Sarah Dutra will wait another month to learn whether a judge will grant her bail while she awaits a new sentencing trial in the case of the poisoning death of her attorney boss.
Dutra's attorney, San Joaquin County Deputy Public Defender Keith Arthur, said Wednesday that the case involves roughly 5,000 pages of police reports along with hundreds of photos and hours of videotapes. Judge Cinda Fox now has a towering stack of trial transcripts at her bench, which total about 5,500 pages - not counting jury selection and instructions.
At Arthur's suggestion, Fox agreed to postpone the matter so he and the judge can do more reading in the unusual case.
"The reality is the circumstances of this case I don't believe have occurred before, so we are in uncharted territory," Fox said.
Dutra was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the 2001 death of Larry McNabney, an attorney who lived in Woodbridge, and her conviction has since been upheld on appeal. But a U.S. Supreme Court decision in another case resulted in a California-based appeals court throwing out Dutra's 11-year sentence because it was decided by a judge, rather than a jury.
Fox on Wednesday set an April 30 court date, where bail could be addressed and attorneys may set a trial date. Deputy District Attorney Thomas Testa, who has prosecuted the case for more than five years, pushed for a spring trial date because he has two death penalty trials scheduled later this year, including one that has three months set aside for jury selection alone.
After the morning court hearing, attorneys went over hundreds of exhibits used during trial. Most were returned from an appellate court but any documents that may have been kept by Dutra's trial attorney, Kevin Clymo, are gone. He died last year and the entire Dutra file was then "inadvertently destroyed," Arthur said.
Dutra's original trial lasted two months, but now attorneys must re-try much of the case because a new jury will have to hear the facts.
The case involves McNabney's Sept. 11, 2001, disappearance. Dutra and his wife subsequently ran his Sacramento law office by cashing checks intended for personal injury clients. McNabney's body was found in a Clements vineyard five months later, and his wife ultimately ran to Florida, where she was arrested and then committed suicide in jail.
Dutra, now 26, was charged with murder, but a jury instead convicted her of a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, which carries a sentence of three, six or 11 years in state prison. Judge Bernard Garber gave Dutra the maximum term, saying the crime was especially callous.
That decision should have been left to a jury, according to the appellate courts, and cases throughout California are now being returned to trial courts for new sentencing trials.
How long Dutra's next trial will last is not known; Fox said much of it will likely have to be re-tried, while Testa said he thought it would be "greatly abbreviated."
Dutra, who returned from state prison when her sentence was thrown out, remains without bail in the county jail in French Camp.