Tag Archives: West Sacramento

‘You have the right to an attorney…’

TRACIE OLSON Yolo County Public Defender (courtesy  photo)

Yolo County Public Defender (courtesy photo)



By Tracie Olson
Yolo County Public Defender

Born in 1910, Clarence Earl Gideon was a homeless drifter who spent most of his life in and out of trouble.  In 1961, a pool room in Florida was burglarized.  A single eyewitness testified that he saw the burglar leave the pool room carrying a wine bottle and money, and further testified that the man he saw was Mr. Gideon.  No other evidence tied Mr. Gideon to the crime.

In court, Mr. Gideon proclaimed his innocence and asked the judge to appoint him counsel, as he could not afford to hire his own.  The judge denied his request, telling Mr. Gideon that the law only allowed the court to appoint counsel to those facing a capital offense.  Ultimately, the jury convicted Mr. Gideon and he was sentenced to five years in state prison.

Undeterred, Mr. Gideon petitioned the Florida Supreme Court and eventually the United States Supreme Court, asking that his conviction be reversed because he had been unconstitutionally denied the right to be represented by counsel at trial.  On March 18, 1963, the high Court agreed, issuing its landmark decision in the case of Gideon v. Wainwright.  The United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled that state courts are required to provide legal counsel to defendants who are unable to afford their own attorneys.  The Court held that a fundamental and essential prerequisite to a fair criminal justice system is the right to be defended by competent and effective lawyers.

The Court stated, “… reason and reflection require us to recognize that in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire an attorney, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him.  This seems to us to be an obvious truth.”

At his retrial, Mr. Gideon was represented by defense counsel.  He was acquitted in less than an hour by a jury of his peers.  After his release, he reportedly stayed out of trouble.

Since Gideon v. Wainwright was decided, the promise of equal access to effective assistance of counsel is alive and well in Yolo County.  While other parts of the country, traditionally the Southern states and now more Northeastern jurisdictions, admittedly have extreme challenges which affect their ability to provide competent legal representation to defendants, California has largely managed to steer clear of the worst of these problems.

You will rarely hear a public defender’s office say that it has all the money it needs, and  most are not funded on par with the same county’s district attorney’s office.  However, as the Chief Public Defender of Yolo County, I am extremely proud of the legal representation my office provides to indigent defendants, and I am proud of the role we play in the criminal justice system.

We are not only full and active partners in implementing system changes necessitated by criminal justice realignment, but we collaborate with partners to optimize outcomes and to minimize collateral consequences for our clients.  First and foremost however, we are litigators, whose role it is to insist that law enforcement operate within the scope of their authority and that evidence is tested to the fullest extent of the law.

Every public defender has been asked at least once, in some fashion or another, “How do you sleep at night doing what you do?”  This question is typically asked by the person who can’t fathom actually needing a public defender for himself, a family member, or a friend.  However, when something goes wrong in one of their lives, we are the first ones they call – and it’s only then that they truly understand.

Happy 50th Anniversary,  Mr. Gideon. And thank you for not giving up.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

‘Spring Carnival’ at the Rec Center


Families are invited to the Spring Carnival at the West Sacramento Recreation Center (Southport, next to River City High School), from noon to 2 p.m. on Sat., March 23. Volunteers from the River City High School Interact Club will help kids with some face painting and some T-shirt tie-dying, among other activities. Cosponsored by the local Rotary chapters.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Just learning to drive —

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER:   A local dad went to the hospital with minor injuries after his student driver child went into the front wall of a Southport house on March 10. The vehicle suffered minor damage. (Courtesy of the West Sacramento Fire Department)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER: A local dad went to the hospital with minor injuries after his student driver child went into the front wall of a Southport house on March 10. The vehicle suffered minor damage.
(Courtesy of the West Sacramento Fire Department)

Woman apparently drowns in car while calling 911 for help

NEWS-LEDGER — MARCH 20, 2013 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

A West Sacramento woman called 911 as her car went into the river on the morning of March 13, but rescuers weren’t able to locate the sinking car until it was too late.

The woman was identified as Mussarat Parveen Chaudhary, 58.

According to various media reports, Chaudhary was driving her Toyota Camry back from a job at Cache Creek Casino Resort shortly after 8:10 a.m. She phoned her daughter to say the car’s brakes weren’t working properly. The call disconnected, but Chaudhary then called 911 to report – speaking Punjabi – that the car was in the river. Dispatchers scrambled to find a translator.

  The West Sacramento Fire Department reports that a rescue boat and fire crews joined the CHP and Yolo County sheriff’s department, responding to the Elkhorn area north of West Sacramento.

“In route, dispatch advised all units that the driver of the vehicle was talking to dispatch as the vehicle was sinking,” said a fire department press release.

Firefighters couldn’t see the car, but borrowed a private boat and started searching. Firefighters in “dry suits” also went into the river.

At about 10 a.m., with no sign of the victim’s car, the operation went from “rescue” mode to “recovery” mode. Fire crews left the scene while CHP and DART (the Drowning and Accident Rescue Team divers) kept looking.

“Ultimately, the vehicle was located and a body was recovered approximately six hours later and ¼ mile downstream by DART,” said the fire department.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013