
For example, prior to the passage of Proposition 57, a state prison inmate serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole was required to serve actual incarceration time equal to the front number of “xx to life,” such as 7 to life, 25 to life, 40 to life, etc., before being able to schedule a parole board hearing and have his or her parole suitability considered.
Post-Prop 57, most inmates serving a life sentence with parole not precluded – whether participating in prison rehabilitation services or not – now automatically receive an expedited pathway to a parole suitability hearings through the administrative awarding of 20% credits, if not more, against the front number (i.e., xx to life).
Thus, this area of the law continues to be highly politicized, meaning local predictability as to how much of a court-imposed lifer sentence a person will actually be required by state prison authorities to serve in prison has figuratively been thrown out the window.