/Morning Report: Why One Woman’s Been Jailed Years With No Trial

Morning Report: Why One Woman’s Been Jailed Years With No Trial

Inside the Las Colinas Detention and Re-entry Facility / Photo courtesy of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

The sensational case of one of San Diego County’s longest-serving inmates yet to be convicted of a crime is much more than a tale of murder. It illustrates the complexity of prosecuting someone who’s mentally ill. 

Jesse Marx breaks down why 81-year-old Maria Moore is still in jail after five years without being convicted of the crime she’s charged with. She’s accused of beating another elderly woman to death in the South Bay in 2010.

While psychiatrists offered different opinions, judges waffled for years over whether the defendant was fit to stand trial. She was deemed mentally incompetent after defense attorneys dug up her past criminal and medical records. 

She was eventually placed in a public conservatorship with the goal of one day getting her well enough so that she can participate in her own defense. Moore is still in jail, five years later, as she waits for a bed at a state hospital to open up. 

Moore’s case may be an extreme one, Marx writes, but she’s not necessarily alone. As a CalMatters investigation recently showed, thousands of Californians are languishing in jails across the state without sentence or conviction. KPBS also reported last week that hundreds have been sitting in San Diego County jails for more than a year

State Scales Back Standardized Tests as Schools Return

As schools begin reopening next week, they’ll soon be hit with yet another pandemic-related decision: how to administer statewide standardized tests.

In normal years, 95 percent of students at every school need to take so-called Smarter Balanced statewide tests. Last year, amid the crushing disruption of school closures, schools got a reprieve from the annual measuring stick. This year, California schools have to offer some sort of test, but they’ve got a lot more leeway with how they do it.

The federal government, as Will Huntsberry lays out in a new edition of The Learning Curve, has let California schools opt out of the statewide tests if they determine testing isn’t “viable” due to the pandemic. In that case, they’ll need to offer an alternative that still measures kids against grade-level standards.

In the next few weeks, state officials will tell schools what guidelines to follow to make that determination. Rural schools in which students are likelier not to have sufficient internet, or schools who returned to class just before tests are to be offered, could be the types of schools that can opt out of the system and use an alternative.

This year’s system has also ended the relationship between state tests and federal school accountability programs, Huntsberry wrote.

Weber Wins in AD-79

There are only 300 ballots left to count in the 79th Assembly District, leaving La Mesa Councilwoman Akilah Weber a clear winner in the special election to replace her mother, Secretary of State Shirley Weber, in the state Legislature.

Weber holds 51.9 percent of the vote, with nearly all of the votes counted, and will be the winner as long as she remains above 50 percent. Candidates can win special elections without proceeding a runoff in special elections, if they receive more than half of the vote.

Republican small business owner Marco Contreras came in a distant second place, with 33.4 percent of the vote. Turnout in the special election was just above 21 percent.

In Other News

Sea World is reopening its roller coasters Monday. (Pacific San Diego)

A San Diego nonprofit will survey whether COVID-19 impacted small businesses owned by women, LGBTQ and minorities. (Union-Tribune)

A state agency finalized new regulations outlining how cities can develop their property, as the Union-Tribune reported this week, cementing our scoop last month that the city’s attempt to redevelop the Sports Arena was disrupted by the legal change.

The Oceanside City Council OK’d an anti-camping ordinance and emergency motel voucher program Wednesday, in effect sweeping homeless camps growing along South Oceanside Boulevard. (Union-Tribune) 

San Diego’s fire chief wants a new ambulance service provider, in part so the city could penalize slow response times. But he’s battling an outside consultant’s opinion (paid for by organized labor unions) saying the decision could leave the city with a financial headache. (Union-Tribune)

A COVID-19 outbreak in the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa left 18 inmates dead, with three of them found dead in their cells, inewsource discovered through county medical examination reports, death certificates and interviews. We published details last month on the decisions and failures that allowed the virus to spread throughout the facility.

Calexico police disbanded an encampment that since January had served as a home for farmworkers. (inewsource)

The board for the Metropolitan Transit System approved $125 million in expenditures to improve the transit system, including the purchase of new trolley cars and busses. (City News Service)

One hundred and fifty families from National City and San Diego will be part of a new pilot program for a so-called universal basic income, receiving $500 a month for two years, with money raised by the nonprofit group Jewish Family Service of San Diego. (NBC 7 San Diego)

The Morning Report was written by MacKenzie Elmer and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.