Both attorneys for Fortuna double-manslaughter suspect Marcia “Marci” Kitchen have filed a motion to withdraw from her case, saying she has run out of money to pay for private counsel.
Patrik Griego and Ben Okin, who have represented Kitchen throughout her case, released a statement today explaining why they can no longer defend her. Right now the trial is set for May 29.
“Both Mr. Griego and Mr. Okin have worked without compensation well beyond their legal contract,” the statement says. “It was anticipated that funds would be available to retain counsel for trial, but due to a change in circumstances Ms. Kitchen cannot afford to retain counsel for purposes of trial. Counsel are withdrawing now to allow sufficient time for appointed counsel to prepare, given that this filing comes close to three months before trial. Both Mr. Griego and Mr. Okin strongly believe in Ms. Kitchen and her case and have agreed to work to assist appointed counsel to ensure that the matter can proceed as scheduled.”
Reached by phone this afternoon, Griego said he and Okin have requested that the motion be heard on March 6. Because cases are assigned alphabetically, he expects the county Conflict Counsel’s Office to be appointed for Kitchen.
“We don’t anticipate it will delay the trial,” Griego said, adding that even if he and Okin had remained on the case “a million things could have happened” to cause a delay.
Kitchen has waived time and is out of custody, so her case would be low-priority. And numerous homicide cases are moving sluggishly through the Humboldt County court system, some of them with defendants who have not given up their right to a speedy trial.
Griego said all the evidence is in, and the defense already has experts lined up to testify. But he said timing will also depend on the appointed attorney’s workload.
Right now the Conflict Counsel’s Office is short on lawyers and long on murder and other serious felony cases, as is the county Public Defender’s Office.
Kitchen, 40, is accused of running over and killing her own teen-age daughter, Kiya Kitchen, and Kiya’s friend Faith Tsarnas on Eel River Drive the night of July 12, 2016. The two 14-year-olds had been skateboarding in the road.
According to testimony during the preliminary hearing, Kitchen had been drinking when her Jeep struck the girls. She reportedly stopped briefly, looked back and saw nothing, and then drove home.
Her son testified that his mother told him she had hit a deer. But then she asked him, he said, to ram her Jeep into a garage door so she would have an explanation for the damage.
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- KITCHEN HEARING DAY ONE: Kitchen Told Friend She ‘Hit the Girls,’ Initially Thought She’d Hit a Deer, CHP Officer Testifies; Collision Scene Described
- KITCHEN HEARING, DAY TWO: Marci Kitchen’s Son Testifies That His Mother Killed His Sister and Her Friend While Drunk, Then Tried to Cover Up the Crime
- KITCHEN HEARING, DAY THREE: Suspect’s Son Cross-Examined By Defense Attorneys, But Judge Holds Kitchen to Answer On All Charges
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