Questions Raised About Yolo County Juries Stem From Galvan, Other Cases

courtroom.jpgLast week the Vanguard reported on the second mistrial in the case of brothers Ernesto and Fermin Galvan.  This was a clear case of excessive force on the part of West Sacramento Police.  The Vanguard will continue to analyze the case itself, however, at this time the concern arises about the jury and their handling of this matter.

There were critical questions that had to be determined in this matter, it involved a portion of the law that requires keen judgment a discernment of facts.

The most serious charges in this case involve battery on a peace officer and resisting arrest with violence.  The interesting thing about this case is that the basic facts were not in dispute, only their legal implications.  The prosecution admit that the police hit Mr. Galvan with a baton repeatedly, although they claim these were glancing or deflective rather than direct blows.  The defense admit that Mr. Galvan struggled with the police.

However, written into the statute on interfering with the lawful execution of duties by a peace officer are two key provisions.  First, a peace officer is not performing his/ her duties if they are conducting an unlawful arrest and second if they are detaining someone with unreasonable or excessive force.  In short, the law allows an individual to resist a police officer with violence if the peace officer is breaching his duties.

The jury needed to weigh in on two key points both of which stem from the timing of events.  In other words, was Mr. Galvan lawfully detained when he began resisting and was the officer using excessive force when he was resisting.

The case ended up with the jury deadlocked 11-1 on a vote to convict.  The lone holdout was Jeff Austin, a Davis resident who spoke with reporters after the verdict was delivered and also posted on the Vanguard following our article.

There were several problems that Mr. Austin raises.  First that several of the jurors had already made up their minds about the guilt of the defendants and were unwilling to change their minds upon further evidence or discussion.

He wrote:

“When I tried to point out inconsistencies, medical evidence/testimony etc that raised doubt in my mind, they were unwilling to even consider the possibility that my points had merit or that were worth looking into further.”

He also said he was willing to consider a lesser misdemeanor charge against Ernest Galvan but the jury had to find him not guilty on the great charge (the felony) and they were unwilling to do that.

Furthermore he wrote:

“One of the jurors was very angry at me for not agreeing with the group and for thus wasting 2 weeks of his life because this was ending without a guilty verdict. Several of the other jurors did said they respected my convictions and for standing ground even if they didn’t agree with me.”

Another juror expressed the fact that “the officers had every right to hit Ernesto directly in the head with their batons” and further suggested that “he is lucky that they didn’t shoot him because they certainly had that right.”

Moreover, he wrote that there needed to be medical evidence that demonstrated whether or not the brothers were under the influence of a controlled substance.  It seems that some of the jurors assumed that he was despite the fact that there was never any established medical evidence acquired at the scene to confirm that point.

Finally, several the of the jurors agreed that some of the officers used unreasonable and excessive force but were unwilling to let that affect their guilty vote.

This final point almost belies the problem.  At the point at which you admit that unreasonable and excessive force was used, the law states that you have to determine whether struggle and battery were in reaction to excessive force.  The lack of discussion on these points of facts means that the jury did not due its duty in this matter.

From the statistics that have been suggested to us, a large number of jury trials do end up breaking for the defense in Yolo County, so it is not apparent that all juries are problematic.  In fairness this case was probably a close call in terms of the law, but given the enormity of the injuries of Ernesto Galvan as opposed to the minor injuries the police suffered, one would suggest that the police likely overreacted to the situation.  Whether Mr. Galvan committed a crime remains to be seen, two juries were unable to reach a verdict.

The question arises is how many juries do we need to have questions about in this county and that will be one of the things that the Judicial Watch Project would like to get a handle on.

We are presently looking into the matter of the co-conspirator in the Andy Stevens shooting, we have reasons to believe that the jury when faced with conflicting testimony in that case sided with law enforcement and the DA, when in the face of reasonable doubt, i.e. conflicting testimony, a jury ought to side with the defense.

We also have the case of Ajay Dev, sentenced to 378 years in prison for the rape of his adopted daughter despite no physical evidence or witnesses.

We get insight into juror thinking when a juror posted on a blog:

Juror Blog: “Yes, her testimony was difficult to swallow. If for her testimony alone, he would be a free man. The phone call is what put him where he is now. I am confident that we made the correct decision.”

Juror Blog: In the pretext call, Ajay admitted to having sex with the victim after she was 18. The exact quote is “You f$#*ed me after age 18, that means you gave consent”. The entire defense was that no sexual relationship occurred and that it was a story made up by the victim. With his admission, that defense was completely disregarded.

The bottom line here is that they found the witness non-credible and based on her testimony the defendant would have been acquitted.  However, the pretext call enters into play and it is a messy situation again where the conversation meandered between English and Nepalese and those in the family argue that the key line was taken out of context.  He was being hypothetical rather literal.

However, it is a case where the jury had access to the recording and went over it at length.

According to the family,

“The DA’s interpretation of what Ajay was saying to the accuser… was totally and completely false. Any misunderstanding is due to language and cultural issues which are often times lost in the translation process. Ajay was trying to explain to the accuser how our legal system works demonstrating that if a statement like this was made it could possibly ruin both her life and his. He was NOT admitting to rape.”

The family contends that the phone conversation lasted 50 minutes, during which the defendant denies the charges at least 27 times.

If correct, ambiguity in this case should have resulted in acquittal particularly since the victim was not credible in her testimony.

Juries do not always get it wrong however, as Bill Ritter attested in his comment in the Galvan case.  He was a juror in case also in West Sacramento where three individuals were arrested and charged with resisting arrest and public intoxication.

He wrote:

“It became clear to all of us serving on the jury that both charges were spurious and that an unlawful arrest and beating of the men had taken place. The officers had to come up with a reason to have engaged and arrested the victims in the first place. Therefore they chose to charge the defendants with “public intoxication” and then “resisting arrest.””

He continued:

“When the case came to trial the DA could not prove that any of the men were intoxicated. No blood or sobriety tests were administered (even after the arrest) and the pictures taken at the scene by the West Sacramento police watch commander and other evidence (mentioned in the police report) were missing and never to be found even after being subpoenaed by both the DA and defense counsel. Testimony by the defendants and all citizen witnesses disputed the officer’s accounts.”

And concluded:

“It became clear to the jury that two West Sacramento police officers had instigated a needless and unnecessary altercation with law abiding citizens and unlawfully beat them and tasered them when those citizens questioned the actions of the officers. Once the beating and tasering had occurred the officers came up with a phony reason for their conduct that resulted in the arrest on “public intoxication” charges followed by “resisting arrest” charges. This was a concocted story, which no one on the jury believed.”

In this case, it seems that the juror did figure out from the start, the problematic nature of the arrest.  

Getting a jury thus may end up being the luck of the draw.  Or perhaps this case is the exception, not the rule.  More research is needed to draw a more definitive conclusion.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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5 thoughts on “Questions Raised About Yolo County Juries Stem From Galvan, Other Cases”

  1. E Roberts Musser

    I would like to point out in the Galvin case you are only hearing one juror’s side of the story. The other jurors may have a totally different take on what happened in the jury room.

  2. Fight Against Injustice

    I would like to clear a few things up about the pretext call in the Ajay Dev case.

    1. Ajay denied the allegations 52 times in the 50 minute conversation. There were 27 times he directly denied her allegation right after she made it, and another 25 times he indirectly denied these allegations.
    2. The pretext translation the jurors saw was a literal translation–not an interpretation. The one line the jurors claimed was an admission of guilt, was completely interpreted wrong by them. The best example I can give you in English is–If you called someone a motherf******r in English, we would know that you were angry, and this is just a colloquialism. If you literally translated this, it would mean “you had sex with your mother.” As English speakers, we know that this is not what really happened–it’s a figure of speech. This is exactly what happened with this one line in the pretext phone call. Unfortunately, this is the cultural difference in language the jury did not understand. The translation they saw was a literal translation of the words, not a translation that took in context and meaning.

    It is too bad that the jury allowed one sentence in the pretext call to make their entire decision when everything else in the case showed Ajay’s innocence and that the complaining witness lied. Even the jury admitted that the complaining witness was not credible, but unfortunately, they didn’t take that into account.

  3. Alphonso

    “I would like to point out in the Galvin case you are only hearing one juror’s side of the story. The other jurors may have a totally different take on what happened in the jury room. “

    That is a good point. However, nobody has refuted his statements either. Also he can not be totally off base becuase this was the second deadlocked jury. This story demonstrates how important it is to be a responsible juror. It is very important to realize everyone (incl the DA and police) have a stake in the outcome and that results in volumes of misinformation from all sides. Go in with a completely open mind and do not trust anyone.

  4. eagle eye

    Thank goodness for jurors Jeff Austin and Bill Ritter.
    it is not widely publicized that stun gun users, and no doubt taser users, are instructed that they MUST ALWAYS FILE AT LEAST 2 BUT PREFERABLY THREE CHARGES, MINIMUM, against the victim of a stun/taser attack in order to avoid liability charges against themselves and their agency for use of the device.

    Thank goodness, too, for the Vanguard reporting news not much reported elsewhere.

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