Lengthy trials impacting victims and jails housing inmates in Fresno County

Kate Nemarich Image
Wednesday, June 19, 2024
Impact of lengthy trials on victims and jails housing inmates
Convicted murderer Daniel Cervantes has sat in the Fresno County Jail for more than a decade he was convicted of his girlfriend's 2013 murder nearly 2 years ago. However, sentencin

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Daniel Cervantes has sat in the Fresno County Jail for more than a decade he was convicted of his girlfriend's 2013 murder nearly two years ago.

However, sentencing has been delayed time and time again.

Cervantes returned to the courtroom Tuesday morning, but his sentencing was pushed back to the end of this month because his attorney is in the hospital.

This is at least the 11th time sentencing has been delayed since a jury found Cervantes guilty of murder in 2022.

Prosecutors say in 2013 Cervantes shot his girlfriend in the back of the head while she was sleeping and staged it as a suicide.

It took nearly nine years after that for the trial to begin.

During that time, Cervantes remained in the Fresno County Jail.

Cervantes has been in the Fresno County Jail for about 11 years, longer than any other inmate who is currently in the jail.

That time includes two years since he was convicted.

The latest delays have been at the request of the defense.

However, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office says cases like his are not common and that most people are moved out of jail fairly quickly after conviction.

Right now, roughly 24 hundred people are housed in the Fresno County Jail.

About 1900 are working through the trial process, less than 100 are waiting for transport to prison, and the rest have been sentenced to serve their time in jail.

Russell Duran, Assistant Sheriff of the Custody Division, said of all the inmates only 17 have been in the jail for more than 5 years.

"A majority of our incarcerated people get through the court system within that 5 to 6-year mark at the most," said Duran.

In the more than 20 years he's worked in the division, he's only seen 1 or 2 people at a time held for close to 10 years.

After conviction, especially those involving serious crimes, Duran said the inmate is typically moved to prison within weeks.

"The normal process from the time that they're convicted usually their sentencing court date is scheduled a month out from their conviction and then once they are sentenced in court if they're going to go to state prison they're usually with us for another four to six weeks before we actually get them to the prison," said Duran.

Drawn-out cases and trials take a greater toll on victims and their families, disrupting their lives long after a crime, and often impacting their sense of justice.

"When it takes this long a lot of families feel unheard, they don't feel like their rights are being validated or even taken into consideration, and in some situations they just lose all faith," said Cynthia Reinaga, Senior Victim Advocate.

As a victim advocate, Cynthia Reinaga serves as a guide through the court system and offers direction to therapy and financial services.

She said advocates try to explain from the start that the court process can be lengthy, but that often doesn't ease painful emotions.

"A lot of them have said its triggering, it's reliving what the initial feeling was of the loss," said Reinaga. "A lot of them do understand that the defendants do have rights and victims do as well, but they feel like the defendant's outweigh their victim's rights."

As for Cervantes, he'll appear for the 12th time for sentencing on June 28th.

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