The 20-year-old man convicted of murder last June in the shooting death of Joshua Houlgate should be granted a new trial, his attorney argued Friday.
Defense attorney Tom McCormick, who replaced attorney Gregory Jacobson, argued before San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Dodie A. Harman that “there was no defense present” in Patrick Wollett’s case and that his client did not receive a fair trial.
Deputy District Attorney Matt Kerrigan opposed the motion for a new trial, saying the question is whether he received a competent defense “and the answer, I think, is yes.”
However, in an unusual turn, Houlgate’s parents, Laurence Houlgate, a retired Cal Poly philosophy professor, and Torre Houlgate-West, wrote a letter to Harman in September saying that Wollett should get an appeal.
“We do not accept the accuracy of Sarah Rey’s testimony about Patrick’s role in the beating and murder of our son. We believe that Patrick’s culpability was not proven,” they wrote. “We think Patrick Wollett was so poorly represented by his attorney that an appeal based on attorney incompetence and neglect should be made.”
Sarah Lonsinger-Rey had been high on methamphetamine and drunk from tequila and beer but told a Superior Court jury that she remembers Chad Westbrook holding a shotgun aimed at Houlgate and firing.
Lonsinger-Rey said she never saw a weapon in Wollett’s hands, who prosecutors alleged was beating Lonsinger-Rey and Houlgate as they lay on a mattress in his mobile home.
Harman did not issue a ruling Friday but scheduled an April 23 hearing. If the motion for a new trial is denied, then Wollett will be sentenced at that time.
Wollett was convicted with Chad Westbrook of killing 36-year-old Houlgate on Dec. 6, 2007, at Wollett’s home at the Oceanaire Mobile Home Park on Orcutt Road in San Luis Obispo.
Westbrook, then 37, was accused of shooting Houlgate with a shotgun while Wollett battered both Houlgate and Lonsinger-Rey with a baseball bat just after the pair had sex. Lonsinger-Rey had been engaged to Wollett’s brother, which is what prosecutors said prompted the crime.
Jurors also found Westbrook and Wollett guilty of felony assault with a deadly weapon and convicted Westbrook separately of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
In August, Westbrook was sentenced to 67 years to life in prison.
Wollett also faces up to life in prison. However, his sentencing was delayed after a fall-out between his family and Jacobson.
McCormick argued Friday that Jacobson did not call any witnesses during the trial, did not hire or contact any experts to rebut any of the prosecution’s evidence and did not allow Wollett to testify even though — according to McCormick — Wollett said that he wanted to.
Jacobson testified Friday he didn’t put Wollett on the stand because he was worried Wollett would “be destroyed” on cross-examination.
“I could never get a clear, consistent answer that was consistent with the theme — that he was there, that he didn’t pull the trigger,” he said.
He said Friday he heard of Wollett’s desire to testify after the conviction.
Kerrigan called the lack of experts irrelevant and said: “There is no demonstration that any expert called would have made any difference in this case.”
Wollett’s family on Friday was clearly upset with the way they felt that Jacobson had handled Wollett’s case.
“I felt for the first time that Pat was actually being represented,” Penny Wollett, Wollett’s stepmother, said after the hearing. “I felt that his previous lawyer let us down.”
One other issue addressed Friday was whether the trial included juror misconduct. John Pryor, a close family friend of the Wolletts, said that he overheard a juror discussing the case outside the courtroom and tried four or five times to notify Jacobson, without success.
Jacobson said Friday during the hearing that he did not have any recollection of Pryor contacting him.