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Marjorie Good Won’t Be Tried Again In Solvang ALS Patient’s Death

Judge records jury's not guilty murder verdicts from trial, dismisses involuntary manslaughter charge against Good

Defense attorney David Bixby talks outside of a Santa Maria courtroom with his client Marjorie Good, 90.
Defense attorney David Bixby talks outside of a Santa Maria courtroom with his client Marjorie Good, 90. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

With tears in her eyes, a 90-year-old woman who was tried for conspiring to kill her daughter, a Solvang ALS patient, told a Santa Ynez Valley pastor, “I’m free,” while sitting outside a Santa Maria courtroom Monday morning.

A stunned Good kept repeating “Wow” after her attorney, David Bixby, explained what happened minutes earlier in Santa Barbara County Superior Court. 

Judge Rogelio Flores granted a defense motion to record the jury’s not guilty verdicts in the case against Marjorie Good,  and later dismissed a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter after prosecutors said they would not pursue the matter.

Good and a caretaker, Wanda Nelson, 63, were accused of conspiring to kill Heidi Good on March 25, 2013. 

“These verdicts are now recorded,” Flores said.

After the end of the trial that lasted more than three months, the jury said they could not come to a unanimous agreement on the manslaughter charge after first determining Good was not guilty of first- and second-degree murder. 

Separate juries heard the cases against Good and Nelson and Nelson was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. 

The judge declared a mistrial after some Good jurors said they heard media coverage of Nelson's verdict and mentioned the other verdict in the deliberation room. 

Recording the verdicts from the first trial meant Good could not be tried again on first- and second-degree murders, if prosecutors chose to retry the case. 

The defense attorney filed  his motion in the weeks after the Feb. 23 mistrial.

“I really stressed the fact that if there was jury misconduct, that the misconduct did not rise to a prejudicial level because there was nothing in the statements of the jury itself that would indicate that they relied upon the prejudice in order to achieve their acquittal,” Bixby said.

“You think you’ve got a sure bet but you never know. You always wonder, ‘Am I going to have to make a trip to the Court of Appeal?’ … I’m just glad I don’t have to do that,” Bixby said. 

During the brief hearing Monday, Chief Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Gresser said prosecutors were unable to proceed with the case and the judge dismissed the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter against Good. 

Once he saw his client's expression upon learning what had happened in court, Bixby said proves again she has difficulty hearing. That was a point of contention during the trial since Heidi’s ventilator alarm sounded for 30 minutes. 

“The word relief comes to mind,” Bixby said. “And I’m just really happy that Marjorie can go and enjoy the rest of her time unencumbered, not have to worry about this.”

At one point, the defense attorney leaned down to kiss the top of his client’s head.

“Whatever the basis is we’re just thrilled and it certainly has made the rest of my day,” Bixby said. "Yes, I'm happy. I'm happy for you Midge."

A smiling Good, with tears of happiness in her eyes, said she was relieved at the outcome and appreciative of the support she received.

Her pastor, Blain Gibbs, met Good in the court complex hallway after the hearing. 

“We prayed. God answered. You’re free,” he said upon learning the nonagenarian would not face another trial.

Both Nelson and Good have been staying with Gibbs and his wife, Sherrie, who was one of Heidi’s overnight caretakers. 

“She is the most wonderful, sacrificial, kind, giving mother I’ve ever met in my life,” Sherrie Gibbs said of Good.

One unsettled matter tempered Monday’s celebration. 

Nelson is scheduled to be sentenced April 1 during a hearing when a judge also will rule on defense motions seeking to dismiss the verdict of the jury that found the caretaker guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Lori Pedego, who represented Nelson, also will seek a new trial.

If the judge declines those motions, Nelson’s sentence reportedly could range from probation to four years in state prison.

“I won’t really feel free till I have Wanda home,” Good said. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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