Decision rests with judge: Dennis Daly pleaded guilty to a lesser charge after a hung jury in his murder case
A man who was charged with the murder of his wife in 2019 is facing up to 18 years in prison, authorities say.
Dennis Daly, 73, of Grass Valley, will be sentenced May 28 after pleading guilty in March to a felony charge of assault with force likely to produce bodily injury. While the murder charge against Daly will be dismissed at his sentencing as part of his plea agreement with the prosecution, he still likely faces anywhere between five to 18 years in state prison, according to his defense attorney, Jennifer Granger.
Daly originally faced murder and assault charges after the death of his wife, Stacey Sokol Daly, in October 2019. Prosecutors allege that Daly beat his wife so severely that she slipped into a coma and died several days later.
A jury couldn’t reach a decision on the murder accusation, and Daly later pleaded to the lesser charge.
Whether Daly receives a more lenient or more stringent punishment will now depend largely on how the judge at his sentencing deals with a motion by the defense to dismiss a prior felony strike on Daly’s record, Granger said.
Daly was convicted in 1981 for an assault with a deadly weapon charge, which became a “strike” on his record as per California’s Three Strikes Sentencing Law, which was enacted in 1994. Now that he has been convicted of another felony strike, Daly’s sentence in his current case could be doubled, in accordance with the stipulations of the 1994 law.
The District Attorney’s Office is also using Daly’s 1981 conviction as an additional sentencing enhancement, as that offense is not only a strike in itself but is also now an enhancement on his most recent conviction, which is also a felony strike. If successful, this move by prosecutors could even further increase Daly’s sentence, Granger said.
“If the judge dismisses these enhancements, this has a huge impact on his sentence, as to whether he gets closer to five years or 18,” Granger said.
She expressed that from the standpoint of the defense, Daly’s prior conviction should not play a role in his sentencing for his current case, as this conviction is over 40 years old.
Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh, who has been involved in prosecuting Daly, argued that the violent nature of Daly’s first strike warranted a sentence closer to the 18-year maximum possible.
Daly was arrested in 1981 for allegedly shooting his wife at the time, a different woman than Stacey Daly. He originally faced a charge of attempted murder for this offense before that charge was later changed to an assault count, Walsh said.
“Even though this is an older case, it has remarkable similarities to the present case. In this case now, the current wife of the defendant is dead and was also the victim of domestic violence,” Walsh said.
Imposing the maximum penalty on Daly would send an important message as to how the county treats repeat offenders and especially criminals with a violent history, he added.
“The defendant should not be able to commit serious crimes like this against two different women. This is exactly the kind of person that the Three Strikes Law was designed to address,” Walsh said.
Arrested in 2019, Daly pleaded not guilty and faced a jury in March. During these proceedings, prosecutors argued that Daly’s severe beating of his wife led to life-threatening injuries, including internal bleeding in her head, that resulted in her death just days later.
Granger argued that Stacey Daly’s death could be traced to underlying medical problems, and was not a direct result of the physical blows she received from her husband.
Jurors were unable to reach a decision in his case, and as a result, presiding Judge Elliott Lee Daum declared a mistrial. According to Walsh, the District Attorney’s Office considered retrying Daly, but ultimately agreed to a negotiated resolution with the defense that involved the murder charge being dropped.
Whether the motion to dismiss Daly’s strike succeeds is now entirely dependent on the discretion of Daum, Walsh said.
Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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