Regardless of 27 courtroom appearances in almost 5 years, a outstanding Stanford surgeon has prevented going to trial after pleading not responsible to fees of driving drunk in 2016, a delay that has baffled San Mateo County’s presiding choose and the district lawyer.
At about 2:12 a.m. on Could 7, 2016, Dr. David Mohler — head of the Stanford Orthopedic musculoskeletal oncology division — was arrested in San Mateo on suspicion of driving inebriated after making an unlawful U-turn. Nobody was injured however he recorded a blood-alcohol degree of 0.11, above the authorized restrict, when given a breathalyzer take a look at and arrested.
The San Mateo County District Legal professional’s Workplace filed two fees — one for driving inebriated and one other for driving below the affect and testing above the authorized blood-alcohol restrict — on Aug. 16, 2016, and Mohler pleaded not responsible just a few months in a while Oct. 5.
A jury trial was set for Jan. 23, 2017, however on the request of his lawyer, Eric Hove of San Carlos, it was continued. So had been quite a few different trial dates over the following few years. The subsequent trial date is Sept. 17, in line with courtroom paperwork.
In line with attorneys and judges interviewed for this story, a misdemeanor DUI case just like Mohler’s by which the defendant pleads not responsible is often resolved in a single to 2 years.
Although nobody questions that 5 years is a very long time for a DUI case to linger, authorized consultants disagree in regards to the underlying trigger, with one retired choose saying Mohler’s standing as a outstanding and rich surgeon raises questions on preferential remedy and abuse of the courtroom system and a public protection lawyer suggesting it’s simply an outlier case with legitimate causes for the continuances.
When requested in regards to the size of the case throughout a quick interview Thursday, Hove didn’t remark.
In line with courtroom filings obtained by this information group, the protection requested to proceed the trial to future dates eight instances, prosecutors requested for continuances twice and and the courtroom twice rescheduled hearings amid the coronavirus pandemic. Along with trial date continuances, the defendant was ordered to seem in courtroom 15 different instances for pre-trial motions.
San Mateo County Superior Courtroom Presiding Decide Leland Davis known as the extended DUI case “extraordinarily uncommon,” including it’s “troublesome to reply” why greater than a dozen judges who’ve presided over the case would enable it to proceed so lengthy.
Davis stated the 2 “respectable” causes for suspending the trial had been pandemic-related — the courtroom was shut down throughout one scheduled trial and Davis continued one other in February after Hove got here down with COVID-19.
However for the 4 years earlier than that, Davis stated, “there’s nobody clarification for the whole lot” of the delay.
As he sifted by a partial set of the notes on the case, Davis stated the protection requested for a continuance the primary time in Could 2017 — after the preliminary January trial date was canceled — to conduct a further investigation of the incident; prosecutors twice in 2018 requested for extra time as a result of the arresting officer was not accessible; the protection additionally requested for extra time to retain a brand new skilled in 2019 and on one event there weren’t any courtrooms accessible for the trial in early 2020 because the pandemic was simply starting.
Additionally delaying the case apart from the continuances had been two different protection motions — one to suppress proof and one to request a pre-trial misdemeanor diversion based mostly on a legislation that took impact in 2021 — each of which had been denied.
That pre-trial diversion was denied Thursday final week. Decide Donald Ayoob stated the case wouldn’t be diverted — which might enable the defendant to fulfill sure situations to have his case dismissed — based mostly on a call the San Mateo County Superior Courtroom bench made in February 2021 pledging to not divert misdemeanor DUI instances below the brand new 2021 diversion legislation. The California legislature is at the moment debating a invoice to clarify misdemeanor DUIs can’t be diverted out of courtroom, and courts throughout the state have made contradicting judgments.
Davis famous that typically when the case was continued, no motive was given within the case notes. When every continuance individually, he stated, there was authorized reasoning for granting them.
“I’m not making excuses for it, I’m not saying it’s typical and I’m not saying it’s OK,” Davis stated. “There’ll come a time limit in any given case — notably if it involves me — after I’ll say ‘OK, this case is previous, it’s gone on lengthy sufficient, give me a date sure so we will deliver this case to a decision.’ However that apparently didn’t occur right here. It was like an ideal storm.”
Within the time the case has been occurring, 14 judges presided over Dr. Mohler’s case, 23 deputy district attorneys had been listed as prosecutors and 11 trial dates had been set. In all, counting hearings and pre-trial motions, the case has been on the courtroom docket 24 instances, in line with courtroom data. Solely as soon as did the prosecution object to a request to proceed the case to a later date.
San Mateo County District Legal professional Stephen Wagstaffe stated in an interview that is the one misdemeanor DUI case he’s conscious of that has nonetheless not gone to trial because it was first set to go earlier than a jury in 2016. He additionally known as the case’s size “uncommon” and vowed to talk along with his deputies to “stop this sooner or later.”
“That is very inefficient,” Wagstaffe stated. “The fascinating time on a easy case like this is able to get it resolved inside a yr, and that’s what we did have in a day passed by. We perceive one or two continuances, our job is to hear. However typically we have now to face up and object. Right here it took a very long time for us to object and that’s an issue.”
Wagstaffe stated Hove is “well-known” for delaying instances. He stated it shouldn’t have taken 4 and a half years for certainly one of his deputies to object to a different continuance.
“On this case, justice is being denied by being delayed,” Wagstaffe stated.
For former Santa Clara County Superior Courtroom choose Ladoris Cordell, the bizarre size of the case rises to “an abuse of the felony justice system” by a “excessive profile” surgeon with the cash to pay for a authorized protection lasting 5 years. When she reviewed the case abstract, Cordell stated she was “outraged” at how Mohler’s case has been allowed to linger within the system, calling it a “double normal.”
She stated anybody can request a continuance, however solely a choose can grant it.
“That is completely and utterly weird,” Cordell stated in regards to the case. “An individual of coloration in an analogous state of affairs wouldn’t have the ability to proceed their case for this lengthy. This was a Stanford surgeon who employed somebody who is ready to go to courtroom and play the sport. It’s whole crap. What the hell is occurring?”
Neither Davis nor Wagstaffe stated they might take into account an individual’s career and prominence of their discipline in figuring out whether or not to proceed a case to a later day.
“I don’t tolerate of us which are privileged and moneyed or take into account themselves to be elite considering they’ll be handled in a different way,” Davis stated. Davis added he had not been conscious that Mohler was a outstanding surgeon when he presided over the case and was requested to proceed it in February 2021.
However not everybody was as outraged as Cordell.
Scott Sherman, managing lawyer for the San Mateo County Non-public Defender Program, stated the 5 years it has taken for this case to go to trial is “uncommon, sure, however typically issues occur.” Hove is a protection lawyer for this system.
“Circumstances take what they take,” Sherman stated. “Normally, they don’t take that lengthy. However when you solely have a look at the outliers for instances that resolve rapidly or slowly, we run into the hazard of getting a misunderstanding of the felony justice system.”
Although there aren’t any data instantly accessible displaying what number of different instances like Mohler’s are lingering within the courtroom system, Davis stated he hopes it’s an exception.
“It falls again on the choose,” Wagstaffe stated. “The judges management their calendars.”
Wagstaffe additionally famous the defendant may forgo waiving his proper to a speedy trial and set a trial date inside 45 days in the event that they selected to. However Wagstaffe additionally made clear he’ll scrutinize his deputies to verify this case lastly will get resolved and that nothing like this occurs once more.
“We have to use this case for example that we make certain to do all the things we will to voice our objections and never wait 5 years,” Wagstaffe stated. “What I’m going to do is inform the supervisor to inform her deputy on the case that the DA’s watching how this one goes. It’s within the curiosity of the people who instances transfer ahead to a speedy trial. Don’t simply sit and take notes.”