The appeals court that overturned a 2018 dismissal of a murder charge against Finley Fultz concurred with the lower trial court that prosecutors had made serious errors in handling evidence against Fultz.
However, it disagreed with the trial court’s assessment that the case needed to be dismissed altogether.
With the case’s dismissal overturned, it remains unclear whether the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office will retry the case against the 32-year-old Fultz, who was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the 2014 slaying of Isaac Zafft.
In its 45-page ruling issued Monday, California’s Third District Court of Appeal agreed with Nevada County Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderson that the District Attorney’s Office had lost evidence in the case, violating Fultz’s constitutional rights. The court also concurred with Anderson that investigators handling the case against Fultz had obtained self-incriminating statements from the defendant without first reading him his Miranda rights.
But the appeals court broke with Anderson’s finding in his 2018 ruling that these errors meant that any trial of Fultz would necessarily be unfair. Instead, the state justices asserted that a fair trial could be held once the violations of Fultz’s constitutional rights had been remedied. Based on this determination, the court overturned the case’s dismissal and sent the proceeding back to trial court in Nevada County.
Nevada County District Attorney Jesse Wilson said that it is still too early for his office to make a determination on whether he will retry the case, adding that his office is still assessing the situation in light of the appeals’ court decision.
The ruling brought two central standards of judicial precedent into play: the Brady rule, based off the 1963 Brady v. Maryland Supreme Court case, and the “Medina error” — an embodied principal of state