DA Pamela Price takes aim at judge who rejected her plea deal

Judge Mark McCannon said from the bench that the DA's office has had an "incoherent approach" to the Delonzo Logwood case.

DA Pamela Price takes aim at judge who rejected her plea deal
Alameda County DA Pamela Price. Alameda County DA's office

Alameda County DA Pamela Price took to social media this week to announce that she will seek to disqualify a judge who recently ruled against her "from hearing any criminal cases being prosecuted by our office."

On Wednesday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Mark McCannon had denied her motion to remove him from a controversial triple murder case after earlier rejecting the plea deal Price brokered with the defense.

After Wednesday's hearing, Price posted a video on social media where she said McCannon "overstepped his boundaries" and "created a firestorm of prejudicial comments that do not in my view serve justice."

McCannon himself has not spoken to the media but his courtroom remarks about the Delonzo Logwood murder case and, more recently, about how Price's office has handled it have generated significant media interest.

Price said her office will now seek to disqualify him from all criminal cases in Alameda County due to what she described as his "inappropriate comments and conduct on two separate occasions."

In the brief video, Alameda County DA Pamela Price did not describe what she believed those comments or conduct were.

Her brief filing on the subject, which is called a declaration of prejudice and challenge for cause, cites Code of Civil Procedure 170.1.

In it, Price writes that she "believes that we cannot have a fair and impartial trial or hearing or any criminal procedure before this judicial officer." There is no supporting documentation.

The Alameda County district attorney's office has never sought to remove a judge from its cases on these grounds before, said sources familiar with the matter.

The Berkeley Scanner has asked Price's office for further details but has not received a response.

In February, when the Logwood plea deal was announced, McCannon expressed strong doubts about the deal, which would have resulted in a 15-year sentence for a single count of voluntary manslaughter and seen all three murder charges dropped.

Because so much time has elapsed since the case was filed in 2015, Logwood likely would have spent just two more years in prison, the judge said previously.

The case returned to court in March, at which point McCannon rejected the deal outright and said he believed a jury should decide on Logwood's guilt or innocence.

Judge rejects 15-year plea deal in case alleging 3 murders
“I can’t accept a plea to voluntary manslaughter for 15 years for an offense that involves the loss of three lives,” Judge Mark McCannon said.

This week, during a hearing to set a trial date for the Logwood case, the defense and prosecution both submitted motions to remove McCannon from the case.

He denied the motions, which attorneys can now appeal. In the meantime, the case is set to return to court in mid-April to seat a jury and begin trial.

Judge McCannon explained his position in detail  

During the March and April hearings, McCannon went to great lengths to explain his positions and how he had come to them.

He cited case law and read relevant statutes into the record.

During this week's hearing, McCannon said the Logwood case had become a "debacle" — but said that he was not the one to blame.

"I did not create this issue. I did not offer this deal," he said. "I did not go to the press and make any statements about this case."

(Defense attorneys and DA Pamela Price have both made statements to the media about the Logwood case.)

This week, the defense and prosecution both raised the issue of high public interest in the case as one reason Judge McCannon should be removed.

"I have no control over the public," he said Wednesday. "I have control over what I do in this court and what I say in this court."

McCannon said there had been no bias in his decisions and that he remained determined to ensure that Logwood had a fair trial.

"I have remained impartial," he said.

Judge: "I don’t see how you can fix your mouth to say that"

He said the attorneys had failed to articulate the reasons for their claims about why they believed he was biased.

"You all may think this is as simple as, you know, you don’t like the way things have played out. So 'I’m gonna take my ball and go home,'" he told the attorneys. "That’s not this type of situation. At all."

McCannon had particularly strong words for the prosecution and its handling of the case in recent months.

He said the DA's office had not been "transparent or forthcoming enough" to convince him to accept the deal: "That's it," he said.

He said the DA's office had submitted no material about why the Logwood plea deal made sense — despite being told by McCannon in February that he needed convincing.

"You all were told to bring me something," McCannon said. "You failed to do that."

The DA's office had provided no reasons for the deal or articulated them in court, the judge said. The prosecution did not submit a sentencing memo or any other supporting material, he added.

"A first-year lawyer knows… that you provide a probation letter so that the judge and probation can make an informed decision," McCannon said. "You all didn't do that."

He also said that "probation wasn't given all the facts."

DA Pamela Price had issued a statement in March saying probation was "satisfied with the punishment … after considering all of the background information about Mr. Logwood."

This week, McCannon called out the inconsistency on the record.

"I don’t see how you can fix your mouth to say that. If probation wasn't given all the facts," he said. "And they weren't."

Judge slams DA's "incoherent approach" to the case

Judge McCannon said that the DA's "incoherent approach in the handling of this case left me with no other reasonable option than to reject this plea."

He also spoke at length about veteran prosecutor Stacie Pettigrew and how she had vanished from the case in March without explanation.

He said it had been obvious during prior meetings about the case that Pettigrew "was being kept in the dark" about the DA's plans for the Logwood case.

"Oftentimes, you all made it clear that she was no longer involved in the plea negotiations," McCannon said to the attorneys for both sides. "And defense counsel would give me updates about the prosecution’s case, information that — through Ms. Pettigrew’s facial expressions and statements — indicated to me she was not aware of them."

Office emails shed light on DA's handling of the case

During Wednesday's hearing, McCannon also read emails into the record that revealed some of what has unfolded behind the scenes within the DA's office in relation to the Logwood case.

Those emails related, in part, to last month's hearing when McCannon asked Assistant District Attorney Jimmie Wilson why he was there instead of Pettigrew.

"I don't have information about that," Wilson had told the judge.

(Immediately after the hearing, The Berkeley Scanner reported that, in fact, office emails showed that Wilson did have information about why Pettigrew was not there.)

This week, McCannon described how Pettigrew had sent him office emails after the March hearing to set the record straight.

He said those emails had made it clear that Pettigrew "was not welcome" at the March hearing.

That was significant, in part, McCannon said, because it meant that the prosecution had zero background on the case at a critical moment when the judge had been tasked with making an important decision about the plea deal.

"They knew nothing about the deal’s formation, whether or not the victims’ families had been contacted and agreed with the deal," he said. "It was your failures to explain the reason for this deal … preventing Ms. Pettigrew from attending, making her unavailable for any questions or concerns that the court clearly had."

"So much for justice with compassion"

On Wednesday, McCannon said he was going to read the DA's office emails into the record "because this has become a problem."

According to those emails, Wilson and Chief Assistant District Attorney Otis Bruce Jr. initially planned to have a different prosecutor appear instead of Pettigrew "as requested by Madame Price."

The office later changed course and decided Wilson would appear, according to the emails.

Stacie Pettigrew. LinkedIn

On the day before the sentencing hearing, Wilson emailed Pettigrew to inform her of the decision to remove her.

"Has she forbidden me from attending?" Pettigrew responded. She also wrote that, while she had put in her resignation papers (for a future date), she had planned to appear in court on the Logwood matter.

"I just talked to Pam and she does not want you at the sentencing," Wilson wrote. "Sorry."

Pettigrew then responded to Wilson, expressing her dismay and saying that she had "never felt more sick to my stomach."

"So much for justice with compassion," she wrote. "I have dedicated eight years of my life to this case, working with these moms. For her to require me to abandon them at the sentencing hearing is unbelievably cruel."

Much has been said in recent months by critics of DA Pamela Price about how her office is now routinely prioritizing defendants at a cost to crime victims and their families.

After the March hearing, when Wilson said he had no information about why Pettigrew wasn't there, she forwarded the entire email string to the judge.

To preface the emails, Pettigrew wrote that she felt it was her duty as an officer of the court to correct any false statements that may have been made before him.

Jimmie Wilson. LinkedIn

McCannon said Wilson himself then sent him an email March 26, several days after the hearing, saying "it was never my intention" to make false statements to the court, but that he had not been "willing to air a personnel situation" in public.

He told the judge that Pettigrew had not appeared in court due to an "HR situation," but said he could not say more due to privacy laws.

The next morning, McCannon said, he received another email from Wilson reading only that "Jimmie Wilson would like to recall the message that was sent the previous night."

"That’s what you all have brought to me, OK?" McCannon said after reading the emails into the record. "So now you appeal to a higher authority if you like. That is your right."

McCannon told the attorneys that the trial would begin later this month with jury selection starting April 17.

"Be prepared," he advised them.

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