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DA Creates Conviction Integrity Unit: Reduces Jamestown Murder Sentence

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Sonora, CA — Reviewing a murder and robbery case from 2003 has led Tuolumne County District Attorney Cassandra Jenecke to create a new Conviction Integrity Unit.

Derek Wooden, who was 20 years old and living in Jamestown at the time, was convicted of murder and attempted murder by a jury in November of 2003.

The DA’s Office reports, “During the trial, Melissa Berry, identified Mr. Wooden as participating in the robbery that led to the shooting death of Donald Hopkins and Ms. Berry being shot in the head. Mr. Wooden was never alleged to have been the shooter, but an active participant in the robbery.”

When the Sheriff’s Office was investigating the murder of Craig Hale throughout 2021 and 2022 (of which Steven Berrigan was ultimately convicted), numerous people brought up the murder of Hopkins and provided new statements.

It spurred the creation of the new Conviction Integrity Unit. A Deputy District Attorney and the Investigation Bureau reviewed all evidence discovered at the time of the jury trial and reviewed trial transcripts.

The DA’s Office adds, “After analyzing all of the evidence, statements and transcripts available, the CIU determined that there was no new evidence that exonerated Mr. Wooden or proved his innocence. However, the CIU did acknowledge that some of the new evidence could possibly be grounds for granting a new trial to Mr. Wooden. Given the fact that the District Attorney’s Office was materially prejudiced by the passage of time since the original trial and the fact that the sole eyewitness had since passed away, it was the recommendation of the CIU that the District Attorney exercise her discretion granted in Penal Code section 1172.1 to recommend the resentencing of Mr. Wooden in the interests of justice. The resentencing recommendation from the District Attorney was not in response to any motion that was filed by the defense, but rather done after careful consideration of the evidence presented at the jury trial, new evidence obtained, and the extent of Mr. Wooden’s involvement in the robbery that led to the death of Mr. Hopkins.”

It has led to a reduced sentence for Wooden, which will allow him to be released sooner. His reduced sentence, of 16 years, was announced yesterday.