by Marya Alloo
The prosecution emphasized drowning as a premeditated action in the closing statements surrounding the case of Davis mother Aquelin Talamantes, being charged for murdering her five-year-old daughter.
After jury instructions were given by Judge Stephen Mock on Tuesday morning in Department Three, Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens took the floor to give his closing statements.
Couzens started his closing argument by reading a statement that was said by the defendant’s sister, Elisa Torres, during the trial. The quote stated, “I know it is really sad that she (Tatiana) is gone, but she’s gone now. We can’t do anything about that.”
This statement given by Torres in Couzen’s words was a “metaphor for tragedy.” An animated Couzens argued “this entire case is being looked upon as a tragedy, when in reality Tatiana’s death wasn’t a tragedy. Tatiana’s life was taken from her, she was murdered by the hands of her own mother.”
Couzens then went on by presenting slides to the jury that explain the definitions of first degree and second degree murder. First degree murder is done with a premeditated plan, while second degree murder is done in the “heat of the moment” or as “self-defense.”
Couzens reminded the jury that in opening statements Deputy Public Defender Sally Fredricksen had stated that her client had in fact killed her daughter, but the act of the killing was lesser than homicide due to her impaired mental state. Couzens, raising his voice, argued that what the defense was doing, “was trying to find a middle ground for Talamantes’s actions.”
When Couzens spoke to the jury about the first count, he outlined the fact that drowning is a form of first degree murder. He stated, “Drowning is a particular way to kill someone, it takes commitment. Drowning is not a split second decision, which shows that it is first degree murder.” He outlined three main points to the jury about drowning: 1. First Talamantes decided to drown Tatiana; 2. Talamantes started to drown Tatiana; 3. She continued to drown Tatiana.
Couzens then began to explore the idea of an impaired mental state. He referred to a statement given by the defense’s expert witness, Dr. Captane Thompson, when he was on the stand. Dr. Thompson, when questioned by Couzens about whether Talamantes knew what she was doing, stated, “I think she is aware of what she was doing, but she wasn’t aware of the wrongfulness of the act.”
Couzens then concluded by informing the jury that Talamantes continues to blame others for her mistakes, that she “does not take responsibility for her actions.” Couzens then glanced toward Talamantes, and reminded the jury that “Aquelin Talamantes is not the victim in this case, but in fact the victim is Tatiana.”
After a brief break, Ms. Fredricksen took the floor. She began her closing statement with a quote, as well, from Priscilla Talamantes, sister of Aquelin Talamantes. “Not in a million years,” is what Priscilla Talamantes stated when asked if she believed her sister had premeditated the murder of Tatiana. A soft-spoken Fredricksen informed that jury that “historically Aquelin never hurt her children, but instead wanted to save her children. Just like she did when she took her children out of the abusive environment they lived in with their father.”
Fredricksen emphasized that the prosecution fails to prove first degree murder because her client’s actions were “not premeditated, but instead were due to her mental status.” She argued that Talamantes was suffering from depression and anxiety, and that she had even “created a checklist with her doctor about what she would do if she wasn’t feeling well.” One of the things on the list was to check herself into the ER, which shows in the records that Talamantes had “multiple hospitalizations before Tatiana’s death.”
On September 26, 2013, the day Talamantes was detained for murdering her daughter, Fredricksen reminded the jury that “she didn’t even know where she was.” Fredricksen also reminded the jury that her roommate, who hadn’t even known her that long, testified that “Aquelin would check out, and that she would have conversations with her sister, when her sister wasn’t even there.” Fredricksen also pointed out that on the day of the incident, toxicology reports showed no alcohol, just “Prozac and tramadol.” She also underlined that there was “no opiate or meth” in the toxicology report.
When it came down to discussing the idea of Talamantes’s attitude, Fredricksen stated that “every parent has a thought about, what life would be like without kids.” Also, she argued that prosecution and those who testified believe that Talamantes was “lazy, grouchy, had a temper.” Fredricksen, raising her voice, informed the jury that “what people were failing to understand was that, all these moods, was my client’s mental illness manifesting itself.”
Fredricksen concluded by thanking the jury and asking them to “apply the law after evidence.” She also stated that her client was not “guilty of first degree murder, but second degree murder due to her mental state.”
In rebuttal, Couzens began by providing the evidence from the doctor who treated her while Talamantes was in jail. The doctor had testified saying “Talamantes was not manic or psychotic. She was just irritable, defiant, and antagonistic.” Couzens argued by saying, “She was having emotional issues, which is not the same as psychosis.” “In fact,” an animated Couzens explained, “in reality she was on a marijuana reduction, which can lead to paranoia.”
When speaking about Fredricksen’s comments about toxicology reports, Couzens responded by saying, “There were no drugs in her system because she didn’t have any money for them.”
Couzens then informed the jury that “people do horrible things all the time, but what Talamantes did was because of her anger, not because she was insane.” He also stated to the jury, some of who may or may not be parents, “that as parents sometimes you can get unusually angry, but we stop ourselves from doing anything.”
Raising his voice, Couzens underlined that Talamantes “knew what she was doing. She knew she was wrapping her daughter up after she drowned her and hid her in her car. Drowning is an up close and personal act.” Couzens then presented the jury with an image of a traffic signal that had stopped at the yellow portion of the light. He informed the jury that this yellow light is a metaphor for premeditation, that when one sees a yellow light, they have to think about whether they should pick up speed or stop.
At this point, it is important to note that both sisters of Talamantes had their heads down and were sobbing.
“But instead,” a furious Couzens stated, “she blames her sisters, the police officer, her parents, and her children for her actions. Instead of planning to rescue her daughter, she was trying to save herself. She put herself first.”
A piercing sob came out of the mouth of Talamantes as Couzens continued to speak. She then began to cry loudly. At this point, Fredricksen told Talamantes that “you’re almost done,” as an effort to calm her down.
Couzens then ended his rebuttal by putting up a picture of the young girl on the hospital bed. Emotions in the courtroom began to flow as this picture assumed presence in the courtroom. Couzens, choking up, stated, “I wish I could hear what happened from Tatiana, but she is not here today with us.”
With the ending of the rebuttal, and both sides giving their closing statements, the jury is now set to deliberate in the case of People vs. Aquelin Talamantes.
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