May 03, 2021
Death Penalty Overturned For California Mom Who Killed Her 4 Daughters
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SACRAMENTO (AP) — The California Supreme Court on Monday reversed the death penalty for a woman who killed her four young daughters and tried to kill her son by setting their house on fire 23 years ago.
The justices unanimously upheld the first-degree murder, attempted murder and arson convictions of 57-year-old Sandi Dawn Nieves in the deaths of daughters Nikolet Amber Nieves, Rashel Hollie Nieves, Kristl Dawn Folden, and Jaqlene Marie Folden.READ MORE: COVID: California Public Health Officials Ease Outdoor Masking Rules
Sandi Dawn Nieves (California Department of Corrections)
But they overturned her death sentence “due to the trial court’s misconduct.”
The judge was frustrated that the defense lawyer kept violating court procedures despite repeated warnings and sanctions, and also openly doubted the credibility of defense witnesses, the justices found.
“Ultimately, the trial judge’s conspicuous disdain for defense counsel and witnesses, and his repeated references to their improper or untrustworthy conduct, lent credence to the prosecution’s argument that defendant was manipulative and deceitful,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote.
“These were the very characteristics the prosecution highlighted to justify the death penalty.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge L. Jeffrey Wiatt killed himself in 2005 after he was questioned by detectives on an unrelated matter.
Nieves was one of 23 women on California’s death row, and is housed at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla. There are 682 men on the nation’s largest death row, though California has not executed anyone since 2006 and Gov. Gavin Newsom has imposed a moratorium.
Nieves called firefighters July 1, 1998, to report her house was on fire. The blaze was out by the time they arrived and they found her sitting in the living room with her 14-year-old son, covered in soot.
Her our daughters, ages 12, 11, 7, and 5 were lying on sleeping bags in the kitchen, all dead of smoke inhalation. Gasoline had been poured and ignited in the hallway and bedrooms, and the oven was open with burned items inside.READ MORE: Guilty Verdict In 2016 Murder Of Alameda County Sheriffs Explorer Karla Ramirez
Nieves was upset over the end of a relationship and had a stormy past with the fathers of her children, according to the court.
Her son and two oldest daughters were from her first marriage, the two younger girls from her second, and a third man had just broken up with her for the second time after learning she was pregnant. She had threatened suicide and had an abortion a week before the fire.
In a note to her second husband postmarked the day of the fire, she wrote “Now you don’t have to support any of us!” She sent a letter to the third man saying that “I can’t live without you in my life.”
Nieves testified that she didn’t remember sending the letters and “thought she dreamed about holding a lighter and seeing flames” until she realized she had scorched hair on the back of her hand.
Defense experts testified that she had taken a combination of drugs that could cause her to act while she was “basically unconscious,” said one, or in delirium, said another. Prosecution witnesses disputed those conclusions.
“Absent the trial judge’s persistent, disparaging remarks, a juror might have viewed these circumstances with greater sympathy and concluded the crime was a tragedy lacking the moral culpability to warrant death,” Cantil-Sakauye wrote.
“A juror might also have given greater weight to defendant’s remorse and evidence she had been a loving mother to conclude that life in prison, confronted each day with what she had done to her children, was a fitting punishment.”
The justices rejected multiple other defense claims of trial error, including that the jury was not properly selected or screened to consider a death penalty case involving the four young children.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.MORE NEWS: Come And Get Your Vaccine: Contra Costa Offering Shots To All Who Live Outside County
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Vanderpump Rules alum Jax Taylor & Brittany Cartwright reveal they conceived newborn son Cruz in a ‘Kentucky house boat’
VANDERPUMP Rules stars Jax Taylor and Brittany Cartwright have revealed they conceived their newborn son on a house boat.
The couple, who welcomed their first baby Cruz on April 12, explained how they had been renting the Airbnb property in Kentucky at the time.5The couple conceived their baby son in KentuckyCredit: Instagram/Jax Taylor
Brittany, 32, opened up about how she and and Jax, 41, stayed in Kentucky for "three months" to help out when her mom got "really sick".
She explained to Us Weekly series Moms Like Us: "We know exactly which time it was when I got pregnant. We were in Kentucky, helping my mom ’cause she got really sick this past year."
The new mom went on to detail how they rented an Airbnb the week that she was ovulating in order to get down to business in conceiving Cruz.
Adding that the "didn't want to be in her mom's house", Jax added that they were "honest" in telling her they were going somewhere "romantic".5The couple were visiting Kentucky at the timeCredit: Getty 5Brittany announced she was pregnant last yearCredit: Instagram Brittany Cartwright
However, the romantic plan didn't go exactly to plan as they only had a small window of time to do the deed before checking out.
"Kristen Doute and Alex Menache were in town with us because we rented this house boat," Brittany continued. "They were at the Airbnb and they left to go to the airport and the maids were going to come into the Airbnb at 11.
"So after they left, I was like, ‘Come on!’ We had to hurry before the maid got there. It was just not romantic at all. So, that’s how Cruz was conceived.”
Brittany added that it took five months to conceive the baby where they only "hit the main ovulation days twice", finding success the second time.5The couple fell pregnant on their second attemptCredit: Instagram
Jax concluded: "I don't understand how my drunk friends did it, we had to hit that day. Let me tell you how romantic it was. It would be, like, a Tuesday afternoon, I’d be out cutting the grass, she’d be like, ‘Get in here!'."
Nonetheless, proud mom Brittany said she was happy that her first born is "Kentucky made" and was conceived in her home state.
Last month, the first-time-mom admitted she suffered through a 27-hour labor, as she "screamed in pain" during her son's birth.
The reality star opened up about the difficult pregnancy and childbirth in a conversation with E! News, where she explained that welcoming her son was the "hardest thing" she has ever done.5Brittany said the conception "wasn't romantic"Credit: Instagram Brittany Cartwright
She said she was "nervous, excited, and definitely ready" when heading into the delivery room, though she explained how sick she had been the last nine months.
"I have been extremely sick my entire pregnancy but at least he gave me a break the last three weeks from throwing up every day."
Despite their joyful celebration, Brittany's pregnancy was not the most simple venture.Most read in CelebrityExclusiveTEIGEN IT OFFChrissy's Target line removed from site after Courtney Stodden's bully claimsBreakingMUNN-LANEYJohn Mulaney is 'dating Olivia Munn' just days after news he's divorcing wifeBEN'S SCAREBen Affleck calls cops after intruder 'attempts to break into' $20M LA mansionSCOTT'S CRISIS Kourtney Kardashian's ex Scott Disick 'fears he will drink' when KUWTK ends'#cancelchrissy'Chrissy Teigen slammed for calling Farrah Abraham a 'wh**e' in past tweetholding KOURTKourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker's PDA posts branded 'weird' by his ex
"It wasn't the easiest pregnancy for her but she powered through without any complaints. The respect and love I have for my wife has reached a new level and I am just in awe of her," Jax praised his wife.
The Vanderpump mom gave birth on April 12th and shared the news shortly after.
Already, Brittany and Jax have expressed plans to expand their family further, and hope for three kids total.Vanderpump Rules' Brittany Cartwright seen out for the first time weeks after giving birth to newborn son Cruz