The trial of Trishawn Cardessa Carey was delayed Thursday while lawyers discussed a possible plea bargain for the mentally ill homeless woman, who is facing felony charges after officials say she grabbed and raised an officer's baton during a fatal police shooting last year.
Carey originally faced a potential sentence of life in prison after police said she picked up a nightstick an LAPD officer had dropped during a police scuffle that ended in the shooting death of Charly "Africa" Keunang on skid row.
Prosecutors have offered to place Carey in a mental health facility for a year if she would plead guilty to a felony count of resisting an officer. They also said they would reduce the charge to a misdemeanor when she completed treatment.
Defense attorney Milton Grimes said his client rejected the offer because of the risk her mental health symptoms, which include delusions and paranoia, would cause her to violate probation and land in prison.
"To me, diversion would be to send the person away from criminal court," Grimes said outside court Thursday morning.
"We're asking that she stay in treatment and participate. We want her to succeed," Deputy Dist. Atty. Gregory Denton said.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James R. Brandlin held the trial over until Friday.
Carey's case underlines a challenge for officials as they attempt to reform the way Los Angeles' criminal justice system handles offenders with mental illness.
Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, whose office is prosecuting Carey, has proposed a plan to keep more mentally ill people out of jail and help them instead. The plan's provisions include training law enforcement officials to de-escalate encounters with mentally ill people and opening treatment-based housing.
Lacey has not detailed ways of altering her office's approach to prosecuting people with mental illness. At a demonstration outside the courthouse Thursday, protesters called on Lacey to drop the charges against Carey and to make diversion from prosecution for mentally ill people a hallmark of her policy.
"We have a living, breathing person currently incarcerated when she should be being treated," said Pete White of Los Angeles Community Action Network, a skid row advocacy group.
"Trishawn has a history of trauma," said Suzette Shaw, another protester. "Once you end up in the system, something can trip you up."
Carey has lived for years off Social Security tied to severe mental disabilities and cycled in and out of L.A. County jails 10 times since 2002, Grimes said in court papers.
She is charged with assault with a deadly weapon against a police officer and resisting arrest, which could have carried a third strike and an automatic sentence of 25 years to life in prison. Grimes said prosecutors no longer are seeking a strike conviction.
"I believe she was not fully aware what was going on during the incident," Grimes said. "For a long time, she has been a confused, mentally ill, pathetic person."
Carey's case had been overshadowed by the death of Keunang, a Cameroonian immigrant whose shooting drew international attention after a bystander posted a dramatic video of the March 1, 2015, confrontation to Facebook. The Los Angeles Police Commission ruled earlier this year that officers were justified in shooting Keunang, saying he reached for one of their guns during a fierce struggle. Keunang also had a documented history of severe mental illness.
In a claim against the city, Keunang's family denied he grabbed the officer's gun and said the death was a "cop-initiated killing." Their lawyer, Dan Stormer, said the commission's decision was based on a "police coverup, not a police investigation."