VANGUARD COURT WATCH: Vehicular Manslaughter and Marijuana Garden Cases Opened on Tuesday

Yolo-Count-Court-Room-600Man Faces 40 Counts Including Vehicular Manslaughter

By Vanguard Court Watch Interns

People v. Gubani Roderico Rosales Quinteros began Tuesday, January 22, with a heavy discussion. Before a trial can begin, the court reviews motions. Some of these motions request to omit evidence.

Mr. Quinteros is charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, among numerous other charges. His other charges include burglary, forgery and perjury.

The following consists of evidence the jury will not hear or see. The People attempted to submit into evidence pictures of a scorched, deceased body of a young girl. The court found these pictures emotionally disturbing. Therefore these pictures were dismissed as evidence, due to their potentially biased effect. Judge Mock, the presiding judge over the case, believes the People can utilize other methods to describe the car accident and prove individuals died in the accident.

In addition, documents obtained from the defendant’s house, a year after the accident, may not be included as evidence. The court also found such evidence prejudicial.

The court also reviewed key issues before beginning trial. Some of these key issues include whether Mr. Quinteros’ Miranda Rights were violated, information about Highway I-5 and presence of the deceased child’s mother.

Normally the court would instruct a jury never to do any investigation on their own. The jury is only to consider the facts as presented in court. One of the issues is that the accident occurred on I-5. It is likely any jurors coming from or going to Sacramento will be able to observe where the accident occurred. The best the court could do is request jurors not to use I-5, north of County Road 102.

Next they considered the question of Mr. Quinteros’ Miranda Rights. Judge Mock referred to a transcript of Quinteros’ interview. In the transcript Mr. Quinteros asked the officer if he should get an attorney. The officer responded, “It’s up to you.” Judge Mock stated that whenever equivocal conversations about an attorney occur, officers are not obligated to provide an attorney. In fact, the judge believes the interrogating officer provided an appropriate response to Quinteros’ question.

The final issue was the deceased child’s mother. She wishes to remain in court and watch the rest of the trial after she gives her testimony. The court has given a cautionary advice for the mother.

First, she cannot interact with other witnesses, to influence their testimony. The defense was concerned about the mother’s interaction with others, given during preliminary hearing she was observed to be showing pictures of her daughter to passing individuals. Secondly, any emotional outbursts from her would result in her expulsion from the court.

These motions provide insight into what can be expected from the trial. They are also an excellent forum to discuss biases and what to instruct jurors on. However, the trial will reveal more information on what happened in the car accident.

“A Marijuana Garden”

By Vanguard Court Watch Interns

Trial began Tuesday in Department 2 for defendant Fidel Alvarez. The defendant is in custody, being charged with one count of drug possession, one count of possession of a firearm and one count of cultivation of marijuana.

After Judge Timothy Fall instructed the jurors, opening statements from Deputy District Attorney Michael Vroman began. He told the jurors how the defendant was found guarding a plantation of marijuana plants near the town of Rumsey, CA. He explained the defendant was in possession of a 22-caliber rifle/shotgun and 9 bullets.

Testifying for the prosecution was YONET’s Drug Enforcement Agent, Gary Richter. Agent Richter was the first witness to take the stand. He was asked to describe his background for the jurors within law enforcement. Gary explained his years with Yolo County and then described his training as a narcotics officer.

In Agent Richter’s training, he explained to the jurors he had to take an 80-hour class to learn about plants, plantation, cultivation and meth labs. He also stated he was trained on how to distinguish the different marijuana plants.

He seemed to be pretty well rounded in law enforcement, and well trained within the drug taskforce.  He has experienced many drug busts, in approximately 100 cases.

Mr. Vroman then began questioning Agent Richter about the arrest of the defendant. Agent Richter stated he came upon an area about twice 15 by 30 feet, of marijuana plants. As he was walking he found the defendant on the property. He followed a set of footprints, which led him to PVC pipe, used to irrigate the plants, he stated.

Agent Richter began questioning the defendant. Agent Richter told the jurors that he had explained to the defendant that he was only a hired guard for the marijuana garden. Gary stated the defendant led him to the rifle/shotgun, with a homemade silencer at the end of the barrel. Defendant Alvarez told Gary he was given this shotgun for protection. He also located a shed that stored fertilizer and gardening tools.

Agent Richter also testified that Alvarez told him he was hired by three men from a drug cartel out of Richmond, California. But to my knowledge, he gave no names. Alvarez told Gary he would get paid from the profit of sales. Gary testified the monetary value of the marijuana garden is estimated at $250,000 dollars.

In evidence Tuesday, the .22 rifle/shotgun, and photos of the scene, were shown to the jurors. Agent Richter also identified a bag of plant parts. He explained the evidence to the jury.

Also in testimony we learned the defendant speaks only Spanish and an interpreter was present. But I did wonder, while YONET’s Gary Richter was questioning the defendant at the time of the arrest, whether he had an interpreter present. It was not made clear to me. Gary testified he spoke to him in English. Court wrapped up the first day of trial.

Public Defender John Sage decided to start his cross-examination Wednesday, due to the limited time today. YONET’s Gary Richter will continue with his testimony in Department 2 at 9 am tomorrow morning.

I wanted to add to this too, Agent Richter was kind enough to answer a few questions about the difference in plants grown for medicinal use, as opposed to sales use. He stated, “It is an individual case, different with each one.”  Judge Fall deemed Gary to be an expert in his field and allowed his testimony as expert for the prosecution’s case.

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