Two of three defendants were found guilty of murder Wednesday in the brutal beating death of an 81-year-old woman in her own home, the verdicts leaving many in the audience and even much of the jury in tears.
Not only did the jury find David Moses and Katila Nash guilty of first-degree murder, they also found the special circumstance of a murder committed during a burglary to be true. Moses faces a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, and Katila Nash faces 25 years to life. Both are scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 25.
“We’re elated,” prosecutor David Wilson said of the convictions. “This is a long time coming. Dorothy Session didn’t need to die that day.”
Wilson said he plans to re-try the third defendant, Angelique Nash. The jury deadlocked 10-2, with 10 voting she was guilty.
Angelique Nash is the older sister of Katila Nash.
Moses, 20, showed no reaction as his verdict was read. Katila Nash, during the reading of her verdict, at first wiped her mouth, then held her hands over her eyes as she wailed, her sister sobbing beside her.
Deputy Public Defender Jano Mattaeo said Moses is saddened by the verdict, but understands it was the jury’s decision.
“It’s not always what you want to hear,” Mattaeo said of his own reaction, “but I’m understanding and respectful of the jury’s verdict.”
Richard Rivera, attorney for 17-year-old Katila Nash, said it was a “very sad and chaotic verdict,” and he hopes Katila Nash is able to get the help she needs. Rivera has said his client suffers from a host of mental and cognitive difficulties and has been the victim of abuse.
Fred Gagliardini, representing Angelique Nash, said it would be a waste of money to re-try his client. He said he thinks jurors will confront the same arguments that resulted in a mistrial in this instance.
Gagliardini has argued his client never entered the Session home and didn’t realize Moses intended to burglarize it. He said 19-year-old Angelique Nash simply went along with Moses that day because Moses told her he knew a friend who could get them marijuana.
Family members of Session said they were reserving comment until after sentencing.
The Moses and Nash families met after the verdicts at Moses’ mother’s apartment to express their sorrow. The mother, Brinda Patterson, said she knew her son was going to do prison time, but he doesn’t deserve to never have an opportunity to one day be a free man.
Patterson and other family members said the trial was unfair, and they reiterated comments made by Mattaeo during his closing argument suggesting certain testimony was unreliable. Patterson said a parent or at least a social worker should have been present during the interrogations of the defendants because they were minors at the time and wards of the state.
Floyd Nash, father of the Nash sisters, said the special circumstance of murder during the commission of a burglary should never have been added because the defendants never committed a burglary, they just wanted to use Session’s phone. He said he believes that was never considered by detectives or prosecutors.
“They wanted it a certain way, and they made sure the evidence was a certain way,” the father said.
United in their grief, the Moses and Nash families also said they share something else — profound sorrow for what happened to Session and for what her family has gone through.
“My heart goes out to that family, it really does,” Patterson said.
Confusion in the courtroom
There were a series of hiccups before the jury’s verdict could be read.
The jury at first returned from its afternoon break with verdict forms reading “not guilty” for Moses and Katila Nash. Despite writing that they were not guilty, the jury wrote that it found that the special circumstance that the murder was committed during a burglary to be true.
Judge Gary T. Friedman told the jury members they had to leave the special circumstance page blank if they found the defendants not guilty. They could only find the special circumstance to be true if they found the defendants guilty of murder, Friedman told them.
The jury left the courtroom, returned after a short absence and handed in the guilty verdicts for Moses and Katila Nash. Then came the next snafu.
“I thought you told me you were unable to reach a verdict,” an exasperated Friedman said to the jury foreman.
The verdict form for Angelique Nash showed the foreman’s signature on the “not guilty” section of the page even though the foreman had just told the court that they were deadlocked. The foreman said he didn’t remember signing that and apologized to the judge.
The jury again briefly left the courtroom and upon returning the mistrial for Angelique was declared.
Wilson, the prosecutor, said jury instructions are complicated and it’s not unusual for a jury to need some clarification.
The defense attorneys were more troubled.
“I can’t explain why a jury foreperson would sign his name to a ‘not guilty’ verdict sheet for someone whom he says they have no verdict on,” Gagliardini said.
In fact, Gagliardini had asked that the “not guilty” form the jury submitted for Angelique Nash be the standing verdict because the jury completed it, signed it and submitted it to the court. Friedman disagreed and said it was proper for the foreman to correct his mistake.
Regarding the other defendants, Gagliardini said usually when a case has what is called a “substance of crime” with an enhancement the instructions are contained on the verdict sheet that is given to the jury. Those specific instructions were not on this particular verdict sheet, so it’s understandable how they became confused, Gagliardini said.
Floyd Nash said he was also bothered by the jury’s problems in delivering a verdict.
“If they can’t even fill out a form, how can they make a decision on three children spending the rest of their lives in prison?” he said.
Session's death shocked local residents after she was found badly beaten in her east Bakersfield home April 14, 2010. The coroner’s office found that Session died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head.
Wilson, the prosecutor, has said the defendants were looking for an empty home to burglarize and thought they had found one when they came upon Session's residence in the 1500 block of Camino Sierra. They unexpectedly found her home, Wilson said, and Moses beat her because they didn’t want to leave a witness.
In his closing argument Monday, Wilson noted that both Moses and Katila Nash told police they had gone to Session’s home to steal things, and that Moses had admitted to striking Session. Angelique Nash never entered the home because she was acting as a lookout while the other two burglarized it, Wilson said.
Mattaeo argued his client never intended to kill Session or burglarize her home. He said Moses impulsively struck Session twice and had recommended the jury find Moses guilty of a lesser charge.
Session has been described as a church-going woman who liked to grow gardens and bake cookies for children and widows like herself. She was a devout member of First Freewill Baptist Church for 56 years.