Young Public Defender Wins Murder Case
May 30, 2012
Heidi Holmquist, '09, a former member of the Pacific McGeorge Mock Trial Competition Team, played a major role in winning a defense verdict in a murder trial on May 1, 2012, in Humboldt County Superior Court.
Holmquist, who has worked at the Humboldt County Public Defender's Office since 2010, was co-counsel for Joseph Eugene Miller, 43, charged in the April 2002 stabbing death of a Eureka woman. Miller was arrested in May 2011 and spent almost a year in jail awaiting trial. The jury took less than three hours in deliberations before acquitting Miller, who had been connected to the crime through DNA evidence.
"I have been a misdemeanor trial attorney," Holmquist said, "but this year I decided to stick my nose into an interesting murder case that was 10 years old, and the client was adamant he didn't do it. I was able to not only second chair the murder trial, but was effectively co-counsel (contributing to jury selection, writing the opening, actually questioning prosecution and defense witnesses, and writing motions). We felt confident, but of course the worst kind of client to have as a defense attorney is one who is innocent of murder."
After six weeks of trial, Holmquist and lead counsel Greg Elvine-Kreis were rewarded for their efforts in turning up conflicting evidence that cast doubt on the prosecutor's case. The jury gave them a complete acquittal.
"I have to say that there isn't a day that goes by that I don't use something I learned from the Pacific McGeorge Trial Advocacy Program, whether it be a simple motion hearing or a murder trial," Holmquist said. I feel very lucky to have had such a great practical educational foundation. I can't imagine having to do this job without it."
The local newspaper, The Times-Standard, lauded the work of the public defenders. "The Miller case stands as an example of how the American justice system works and how we need public defenders every bit as much as we need prosecutors, judges and police. We salute Humboldt County's Public Defender's Office for a job well done," its editorial read.
One of Holmquist's colleagues at the public defender's office is classmate Casey Russo, '09.