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James R Mitchell enters not guilty plea in girlfriend’s slaying

He had a baseball bat in his hands and hit her head with the fat part of the bat….but he feels terrible about the whole thing. That’s comforting.

San Francisco – from www.mercurynews.com – James Raphael Mitchell, son of porn giant Jim Mitchell, has entered a not guilty plea to murder and kidnapping charges stemming from the July 12 death of his estranged girlfriend, Danielle Keller, in Novato.

The plea Friday in Marin Superior Court came amid objections from his attorney, former San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan, who told Judge Kelly Simmons that he had hoped he would get more time to review the evidence.

A subdued Mitchell, who appeared in court in striped county-issued jail clothing, was set to enter a plea on July 14, but obtained a 10-day delay.

He is being held in Marin County Jail without bail. Hallinan said the 27-year-old Pittsburg man was despondent, cried frequently and “feels terrible about the whole thing.” Hallinan said the extra time could serve as a cooling-off period, necessary in his mind to get a fair trial.

“We don¹t want to hurry this case,” he said outside of court. “The atmosphere in this county is not good right now. With a little delay it might calm down.”

Prosecutors pushed to move forward with the case.

“I want a preliminary hearing at the earliest possible time a hearing can be set,” said Charles Cacciatore, deputy district attorney. “There are elderly witnesses. One is 78. This is extremely emotionally stressful. I can’t put into words what the family is going through and what the witnesses are going through.”

A bail hearing was scheduled for Aug. 31. A
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preliminary examination of the evidence is set to begin Oct. 5.

Mitchell is facing 36 years to life with the possibility of parole in connection with the baseball-bat beating death of Keller, the mother of their 1-year-old daughter, Samantha. The attack occurred at the home Keller and the baby shared with Keller’s mother, Claudia Stevens.

Police arrested Mitchell later that night after tracking him and the baby down in Citrus Heights. The infant was not hurt.

On Friday, Stevens appeared in court in white sneakers decorated with ladybugs in honor of the little girl, whose nickname is “ladybug,” she said.

She said her family is seeking to bring home the child, who remains in state custody.

“It’s a process,” Stevens said. “They’re taking all the proper steps to make that happen.”

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