After two days of testimony by Detective Joe Perez, who was the state’s main gang expert, the time came to hear the closing arguments.
Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens would begin by explaining the intricate details of each charge and showing the jurors a way to determine verdicts by using what he called “a step by step process.”
Eduardo Orozco is charged with four counts consisting of: robbery, aiding and abetting, and an assault with a deadly weapon, along with a gang enhancement. A vehicle used to commit the alleged robberies is being considered the deadly weapon.
DDA Couzens wasted no time after explaining to the jurors how to understand the verdict forms.
He talked about the two-day testimony of the gang expert, Detective Perez. He asked jurors to look at the Facebook pages where there are posts about doing work for the gang and pictures of defendants throwing gang signs, dressed in gang clothing and using gang lingo.
Couzens asserted that the crimes were committed to benefit the criminal street gang, “Norteños.” He said Detective Perez read the jail admission sheets where both Eduardo Orozco and Oscar Gonzales admitted they were gang members. He even reminded jurors about the “530” tattoo on the arm of Gonzales. Couzens asked, “Why would you admit you were a gang member on that sheet if you knew it would be used against you?”
He said, “These are scary people, doing scary things,” calling what the defendant was part of “a collective enterprise.”
One by one, he spoke about the five events and how the scheme was the same method with the same defendants.
Couzens asked jurors to think about the testimony of each witness/victim and how the defendants used “trickery” to rob the items from the victims. He stated, “And you do not have to be a gang member to be charged with a gang enhancement – if a soccer mom rode with her son, who was a gang member, to commit a crime and knew about it without stopping the crime, she could be charged with a gang enhancement.”
Couzens stated once again that “this is not rocket science; it is scary people who do scary things to benefit a group.”
He said it was multiple people who picked them out of a photo line-up.
“But you will hear the defense try to say they were not gang members, and Orozco knew nothing of the gangs other than he had family members of the Norteños,” Couzens asserted.
He stated, “It’s two gang members acting in concert – it’s not a defense to be on drugs or be with gang members because they’re your family,”
Couzens stated it was a five-day hoodlum gang activity, in concert. He pled with jurors to find Eduardo Orozco guilty of all counts.
Deputy Public Defender Emily Fisher began her opening with, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have come a long way in society with equality but, in this case, the prosecution and police want you to believe something because they labeled it that.”
Ms. Fisher went right into the testimony of one of the victims, stating, “It’s very clear cut that there are questions about whether or not the victims were pushed down, you heard one victim say he jumped onto the car and could not recall being pushed down and that is something you would remember; and if any of the victims felt these guys were gang members or this was a gang crime, they wouldn’t have tried to stop them, in fact not one victim told police this was gang related or the perpetrators were gang members. You heard Gang Expert Omar Flores testify to the report he took from one victim and he never said it was a gang member.”
Ms. Fisher, raising her voice, said that “it makes sense one of the victims hurt his hand because he stuck it inside the door as they were driving away.”
She stated, “Orozco did stupid things, yes, and he is guilty of three grand thefts yes, but just because police and prosecution label this a gang crime does not mean that it is true.” Fisher’s voice began to quiver.
She pointed to Orozco and said, “Detective Perez is the one who validated him, and Gonzalez out of hasty generalization….” She became silent for a moment, then continued, “And no one asked him about his family dynamics, he is allowed to hang out with family members.”
She stated, “Detective Perez had an explanation for everything, you heard him, but he could never say what leader, or subset or even that he had any prior knowledge of Orozco because he’s not from Woodland, he’s from Arbuckle! Perez admitted he knew nothing of Arbuckle gangs!”
Ms. Fisher stated, “There is no evidence to support my client is an active gang member and admit sheets the prosecution showed you are filled out for their own safety. Detective Perez even changed the wording on the Facebook posts by Orozco and there were no Facebook posts bragging about crimes committed.”
She said the Facebook posts are ambiguous and Detective Perez used circular reasoning, as she stated, “He validated Orozco the day of arrest for being associated with Gonzalez and validated Gonzalez for being with Orozco! You heard him say he had no prior knowledge of Orozco.”
Fisher went on to say, “Gang members don’t tell cops, ‘Norte,’ and Sgt. Delao coming back to the stand, to say today that now he recalls Orozco saying that, is wrong – he cannot do that!”
Fisher explained to jurors, “This is a false dichotomy; cops are appealing to ignorance and authority.” She said there were no dots signifying Norteños on Gonzalez’ or Orozco’s Facebook pages.
She stated, “Why is the clothing of Gonzalez relevant to this case? This is Orozco’s life, he hangs out with his older cousins but it is not enough to label him a gang member or this a string of gang crimes, because police and prosecution say so!”
Fisher, appearing to fight back emotion, ended with, “You are the only ones who can give him a fair verdict! He’s guilty of the three grand thefts but not of being a gang member, it is police and prosecution who have labeled him that!”
Fisher paused….and thanked them.
In his rebuttal, Couzens stated that the defense always has to come up with a list of theories, but, he stated, “Actions speak louder than words, this is not good Angel, bad Angel, they were enjoying what they did to these victims! They laughed! “
Couzens asserted, “This is a collective criminal enterprise!”
He said, “Now some of Ms. Fisher’s argument, I’m not even going to comment on, especially the race card! I would be a fool to say it doesn’t exist but not in this case!” Couzens raised the tempo with, “Police did not single the two defendants out because they were Latino, you heard one of the victims say he saw a white guy? Does it make me a racist because I’m a white prosecutor, prosecuting crimes?”
Couzens stated it was bravado acts that gangs are notorious for and it’s not unheard of to identify yourself to cops by saying, “Norte.”
He said, “Standing up here and saying her client is guilty of crimes is a tactic used by defense.”
He told jurors the defense could have refuted the gang expert testimony but did not. He stated, “You’ve had a week, she’s had a year to prepare!”
He wrapped up his final closing by stating that “if you’re a six year old you could understand the common sense of a gang!”
He said Ms. Fisher did a blistering interrogation on Detective Perez and elicited the fact that her client was a drug addict.
“But it’s not a defense!”
Couzens pleaded, “He is guilty of all charges!”
The jurors were sent to deliberate in the late afternoon.