Filed in Debi Zuver Case
July 8th, appellate attorney Herb Blanck filed the opening brief
in Debi Zuver's attempt to overturn her Draconian 21-year prison
sentence for manslaughter in the shooting death of her batterer,
Garloff November 23, 2000 after he'd illegally entered her apartment,
beaten and threatened to kill her if she didn't agree to lie
for him in his upcoming drug manufacturing trial.
nearly two years of rapes, repeated battering and death threats.
Just moments before she shot him, Debi states that Garloff growled,
"Get me my god-damned
gun." In a recent interview, Debi said, "I know that
if I hadn't shot Kim that night, I wouldn't be alive today."
charged with murder, Debi Zuver pled no contest to voluntary
manslaughter "without malice and upon a sudden quarrel
and heat of passion." On January 7th of this year, Judge
Elliot Daum handed down the shocking 21-year sentence. She is
currently serving her sentence at the Central California Women's
Facility in Chowchilla.
appeal is based on three basic issues: ineffective assistance
of counsel, abuse of discretion by Judge Daum, and denial of
due process in the conduct of the sentencing hearing.
process claim is based on the fundamental unfairness of the
sentencing hearing, into which a wealth of unreliable and incomplete
information was allowed, as well as the court's failure to consider
the circumstances of the shooting or Debi's character and "propensities"
(i.e., likelihood to re-offend).
Assistance of Counsel
Defender Steve Fabian is cited for a number of errors in his
representation of Debi's defense. Certainly the most damaging
was his refusal to allow Debi to talk with the probation officer
preparing the pre-sentencing report a report that makes
sentencing recommendations that are almost always followed by
As a result,
absent from that report is extensive information on the violence
and threats Debi suffered at Garloff's hands or any explanation
other than the prosecution's for what happened on the night
of the shooting.
failed to object to numerous errors and omissions in the pre-sentencing
report and in both the prosecution's "state-ment in aggravation"
(i.e., reasons for imposing the maximum sentence) and closing
In his closing,
Deputy DA Chuck Arden viciously attacked Debi, the legally accepted
existence of Battered Women's Syndrome, and the Purple Berets.
(At one point Arden spat out the word "bitch" as if
he'd been waiting years for an opportunity to say it out loud
in court.) Fabian made no objections.
of Judicial Discretion
Judge Daum's errors include rejecting out of hand substantial
evidence that Debi suffered from Battered Women's Syndrome,
that she was remorseful and unlikely to re-offend, and her claim
that she was acting in defense of her own life.
the appeal cites a sort of double-jeopardy charge that Daum
incorrectly considered issues of premeditation even though there
is no element of pre-meditation in the manslaughter charge Debi
pled to. Court rules demand sentencing be based only on the
crime the defendant is convicted of.
doubly weighed the fact that a gun was used in the homicide,
first to justify the highest possible sentence on manslaughter,
and then to add another 10 years to the sentence for the use
of a gun in commission of the crime, again the maximum sentence
sentencing decision in the Zuver case raises even more questions
in light of his recent defiance of Governor Davis' near-blanket
denial of parole applications. Interestingly, the two cases
Daum has chosen in the legitimate fight against unjust parole
denials have made poster boys of Jimmy Sole and Raymond Skinner,
both serving life sentences for murdering their wives or ex-wives.
down his ex-wife and shot her to death in a Petaluma bar in
1979. Skinner murdered his wife in a Santa Rosa motel room in
1983, breaking a bottle over her head, then using it to slit