Crime

Judge refuses request to uncuff jailed defendant in Stanislaus death penalty case

Mark Edward Mesiti will remain shackled while in jail as he prepares to represent himself in a death penalty case.
Mark Edward Mesiti will remain shackled while in jail as he prepares to represent himself in a death penalty case. Modesto Bee file

A Stanislaus County judge has decided that Mark Edward Mesiti will remain shackled while in jail as he prepares to represent himself in a death penalty case.

Mesiti is accused of killing his 14-year-old daughter, Alycia Mesiti. On March 25, 2009, the girl’s body was found buried in the backyard of the Ceres home where Mesiti lived at the time of her disappearance in August 2006.

The defendant asked the court to order sheriff’s officials to uncuff him while he meets with his legal team inside a room at the jail. Mesiti has argued that jail officials were violating his constitutional rights by keeping his hands in cuffs while he’s supposed to be preparing his defense.

Inmate cuffs are chained to a bolt on the floor in these attorney visiting rooms at the jail. Mesiti has argued that he’s “completely immobilized” and feels like he’s in a straitjacket while shackled.

Superior Court Judge Dawna Reeves declined to issue such an order. Mesiti has the assistance of a legal team while in these meetings at the jail to assist him in reviewing documents and other evidence in his case, the judge wrote in her ruling issued Aug. 5.

A defendant is constitutionally required to have access to resources necessary to present a defense that are reasonable under the circumstances. Reeves wrote that Mesiti has the sufficient resources, a court-appointed advisory counsel, investigators and others to fulfill these constitutional requirements.

This was the second time Mesiti asked the court to order jail officials to unshackle him. Superior Court Judge John Freeland initially ordered sheriff’s officials to uncuff Mesiti’s writing hand, but he later reversed his ruling.

In a May 5, 2015, ruling, Freeland said he reconsidered his initial ruling after determining that handcuffing both of the defendant’s hands is a valid security regulation.

Reeves said that Mesiti did not present anything in a July 29 hearing that undermines Freeland’s 2015 ruling. Reeves said the only difference in Mesiti’s latest request was that the defendant had now chosen to represent himself in the capital murder case.

Deputy County Counsel Marc Hartley has argued that Mesiti seemed to be exaggerating his limitations while cuffed. He says the safety of everyone in the jail should not be compromised because of Mesiti’s dissatisfaction with the discomforts of being incarcerated.

Along with the capital murder charge, Mesiti is charged with more than 40 counts of sexually abusing his daughter, as well as sexual abuse charges involving two other girls, according to a criminal grand jury indictment.

Mesiti’s trial remains scheduled to start Feb. 6. He will return to court Sept. 23 for another pretrial hearing.

Rosalio Ahumada: 209-578-2394, @ModBeeCourts

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