Defendant in Stan Norman case seeks pretrial release from custody
One of the men set to stand trial next month for the alleged murder of 70-year-old Stan Norman is petitioning the court to review his bond status, a motion that could allow for the defendant’s release from custody if approved.
Michael McCauley, 43, is set to stand trial on Sept. 7, along with co-defendant Sean Bryant, 53. Both men face first-degree murder charges in connection with the 2018 death of Norman, a Nevada City resident and Vietnam veteran. Bryant is facing an additional charge of torture in the case.
McCauley and Bryant have both been held in custody without bond since their arrest in 2018.
Court records show that on Tuesday, McCauley’s attorney, Kelly Babineau, filed a motion to set bail for her client that will be heard in court Monday. If the Nevada County court grants the motion, McCauley could be released from custody once he posts bond.
In the brief filed on her client’s behalf, Babineau argues that permitting McCauley to post bond is not only allowed under California law and judicial precedent, but is important in ensuring that her client receives a fair trial.
In accordance with California’s Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that significantly reformed preexisting state standards regarding cash bail, McCauley should be released unless prosecutors can prove that he poses a flight risk or a threat to public safety, the motion states.
“At this point, Mr. McCauley should be admitted to bail, as there are a set of circumstances that do provide the court assurance regarding flight and danger,” Babineau’s filing reads, adding that her client has already completed an assessment with Nevada County Behavioral Health that would allow him to be admitted to a sober living facility if he was to be released.
McCauley would “receive much needed treatment” at the health center, and his admission to this facility would allow for probation officers to easily monitor him and ensure his compliance with all court orders, Babineau contends.
The motion also makes the argument that granting McCauley pretrial release is important to ensure his right to a fair and equitable trial.
“It is critically important for a defendant that he be allowed to attend his trial out of custody,” the brief states. “Jurors are subconsciously affected by a defendant being incarcerated during trial. In addition, a defendant being out of custody allows him longer access to his counsel and discovery and a better opportunity to prepare for his case.”
In a brief filed Thursday opposing McCauley’s motion for bail review, District Attorney Jesse Wilson argued that McCauley remains a clear threat to public safety, citing not only the extraordinarily brutal circumstances of Norman’s alleged murder but also McCauley’s criminal history prior to the case as reasons to deny him bail.
McCauley’s record includes multiple battery convictions, as well as other arrests and cases related to violent felonies, a history that clearly demonstrates the risk he poses if released, the opposition brief asserts. Additionally, since prosecutors are seeking life in prison for both defendants if convictions are obtained, McCauley represents a flight risk, as he has a clear motive for attempting to escape justice, Wilson argues in the filing.
Babineau and Wilson’s briefs paint contrasting stories of McCauley’s culpability in Norman’s death, with the defense filing contending that McCauley was largely a horrified spectator and at most an unwilling participant in the events surrounding Norman’s death.
After Bryant attacked and badly injured Norman, he asked McCauley, who was unaware of what had transpired, to come to the Nevada City residence where Bryant and Norman had been, the defense brief states.
The motion claims that McCauley was “freaked out” when he saw what Bryant had done to Norman, asking Bryant, “What did you do?” before recommending that the men contact law enforcement to make an attempt to explain the situation — a suggestion that the motion states Bryant ignored. Bryant subsequently threatened to kill McCauley if he did not help him beat Norman to death with a baseball bat, and later when Norman was dying from his injuries, McCauley asked Bryant to perform CPR on Norman in an attempt to resuscitate him.
Not only did McCauley not attempt to help Norman, but he was in fact a brutally willing participant in the veteran’s murder, the district attorney’s brief says, totally denying the version of events outlined in Babineau’s motion.
“…defendant McCauley arrived at the scene of the murder at a time when the victim was injured and still alive,” the prosecution’s filing states. “At that point, defendant McCauley proceeded to hit the defenseless victim with a bat and pour water on the victim. At no time did he intervene or call for help.”
McCauley slept on a couch just feet away from the victim’s body after Norman died and later helped Bryant dispose of the body, clear indicators of McCauley’s culpability in both the murder and the subsequent attempt to cover up the crime, the opposition brief reads.
The trial for both defendants remains set for Sept. 7, after previously being rescheduled on four separate occasions due to complications compounded by court delays as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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