By Danielle Eden C. Silva
The trial for Jacob Perez Gonzalez began in Department 8 today, with opening statements addressing the presence of abuse but questioning which side had committed it.
Prior to the trial, the People requested Officer Joshua Helton of the Davis Police Department be accepted as an expert in the subjects of strangulation, domestic abuse, and the effects of strangulation. The officer testified to his experience in training in the field and general knowledge through independent research. The defense focused more on the medical knowledge of the officer, stating a medical professional would provide a more suitable expert testimony on strangulation.
Judge David W. Reed qualified Officer Helton as an expert in general signs and symptoms of strangulation.
Officer Helton was excused and the jury was called in for the beginning of the trial.
The court clerk informed the jury that Mr. Gonzalez was charged with five counts: assault by force; threatening to commit a crime; the battery of a spouse/former; endangering of the health of
a child; and finally, endangering the health of a child at the threat of bodily injury or death.
Opening statements began with the People. The prosecution shared that on September 10, Officer Andre had been dispatched to Woodland for a domestic abuse case. The victim, the defendant’s wife, had been choked and her hair grabbed, and she was dragged. Three children had also been on the scene and were questioned. One of the children had called dispatch. The call recorded part of the altercation.
The prosecutor noted that no physical wound marks would be shown in the pictures but an expert would be brought in to show how the slightest force could cause great bodily harm.
The defense opened by framing the victim as having two sides: the first side, a woman that Mr. Gonzalez had met in Mexico, married, and brought to the United States; the second side, the defense claimed, a woman who abused the defendant. They then showed a clip.
The audio-less footage revealed what appeared to be a crying child and a woman standing nearby. The face was not revealed but someone separate was recording it.
The defense claimed Mr. Gonzalez’s ex-wife would come to testify for the defendant, then asked the court to find Gonzalez not guilty.
With opening statements concluded, the complaining witness was called to the stand.
The complaining witness had been married to the defendant in 2014 after meeting him in Mexico and their being together for some years. Mr. Gonzalez treated the victim’s three daughters as if they were his own. This family had lived together in Mexico, Woodland, and Washington, but now the witness lives out of state. She had been brought in by the district attorney’s office to testify in court and the witness shared that she wanted to come.
On September 10, 2017, they had been in a house in Woodland for eight days. That morning, the victim and Mr. Gonzalez argued over carpooling to work. The defendant did not want to bring her because it was too late for him. He left for work, leaving her at home. The children went to school.
When he returned at around 6 pm, Mr. Gonzalez had been drinking and said “ugly things” to the defendant, including using derogatory language. She left the house and returned, with the defendant following her and berating her. The victim then retrieved her daughters and returned.
The girls returned to their room and the victim went into the living room. Mr. Gonzalez had been lying there on a bed by the time of their return. That bed had been placed in the living room since it was the only room with air conditioning. The victim joined him in bed where he commanded her to sleep in the same room with the girls. She claimed she did nothing to provoke him.
The defendant then moved on top of her, placing her knee on her stomach. She attempted to get up by pushing on her chest with both hands but couldn’t. After that, the defendant grabbed her neck and hair, dragging her off the couch to the girls’ room where she told them to dial 911. The defendant then released her but handed her a nine or ten-inch kitchen knife and told her to use it on him. She refused, stating she saw no reason to.
The three girls, one of whom was still on the phone, came into the kitchen and watched the altercation. The youngest girl had cried at what the defendant had done and he hugged her. The victim told him to let go of her daughter.
As the police arrived, the girl was still on the phone. The victim then shared her experience with law enforcement.
The prosecution refocused on the choking, but the victim could not recall testifying during the preliminary trial or during her police testimony about almost blacking out due to strangulation. The hold on her neck prevented her from speaking but not breathing. The victim confirmed that the defendant was bigger and taller than her.
The People redirected attention to the 911 call. The victim told the girls to call the police because she didn’t want them to see the negative relationship between Mr. Gonzalez and herself. Mr. Gonzalez had repeatedly called her worthless, among other “ugly things.”
The photos taken by the investigating officer were shown to the court, with barely any markings noted on her arms, neck, or face.
This was not the first incident the victim shared. On March 3, 2017, the family had been in Washington when the youngest daughter asked for food. The defendant told the victim not to feed her because she only needed to provide food for the husband. She fed her daughter and, in turn, the defendant grabbed the victim by the hair and slapped her across the mouth.
The victim did not report the incident but the police appeared at her house to ask about the incident. The victim noted at the time she had been bruised and didn’t want to call the police because the defendant had been threatening her.
In the closing of the direct examination, the victim noted that she was legally present in this country. She had also broken up with the defendant because of this incident.
The defense began by asking about the victim and the defendant’s relationship. The victim said she was 40 and the defendant 55 and they had met in Mexico. She noted she had never been physical toward Gonzalez or her children. The victim stated that, even on September 10, he may have hurt her but she did not hurt him back.
The victim was then asked about their work situation. She shared that they worked for the same company: she packing cans and Mr. Gonzalez working as a mechanic on the machinery. He worked 12 hours a day starting at 5 am. The defense questioned how he would still be awake on that day –after 12 hours of work, several beers, and lying down – to yell at her after she had been outside with her children. The defendant wasn’t sure herself.
The jury was excused for the lunch recess.