Rosenfeld Wins Appeal for Mental Health Client; Courts Again to Reconsider Sentence Modification for Man Who Shot Big Sur Firefighter

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A California man sentenced to time in a lockdown mental health facility and twice denied modification to that sentence will again have his request for sentence modification reconsidered. Deeming that the Superior Court of Monterey County neglected a second time to align its decision with the terms of a plea agreement, California’s Sixth District Court of Appeal issued a peremptory writ of mandate commanding the court to vacate its recent order to deny Jacob Thomas Kirkendall’s motion to be released into a step-down mental health facility and once again to reconsider this request.

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California Mental Health & Criminal Defense Attorney Ken Rosenfeld

According to the terms of the plea bargain, the court was supposed to decide based on the experts at Alpine, who are in favor of him going to the step-down facility, said Rosenfeld. The notion of time served in relation to the severity of the offense is simply outside of the terms.

According to appellate court documents (case #H048206), in May of 2020 the Monterey County Superior Court denied Kirkendall’s request to be moved out of Alpine Special Treatment Center, the secure mental health facility in San Diego where he’d spent a year and two months, declaring the time spent in the facility was not sufficiently in proportion with the seriousness of Kirkendall’s offense. Kirkendall initially had faced charges of attempted murder of a peace officer and assault with a deadly weapon, potentially facing life in prison without the possibility of parole, but as the result of a plea agreement, had been instead sentenced to “at least” a year in a lockdown mental health facility with the ability to move to a step-down facility based on the recommendation of Alpine’s medical experts. Kirkendall’s lawyer, California mental health criminal defense attorney Ken Rosenfeld, filed an appeal in response to the court’s decision, stating that its basis for refusal violated both the terms of the plea agreement and his client’s due process rights.

“According to the terms of the plea bargain, the court was supposed to decide based on the experts at Alpine, who are in favor of him going to the step-down facility,” said Rosenfeld. “The notion of time served in relation to the severity of the offense is simply outside of the terms.”

Since Kirkendall suffers from a lung condition, Rosenfeld furthermore claimed that, in light of the crisis presented by the coronavirus pandemic, the denial of his release constituted cruel and unusual punishment and therefore violated his Eighth Amendment rights. Concurring that the trial court exceeded its jurisdiction in denying Kirkendall’s release, the appellate court issued an alternative writ of mandate commanding the trial court to revisit the request.

On October 21, 2020, after the hearing following the alternative writ of mandate, the trial court denied Kirkendall’s request a second time, this time suggesting that allowing Kirkendall to move to a step-down facility would present a safety issue to the public. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the Sixth Appellate Court considered this decision to reflect a continued belief on the trial court’s behalf that Kirkendall served an insufficient amount of time The Sixth Appellate Court considered this decision as reflecting the continued belief by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the trial court that Kirkendall served an insufficient amount of time. The appellate court thereby decided to remand the case, instructing the court to vacate its October order denying Kirkendall’s sentence modification and to again revisit the request, keeping in mind the advice of medical experts and Kirkendall’s Eighth Amendment rights and not including any terms outside of the plea agreement.

“I’m pleased,” said Rosenfeld. “I look forward to the motion being revisited on terms germane to the plea agreement.”

Rosenfeld was responsible for negotiating the plea bargain for Kirkendall in February of 2019 that ensured his client, who sustained brain injuries following an electrocution accident nearly a decade ago, received treatment in lieu of life in prison following the manic episode during which Kirkendall opened fire with a shotgun on a Big Sur firefighter in 2017.

About The Rosenfeld Law Firm
Located in Sacramento, Stockton, and San Jose, the Rosenfeld Law Firm provides aggressive defense of a wide range of high-profile criminal defense cases. California criminal defense attorney Ken Rosenfeld defends such cases as first-degree murder and sex offense cases, and also provides DUI defense. In addition to mental health criminal defense, the Rosenfeld law firm also practices federal criminal defense and juvenile defense, as well as appellate law and prison law. As an expert criminal law commentator Rosenfeld makes regular appearances on KTXL TV and FOX40's Ask An Attorney. Rosenfeld was named 2020 Litigator of the Year by the American Institute of Trial Lawyers. For more information, please contact Ken Rosenfeld directly at (916) 447-2070, or visit http://www.therosenfeldlawfirm.com.

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