A Stanislaus County Superior Court judge opted to not reduce the bail for a Turlock man accused of beating a Hilmar man to death in an alleged case of road rage, despite the vigorous argument from the defense attorney about the unfair treatment his client is experiencing.
Michael Hoyt is facing a charge of second-degree murder for the death of 67-year-old Kenneth Winter on Feb. 1, 2010. Hoyt is currently out on a $1 million bail. Wednesday’s bail review hearing was requested by Hoyt’s defense attorney Frank Carson, who argued that his client’s right to defend himself against the murder charge was being unfairly hampered by the high bail amount.
“This court has a responsibility to see that my client is not being discriminated against,” Carson said.
A key element of Carson’s argument was the $300,000 bail amount assigned to former Stanislaus County Sheriff’s detective Kari Abbey, who is also facing a second-degree murder charge in an unrelated case.
Abbey was one of the detectives involved in the investigation of Winter’s death.
Carson had subpoenaed Chief Deputy District Attorney Dave Harris, who is prosecuting Abbey’s case because he wanted to question why she was given the bail she was assigned.
Harris was in the courtroom but never took the stand because Judge Ricardo Cordova agreed with Deputy District Attorney Wendell Emerson’s objection that Harris was not relevant to Hoyt’s bail review hearing.
The judge also said it would be inappropriate to discuss Abbey’s case during a hearing without her attorney present.
Even though he didn’t get to call his witness, Carson still expressed his confusion as to why Abbey would have a lower bail amount that Hoyt, when her case involves the use of a firearm and additional criminal charges.
“That case is more egregious,” Carson said. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
Carson said he wanted to question Harris on whether he ever objected Abbey’s bail amount. Carson argued that if the district attorney’s office was comfortable with Abbey’s bail, then they shouldn’t be against Hoyt’s bail reduction.
Carson stopped short of alleging misconduct of the district attorney’s office part, but did state there was “discrimination going on” because Abbey’s lower bail gives her better resources to mount a defense.
“The only thing I can think of is that he’s charged with the death of a white man, while Kari Abbey is charged with the death of a Hispanic female,” Carson said.
Of the 35 designated high-profile cases currently moving through Stanislaus County Superior Court, only four individuals have bail amounts that are less than $1 million, including Abbey. Of the four, Abbey is the only defendant facing a murder charge. The other three are facing charges of accessory to murder, attempted murder, and vehicular manslaughter.
Cordova ruled that Hoyt’s bail would remain at $1 million, citing a state penal code that requires “unusual circumstances” be met before a bail that was set by a bail schedule can be reduced.
“The bail schedule has gone through several revisions,” Cordova said in his ruling. “One thing that is constant is that for someone facing life with the possibility of parole the bail is $1 million.”
Cordova also pointed out that Hoyt’s bail had already been reduced from $2 million to $1 million.
After denying the bail reduction Cordova set an arraignment for Aug. 10, at which time Hoyt may have to find new counsel if he cannot continue to pay Carson.
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