Jury is waived inhammer attack trial
Nearly 80 potential jurors left El Dorado County Superior Court on Monday afternoon with smiles on their faces. They were pleased that the defense and prosecution reached an agreement to dismiss the jury in the sanity trial of former South Lake Tahoe resident George Aaron Carver, 33.
The jurors were summoned to the court at 8 a.m. Monday morning; court convened at 10:30 a.m. Upon returning from a lunch break at 1:30 p.m., El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Suzanne Kingsbury announced that Carver and his lawyer, County Assistant Public Defender Mark Ralphs, and Deputy District Attorney Worth Dikeman had agreed to forgo a jury trial in favor of a bench trial.
Some of the would-be jurors cheered, others clapped, but all seemed relieved. The trial was expected to last three to four weeks.
The defense suggested dismissing the jury, and the prosecution agreed, Ralphs said. Both sides must agree to a bench trial to waive a jury trial.
Carver’s trial is not about guilt: Carver accepted a 20-year plea agreement for nearly killing a Cool man with a hammer on Dec. 24. The trial will determine Carver’s sanity at the time of the incident, which in California is not decided by doctors, but by a jury.
Kingsbury made it clear to the panel of potential jurors what it means under California law to be insane: that Carver not only had a mental disease or defect when he committed the crime, but because of that defect he did not understand that what he was doing was morally or legally wrong.
The results of the trial will determine if Carver serves his sentence in a state prison or in a mental health facility.
After Kingsbury finished questioning the panel of potential jurors, Ralphs queried them.
Ralphs asked the panel about their history and experience with mental illness and if they trusted and believed in psychiatry and psychology as sciences. He also asked for a show of hands about how many on the panel had seen the film, “A Beautiful Mind.”
Next, Dikeman questioned the panel. The deputy DA asked people about their experience with the criminal justice system: Had they, or anyone close to them, been arrested or charged with any crimes, and had their experience given them the perception of being treated unfairly by police, prosecutors or the criminal justice system?
Dikeman then asked potential jurors if they felt comfortable determining Carver’s mental state at the time of the incident, stressing a person can be mentally ill and dangerous without being insane.
After Dikeman’s questioning, the court recessed for lunch. Later, Ralphs, Dikeman and Kingsbury entered the courtroom, and Kingsbury announced that a jury trial had been eliminated. Though the panel had been dismissed, they had all fulfilled their jury duty requirement for the year, Kingsbury explained.
The trial will continue at 8:30 a.m., Aug. 8, in El Dorado County Superior Court. Carver will be held until trial at the El Dorado County Jail, where he’s been held under a $10 million bond since his arrest.