Ruling on victim’s rights could be felt across state |

Ruling on victim’s rights could be felt across state

All of California could be affected by Judge Robert Tamietti’s decision requiring a dependent abuse case to return to trial.

His ruling in the trial involving alleged abuse victim Tracy Gamache – a severely physically and mentally handicapped woman with cerebral palsy – stems from the Victims’ Bill of Rights voters approved in 2008.

That amendment to California’s Constitution puts the rights of victims ahead of the rights of defendants in some instances, Tamietti ruled this week.

No case law charts the waters for his decision, and lawyers for the defendants said they will appeal the ruling.

In March, Tamietti declared a mistrial in the Nevada County Superior Court case of Raymond Gamache Jr. and Dawn Renee Anderson, who were being tried on charges of abusing Gamache’s daughter, a Penn Valley resident who is 26.

The mistrial followed legal wrangling over whether Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Francis could add language to the charges – dependent adult abuse likely to cause great bodily harm – that would allow her to try the defendants for simply “permitting” the bodily harm Tracy Gamache allegedly suffered.

The defendants had been in the fourth day of the trial on charges they “caused” the bodily harm, a definition that carries a greater burden of proof, when Tamietti called the mistrial.

The judge reset a new trial for June 22. But attorneys for Anderson and the elder Gamache asked Thursday to dismiss the case.

Nevada County Deputy Public Defender Tamara Zuromskis, who represents Raymond Gamache, argued a legal error led to the mistrial, rather than a legal necessity, and her client could not be tried twice for the same crime.

Tamietti, however, said his decision was based on the passage of Proposition 9, the Victims’ Bill of Rights that provides all victims with rights and due process. In his view, the amendment adds protections for victims that, in this case, supersede the defendants’ rights.

“Prop. 9 was a sea change,” Tamietti said. “It put another player (the victim) at the table.”

And Tracy Gamache deserves special consideration and protection as a dependent adult unable to speak for herself, Tamietti added.

During the sometimes-contentious hearing Thursday, Zuromskis also argued no legal necessity existed because Tamietti was aware of the legal error before the trial began.

“The court had every ability to stop this from happening,” Zuromskis said.

“I agree I share some of the blame, but that doesn’t change the fact that the rights of one party were being abrogated in front of me,” Tamietti replied.

Tamietti bristled when Anderson’s attorney, Jennifer Walters, called the decision to allow the trial to move forward “irresponsible.”

“I own that I didn’t jump on this issue at the trial readiness conference, but so what?” Tamietti said. “I have to man up and say I made a mistake. I wasn’t alone. I was just the last in a series of mistakes.”

Tamietti called his decision a “first impression” ruling, meaning no case law exists.

“I spent three days grinding my teeth over this decision,” he said before denying the motion to dismiss.

Zuromskis asked for a stay of trial, which was denied. She then said she would ask for the decision to be reversed at the Third District Court of Appeals.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail or call (530) 477-4229.

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