Jason Anthony Warren hasn’t officially been sentenced yet, but there’s really no doubt about his future.
“Mr. Warren will never get out of prison,” Judge Timothy Cissna said today, confirming what everyone who’s been following the trial already knew. “But we still have to do everything correctly,” he added.
That means the official sentencing was postponed this morning to give the court time to consider whether Warren’s conviction on the second of two murder counts should carry a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole — a sentence he’ll face for the first count — or merely 50 years to life. Either way, the sentences will be served consecutively, along with two more life sentences for attempted murder. So, yes, Jason Warren will die in prison.
On Dec. 3 a jury unanimously convicted Warren of four counts. The first was the first degree murder of Hoopa woman Dorothy Ulrich, along with special circumstances of lying in wait, torture and committing multiple murders. Second was the first degree murder of HSU lecturer Suzanne Seemann, who was running with friends on the morning of Sept. 27, 2012, when Warren deliberately ran them down in a stolen car. Counts three and four were for the attempted murder of those running friends, Terri Vroman Little and Jessica Hunt, both of whom were seriously injured in the incident.
Today, Vroman Little gave emotional testimony about the devastating effects Warren’s crimes have had on her life. Suzanne Seemann’s husband Hank Seemann also addressed the court, as did Ulrich’s sister-in-law and representatives of Suzanne Seemann’s parents and Ulrich’s mother.
Last time Warren appeared in court he was dressed in a sport coat and slacks. Today he wore the orange jumpsuit of the Humboldt County Correctional Facility. As his victims described the pain he’s caused and pondered the wickedness of his mind, he sat at the defense table, facing away from them, the only possible sign of emotion a slight increase in the pace of his blinking.
Hank Seemann was the first to speak, and his prepared comments served as a loving ode to his late wife and the mother of their two kids, who were just 8 and 4 at the time of her death. They were a “thriving family” who had “a beautiful person taken from us,” he said.
Suzie, who was accomplished as both an oceanographer and a meteorologist, loved “exploring wild landscapes” and spent five seasons as a park ranger in Yosemite,” Hank Seemann said. She challenged the students she taught at College of the Redwoods and Humboldt State University to help make the world a better place, he said. And as a mother, “Love for our children flowed through her.”
Finally Hank Seemann addressed the issue of Warren’s sentencing, saying “a great void has been left” in his life and the pain is ongoing. Warren, he said, has displayed “extreme wickedness and depravity” and is “beyond rehabilitation.” Given the “abundance of evidence for severe psychopathy,” Hank Seemann concluded, “He must be incarcerated forever.”
Vroman Little was already crying before she began speaking, but when she did talk she explained that her life has been forever changed due to the physical and emotional repercussions of Warren’s violence. Her traumatic brain injury has changed her cognitive functioning, making her especially sensitive to stress and noise and ultimately forcing her to quit teaching.
“It’s painful that I lived and Suzie did not,” Vroman Little said. She mentioned the Cruz waiver that allowed Warren to be free and commit these crimes. “I want that to be the final gesture of trust extended to Jason Warren,” she said.
Next, in an unexpected turn, local courts blogger John Chiv read a statement on behalf of Shirley Ortega, mother of the late Dorothy Ulrich. “Your honor, today is the day that we beg of the court to rectify the judicial errors and leniencies that have been given to this criminal in the past,” the statement began.
It went on to address the defendant directly: “As for you, Jason Anthony Warren, it is time for you to answer for what you have done,” the statement read. And it concluded with a wish for vengeance:
We hope you have many years to sit in prison and think what you have done — day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute. Some say justice has been served, but for those of us left behind, justice would only be served if it was your life, not theirs, that was ended. The one thing you cannot take away are all of the wonderful memories we have of Suzanne and Dorothy. They will live on in all of our hearts forever. You, Jason Anthony Warren, will be forgotten and left to rot away in a cell at a California state prison for the rest of your pitiful life. May the Devil have mercy on your soul!!!
(A transcript of Ortega’s statement was provided by Chiv.)
Holly Hensher, a victim/witness specialist with the District Attorney’s office, read a statement on behalf of Seemann’s parents, who chronicled a list of “what-ifs,” “never-agains” and the “not to be.” While Bill Wetzel, Seemann’s father, described himself as a “bleeding heart liberal” who maintains “a sliver of compassion” for Warren, since his life is effectively over as well, he nonetheless urged the court to isolate Warren in the prison system for the rest of his life.
Finally, Ulrich’s sister-in-law, Maria Ulrich, said she hopes the justice system gives Warren what he deserves, “and that you are forgotten.”
Among the issues Judge Cissna considered in sentencing was whether a juvenile conviction for carjacking and attempted murder should be counted as one or two strikes under California’s three-strikes sentencing law. Court precedents conflicted on this issue, but after hearing from both attorneys Cissna decided to treat it as just one strike. Special Prosecutor Paul Sequeira pointed out that it will make no difference in Warren’s future, and he didn’t want to leave any grounds for an appeal.
Cissna opted to reserve jurisdiction on the second murder count while he considers the appropriate sentence. The sentences on the other counts remain tentative until Cissna issues a final ruling. And there’s still the issue of victim restitution to consider, which will happen at a later date. The judge called for a briefing from the attorneys by Jan. 27, replies by Feb. 1 and another hearing on Feb. 8 at 8:30 a.m.
- Jury Sees Photos of Battered, Blood-Smeared Kia on Day Three of Warren Trial
- Warren Trial, Day Four: Security Footage, Samurai Swords and a Vanishing Witness
- Warren Trial, Day Five: ‘The Type of Scream You Hear in a Horror Movie’
- Warren Trial, Day Six: The Evidence Mounts
- Warren Trial, Day Seven: The Autopsies
- Warren Trial, Day Eight: The DNA Matches, But Warren’s Wife Stops Short of Positive ID
- Warren Trial, Day Nine: Murders Foreshadowed by Similar Crimes a Decade Earlier
- Warren Trial, Day 10: Doctor Details Brain Injuries of Hit-and-Run Victims
- Warren Trial, Day 11: Both the Prosecution and Defense Rest
- ‘He Tortured Her to Death’ Prosecutor Argues in Closing Statement for Warren Double-Murder Trial
- Defense Sprinkles Piecemeal Doubts in Closing Argument of Warren Double-Murder Trial
- Jury Finds Warren Guilty on All Counts
- Jason Warren’s Surviving Victims Discuss Cruz Waivers, the Death Penalty and the Importance of Cultivating Goodness