Statement from Chief Judge Morrison C. England, Jr.

All of us in the Eastern District family are deeply saddened by the tragic death of Sandra Coke, our colleague and friend from the Office of the Federal Defender. This news is difficult to hear and even more difficult to understand. Since 2009, Sandra worked as a Capital Habeas Investigator in the Office of the Federal Defender. Her work supported the Federal Defenders' efforts on behalf of California death row clients. She will be remembered not only for her unrelenting commitment to her work, but also for her compassion and devotion to her clients, colleagues, friends, and family.  Everyone in the District sends their thoughts and prayers to Sandra’s daughter, her family, and her friends. She will be greatly missed. A fund has been established for the care and education of Sandra’s daughter. To donate, please visit:

Statement from Federal Defender Heather Williams

The Federal Defender staff for over a week now have been heartbroken over the disappearance and now confirmed death of their loved and respected coworker, Sandra Coke.

Sandra was with our Office since 2009 as a Capital Habeas Investigator. Her invaluable work supported our efforts on behalf of California death row clients. This was Sandra’s career, from when she worked also with the California Appellate Project, the San Francisco Public Defender Office, the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama, and later had her own private investigation office.

Sandra was known and will be remembered for her unrelenting and dedicated investigation. Just recently, while in our office, Sandra’s work contributed to our successful effort to overturn a wrongfully obtained 2001 Sacramento County murder conviction, giving our client a new trial.

Sandra was a compassionate, intelligent, thorough investigator. A devoted single mother and friend to her coworkers, she dedicated her work and her life to looking for the best in people, to give some explanation to why people do what they do - even the most heinous of acts, all based upon the belief that no person should be judged only by the worst act he or she committed.

We expect the legal team will do the same to defend whoever may eventually be charged. As those in our Office always expect, we hope the process is fair and just. As we support each other, our thoughts of support go to Sandra’s daughter, sister, mother, and family.