The California Attorney General's Office has filed a petition with the state Supreme Court asking the justices to hear a case involving an Appeal Court opinion that overturned the second-degree murder convictions of three former correctional officers for the beating death of Santa Clara County inmate Michael Tyree on Aug. 26, 2015.
Tyree, who suffered from mental illness, was booked into Santa Clara County jail on July 11, 2015, for an alleged probation violation. While in jail, the 31-year-old man was fatally beaten by officers Matthew Thomas Farris, Jereh Catbagan Lubrin, and Rafael Rodriguez.
A jury convicted the three men of second-degree murder in 2017. They were sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
Their attorneys appealed the conviction in 2018, claiming the primary legal theory prosecutors used had been invalidated by changes in state law.
In an Aug. 1, 2022, opinion, state Court of Appeal Judge Thomas Goethals, associate justice of the Fourth District Court's third division, overturned the men's convictions because Senate Bill 1437, which passed in 2018, declared invalid the "natural and probable consequences" theory that the jury considered when deciding whether to convict the deputies. Goethals said in his opinion that the law is retroactive.
On Aug. 23, the Court of Appeal denied the Attorney General's petition for a rehearing. Two additional judges declined to change the Goethals' judgment. His ruling also allows prosecutors to retry the three defendants "on a valid theory or theories of homicide with a properly instructed jury."
Sean Webby, a spokesperson for the Santa Clara County district attorney, said the office is waiting on the results of the attorney general's petition for review with the Supreme Court before deciding whether to retry the case. The petition for review is due Sept. 12.
— Sue Dremann
City mulls raising zoo ticket prices
With revenues falling below expectations, Palo Alto is once again considering hiking ticket prices at the newly rebuilt Junior Museum and Zoo.
The topic of admission prices proved to be thorny last year, as staff proposed charging $18 for admission to a museum that historically allowed visitors to walk in for free. After backlash from the Friends of Junior Museum and Zoo, a nonprofit that raised $25 million for the museum's reconstruction, the council settled on a more modest fee: $10 per visitor.
The decision has, however, come at a cost. According to a new city analysis, the museum's operations are costing the city more than $1.2 million annually. While the city had projected the museum to recover 65% of its costs through ticket prices and membership purchases, the actual cost recovery level between the museum's opening date of Nov. 12 and the end of June was just 54%.
On Tuesday, the council Finance Committee considered various scenarios for raising revenues, all of which call for hiking ticket prices. Even the most modest proposal from staff would result in a 50% increase, with tickets for general entry going up from $10 to $15. Other scenarios contemplate ticket prices of $16, $17 and $18.
The new report does not propose any ticket price increases at this time, though it notes that staff is monitoring the museum's resource needs and that any recommendations about adjustments will be presented to the Council as a part of the city's annual budget process for fiscal year 2024.
— Gennady Sheyner
Dispatcher error triggered Tuesday outage
When the city of Palo Alto shut off power to about 1,700 customers in the Midtown, Old Palo Alto and Industrial Park neighborhoods on Tuesday afternoon, utilities officials believed they were following an urgent order to conserve power from a state agency that oversees independent utility operators.
Now, however, it appears that the power outage was premature, unnecessary and based on a dispatcher's misunderstanding. The outage, which came in the midst of a sweltering heat wave, hit Palo Alto customers at about 6:30 p.m. and lasted for about 30 minutes before city officials learned about the error and restored power.
At 5:17 p.m., Palo Alto was asked to cut off power by the Northern California Power Agency (NCPA), a not-for-profit organization that represents numerous municipal utilities and that serves as an intermediary between these utilities and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which manages electricity flow.
In receiving the order, however, a dispatcher with the Northern California Power Agency misinterpreted it as a request to shed 46.02 megawatts of electricity to prevent widespread outages, according to a statement from the agency. The dispatcher then immediately communicated the directive to utility officials in Palo Alto, Alameda, Lodi, Santa Clara, Healdsburg and Ukiah, prompting them to turn off power.
Once the dispatcher contacted CAISO to inform them about the action, the individual was notified that there was a misunderstanding around the order. The NCPA then began the process of returning the load back into the system, according to its statement. The longest outages lasted about an hour, the NCPA reported.
— Gennady Sheyner