Thomas S. Worthington - The Worthington Law Centre

Thomas S. Worthington

Listed in Best Lawyers since 1987

Since 1970, Mr. Worthington has successfully represented thousands of people in the State and Federal courts throughout California and several other states, including Georgia, Arizona and Washington. He has been the chief trial lawyer in over 100 jury trials from simple misdemeanor DUI to capital murder almost all of which have resulted in acquittals or reduction to lesser offenses. He has argued cases before several districts of the California Court of Appeal and the United States Circuit Court, 9th Circuit. Mr. Worthington has been Certified as a Specialist in Criminal Law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization since 1977. In California there are only 364 attorneys with this distinction (according to the 23rd Annual Report of the California Board of Legal Specialization published May, 2010). He has been elected by his peers each year since 1987 as one of The Best Lawyers in America" in the areas of Non-White-Collar Criminal Defense and White-Collar Criminal Defense, as well as being chosen and identified in Martindale-Hubbell's Peer Ratings as a Preeminant AV Rated attorney -- the highest distinction available. Mr. Worthington has been selected for inclusion in Northern California Super Lawyers in the 2006 and 2008 through 2014 editions and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer in California by The National Trial Lawyers.

Mr. Worthington graduated in 1969 from University of California Hastings College of Law--California's first law school--having previously graduated in 1966 from University of California Los Angeles with a degree in Economics. He was admitted to the California State Bar in January, 1970. He began his career in Monterey County that same year and has remained one of the top criminal defense lawyers in Monterey County since. 

Mr. Worthington has had a long and distinguished legal career. He has been the attorney of record in many of the most controversial, complex and difficult cases to arise in Central California over the past four decades, some of which are chronicled in the "Notable Cases" section of our website. He has had cases published by the California Court of Appeal and the United States Circuit Court, 9th Circuit; he has written articles for Forum Magazine published by California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis on the use and admissibility in evidence of hypnotically induced testimony and has participated in the preparation of Amicus briefs for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and he is a frequent T.V. commentator.  As a young attorney in 1974, Mr. Worthington joined as a charter member a then new organization known as California Attorneys for Criminal Justice. CACJ is a statewide organization of criminal defense lawyers dedicated to defending the rights of persons as guaranteed by both the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of California. Since 1974, he has served terms on the Board of Directors totaling over 20 years and has sat on committees including Amicus, Legislative and Prisons.

In addition to his career as a trial attorney, Mr. Worthington was appointed as a Commissioner on the City of Salinas Traffic Commission. He kept this appointment until 1998 when he moved his residence from the City of Salinas to the County of Monterey mandating he resign his commission. He taught economics at Hartnell College from 1971 to1979, teaching many of the returning Viet Nam veterans seeking an education under their veteran's benefits. Mr. Worthington has been a guest lecturer at a trial practice class taught by Judge Steven Sillman and Deputy District Attorney Chuck Olvis at the Monterey College of Law.  Mr. Worthington has lived in Salinas since 1970 where he and his wife raised three children. 


University of California Los AngelesBS 1966Hastings College of the Law, UCSFJ.D. 1969
California Attorneys for Criminal JusticeNational Associatoin of Criminal Defense AttorneysMonterey County Bar AssociationSan Francisco Bar AssociationCalifornia Public Defenders Association

Case History

People vs. Tortorelli

A man with no prior record was accused of having molested his niece when she was between the ages of 3 and 8. The niece now 14 years old was claiming she had seizures caused by post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse. 

We spent nearly two years investigating the case and developing the defense theory. The investigation and defense involved review of the entire family’s background, family court records, child protective services records, medical records, and school records. The man participated in a polygraph examination administered by a former FBI agent. He passed the examination. Preparation of the defense also involved consultation with a number of expert witnesses in the fields of diagnosis and treatment of sex-offenders, repressed memory), suggestibility of child witnesses, misuse of psychiatric diagnoses in court proceedings, and the motivations that can cause an adolescent girl to intentionally fabricate allegations of sexual abuse against a family member.

Trial lasted nine days, during which the defense presented 3 expert witnesses and a number of character witnesses. Among the character witnesses were school teachers and a well known pediatrician in San Benito County. Each of the character witnesses testified the defendant was a good, honest man who would never harm a child. It took the jury less than three hours to deliberate before the man was found not guilty of all nine charges.

People vs. Chandler

A  30 year old man was accused of “date rape” of a woman who said she was so intoxicated she could not resist and did not know until the next morning that she had been sexually assaulted.  In a jury trial, we introduced evidence that the woman not only consciously and voluntarily engaged in sexual activities with our client, but invited the activities.  The  rape shield law was carefully applied by the court which did allow some relevant evidence of prior conduct by the woman which tended to support our client’s testimony about the encounter between the two of them.  The jury acquitted on all counts

People vs. Suber

A father was aware of ongoing domestic violence involving his daughter, and as a result, there had been several arguments between our client and his daughter’s boyfriend.  One day when he and his wife were already on their way to visit the daughter, she called and reported an ongoing conflict between herself and the boyfriend.  She asked them to hurry to pick up her child.  Our client arrived with a loaded gun, and when confronted by the boyfriend with a bat, our client shot and killed him.  This case tested the limits of self defense and defense of family.  After a court trial, a judge reduced the offense from murder to voluntary manslaughter. 

People vs. WilliamsTwo brothers shared an apartment near a college where both had athletic scholarships.  The brothers were from a close, religious family and got along well.  Neither had  been in any trouble.  One night, our client was returning from church choir practice and had a paper due the next day.  He needed to use a shared laptop computer which led to a rare argument with his brother during which he picked up a kitchen knife.  In a struggle, our client stabbed his brother in the heart.  We retained experts in blood spatter which supported our client’s claim that the stabbing happened when they were struggling on the floor and that he never meant to stab his brother.  A judge agreed to reduce the murder charge to involuntary manslaughter and granted probation. 
People vs. Ramirez — A 19-year old Mexican immigrant with low grade developmental disabilities charged with statutory rape of a 14-year old girl. The sex act was not forcible.  The girl became pregnant as a result. The young man was facing a lengthy prison sentence, mandatory deportation, and lifetime registration as a sex offender, despite the girl’s desire to have him involved in the child’s life.  The case involved lengthy pretrial negotiations aimed at preventing mandatory deportation so that the young man could assist in raising his child. After these negotiations failed, we filed a motion to dismiss the charge for Denial of Due Process, arguing that refusal to consider the young man’s immigration consequences was a violation of Due Process when other “collateral consequences” are often considered in pretrial negotiations.  After submission of the motion, the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor. The young man avoided deportation and a prison sentence.
People vs. Beltran

19 year old boy faced the death penalty in the stabbing of a Taco Bell employee.  The Taco Bell was closing up when two masked men entered with guns and knives and demanded money.  During the robbery, one of the employees sought safety by running into a walk-in freezer, but one of the masked men followed him and stabbed him--he later died of his wounds

Our client previously worked at that Taco Bell and was later identified by the store manager who miraculously escaped death when the gun that was aimed at him by the other masked man misfired. 

Mr. Worthington had the young man submit to a SPECT exam (a brain scan that tests for mental function and impairment) and a battery of neurological and psychological testing.  Mr. Worthington was able to give demonstrative evidence, particularly in the form of images of the young man’s brain developed during the SPECT exam, to the District Attorney and the Court that there was significant impairment of the young man’s cognitive functioning, his ability to reason and to exercise good judgment, and to understand the consequences of his acts. 

The District Attorney agreed to drop the death penalty in exchange for a plea to life without the possibility of parole. 

Office Location

215 West Alisal Street
Salinas, CA 93901
United States

Practice Areas

Criminal Defense: General Practice
Criminal Defense: White-Collar

Other Information

Gender: Male