Justice Delayed

On the afternoon of Sept. 16, 2016, Kareem King was shot to death on the corner of Bridge Alley and Lake Street (pictured) in Salinas’ Chinatown neighborhood.

On Sept. 16, 2016, Kareem King was shot to death, a killing prosecutors maintain was driven by revenge and carried out by brothers Jerry and Lenny Sanks on the mistaken belief that King had killed one of their associates in the Tres-Seven-Deuce Crips gang.

That associate, Marcus Jelks, had been shot 11 days earlier, but died the same day of King’s killing; according to court records, Lenny Sanks allegedly left Jelks’ memorial, asked a friend to drive him to Chinatown, met up with his brother and together they went looking for King.

Two years later, in September 2018, Jerry Sanks surrendered to Salinas police, while Lenny Sanks was charged in February 2019. Both men have been in jail since, including through the Covid-19 pandemic, awaiting trial.

But while that trial was supposed to begin on June 14, it’s now been pushed out to November, after defense attorney William Pernik sought and obtained an emergency order from the Sixth District Court of Appeal preventing Monterey County Superior Court Judge Mark Hood from starting it.

The reason: Pernik hadn’t been in the same room with his client, Jerry Sanks, for the 15 months of the pandemic, and the system of phone calls, video conferencing and tablets the Monterey County Jail used to replace face-to-face meetings was both “evolving” and “erratic,” and didn’t afford attorney-client confidentiality.

In an incident June 2 at the jail involving a different client (also facing trial for murder), Pernik discovered a third party was in the room during what was supposed to be a confidential legal visit, according to court records.

“In a complex murder with gang overtones involving multiple witnesses, confidential informants, geotracking digital evidence, social media information and hundreds of audio/video interviews,” Pernik’s writ begins, “the prosecution sought and the [trial] court granted eight successive discovery protective orders restricting Jerry Sanks to reviewing the substantial discovery only in his attorneys’ presence.” And those in-person visits halted, on the order of jail officials, when the pandemic hit the jail.

Pernik filed his motion on June 9, and the stay was granted on June 11 – three days before the trial was to begin. Defense attorney Scott Erdbacher, who represents Lenny Sanks, joined Pernik in his motion.

Hood has set the trial out to November.

Monterey County Chief Assistant District Attorney Berkley Brannon says his office has filed a motion to dismiss the appellate writ, because Pernik already received the relief he sought – a continuance.

Pernik says the pandemic has hampered the ability of defense attorneys from working face-to-face with incarcerated clients and mounting the best defense possible. “Without doubt, the pandemic has significantly impaired our ability to deliver in-person legal services to incarcerated clients,” he says. “With [reopening], we seem to have turned a corner, which is encouraging to our clients and their families.”

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