Convicted murderer Sabrina Limon received ineffective counsel and her trial attorney should never have let her take the stand, where she gave "abysmal" testimony, Limon's new attorney argues in a recently filed motion seeking a new trial.
The motion states Bakersfield defense attorney Richard Terry ignored Limon's assertions she wouldn't be good on the stand, then failed to properly prepare her. Limon, the motion states, had no idea even what questions he was going to ask of her.
"Sabrina Limon, in Biblical terms, was the sacrificial lamb in the trial," Woodland Hills-based attorney Sharon Beth Marshall wrote in the motion filed Tuesday. "Unknowing, she convicted herself."
Limon fired Terry after the trial and retained Marshall to prepare the motion. Terry could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
Limon, 38, was found guilty in October of first-degree murder, among other charges, in the 2014 killing of her husband. She faces 25 years to life in prison.
The jury found true that Limon told her lover, former Redlands firefighter Jonathan Hearn, how to get to the Tehachapi workplace of her husband and what hours he'd be working the day he was killed. At trial, Hearn testified the two had long planned to kill her husband, Robert Limon, and after Hearn gunned him down they tried to keep law enforcement from linking them to the crime.
Marshall says in the court filing Hearn can't be trusted. She said he repeatedly lied and made inconsistent statements to law enforcement before agreeing to testify against Limon for a deal in which he'd receive a determinate sentence of 25 years and four months in prison instead of a life term. Also, he came to believe that Sabrina Limon was dating someone else since he'd been locked up, the filing says.
Both Hearn and Limon were originally arrested in 2014, but Limon was released due to insufficient evidence and wasn't rearrested until last year after Hearn agreed to testify.
"Jonathan was motivated to give the prosecution what they wanted," Marshall wrote in the filing.
She said Hearn was "well prepped" and "very believable" on the stand, "looking as polished as a senator."
Limon, in comparison, appeared caught off guard and was unable to answer numerous questions posed to her.
"Sabrina's testimony was nothing short of completely abysmal," Marshall wrote. "She was absolutely unprepared which is why she answered so many questions with 'I don't know' and 'it's hard to explain.'"
Marshall wrote Terry didn't take the time to properly prepare his client. During a weekend break in Limon's testimony Terry went to a jazz concert in Temecula instead of using the two days to provide Limon with feedback and prep her on upcoming questioning, according to the filing.
Terry also, according to the filing, failed to call appropriate defense witnesses such as the grief therapist Limon saw after her husband's death, an expert to testify as to her body language and statements to police and an expert on Hearn's behavior, statements and writings.
"(Hearn) is a very strange person in addition to being a murderer," Marshall wrote.
At trial, Limon admitted having an affair with Hearn but said she knew nothing of his plans to kill Robert Limon, 38.
She explained her failure to tell investigators about Hearn, even after they repeatedly asked if she or her husband had lovers, as an effort to preserve her and her husband's reputations.
The Limons lived in the Hesperia area in San Bernardino County, but the trial was held in Kern County since Robert Limon was killed at a Tehachapi railway yard.
Hearn in November was sentenced after pleading no contest to voluntary manslaughter, among other charges.
Sabrina Limon's sentencing hearing — and the motion for a new trial — are scheduled to be heard Feb. 21.