15 Cal.App.3d 751, 37630, County of Santa Barbara v. Superior Court

Docket Nº:37630
Citation:15 Cal.App.3d 751, 93 Cal.Rptr. 406
Opinion Judge:[10] Feinerman
Party Name:County of Santa Barbara v. Superior Court
Attorney:[6] George P. Kading, County Counsel, Griffith & Thornburgh, and Peter J. Samuelson for Petitioner. [7] No appearance for Respondent. [8] Price, Postel & Parma, Gary R. Ricks and C. Michael Cooney for Real Parties in Interest.
Case Date:March 03, 1971
Court:California Court of Appeals

Page 751

15 Cal.App.3d 751

93 Cal.Rptr. 406



SUPERIOR COURT of the State of California FOR the COUNTY OF SANTA BARBARA, Respondent;

Heather Angel SINCLAIR, Anthony Sinclair, and Barbara Joan Benson, Real Parties in Interest.

Civ. 37630.

California Court of Appeal, Second District, Third Division

March 3, 1971.

Hearing Denied April 29, 1971.

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George P. Kading, Griffith & Thornburgh, and Peter J. Samuelson, Santa Barbara, for petitioner.

No appearance for Respondent Court.

Price, Postel & Parma and Gary R. Ricks, Santa Barbara, for real parties in interest.

FEINERMAN, [*] Associate Justice.

Petitioner, the County of Santa Barbara, seeks to prohibit the respondent court from proceeding further with a wrongful

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death action brought by the real parties in interest, Heather Angel Sinclair, Anthony Sinclair and Barbara Joan Benson. Real parties in interest are the widow, adult son and adult daughter of Robert B. Sinclair, who was brutally murdered by Billy McCoy Hunter on January 3, 1970, a few hours after Hunter was released on bail from the Santa Barbara County jail. The county, relying upon the legal defense of sovereign immunity, had demurred to the complaint on the ground that it failed to state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action against it. The trial court overruled the demurrer.

As alleged in the complaint, the tragic facts which underlie the legal issues posed in this matter are as follows: On December 31, 1969, Billy McCoy Hunter was arrested and booked for drunk driving. Upon his arrest, he displayed erratic and violent behavior and used profane language. He was released on $425.00 bail at 5:30 a.m. on January 1, 1970. At 10:30 a.m., that same morning (January 1), he was rearrested and booked on charges of attempted burglary, assault with intent to commit rape, battery and public intoxication. Arresting officers reported that when confronted at the scene, Hunter was armed with a straight razor, was combative and used belligerent and abusive language. During booking it was necessary to use force upon Hunter to make him respond to orders. He was placed in solitary confinement. While thus confined, Hunter engaged in a number of destructive and violent acts including flooding his cell and destroying jail property, fighting with sheriff's deputies, including biting one deputy on the arm, throwing food out of his cell and bending his food tray.

After these events occurred, the deputies booked Hunter on the additional charges of battery on a police officer and destruction of jail property. It is alleged, however, that the deputies failed to advise the district attorney's office of the additional booking and failed to supply to the district attorney written reports of the actions of Hunter while in jail on the second arrest until after Hunter's release on bail. This release took place on January 2, 1970 at 4:30 p.m., upon the posting, by a bail bondsman, of the bail fixed in the amount of $1,065.00. This was the bail previously set on January 1, 1970 on the complaint filed by the district attorney charging Hunter with two counts of battery (Pen.Code, § 242) and one count of resisting arrest (Pen.Code, § 148). After Hunter's release on bail, the sheriff did notify the district attorney of the new offenses committed in jail. Meantime, Hunter had entered the residence of Mr. Sinclair and stabbed him to death.

The gravamen of the complaint is an allegation that there are three 'acts and omissions of negligence' on the part of the county which are not protected by government immunity, namely:

1. No information relevant to the violent criminal acts of Billy McCoy

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Hunter committed while in jail were communicated to the Office of the District Attorney by the Sheriff's Office prior to releasing him on bail for previous crimes even though the Sheriff had booked Hunter for the violent acts committed in jail.


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