Written by Antoinnette Borbon and Saghi Nojoomi
The defense brought forth a stronger case in the now second trial of a case involving robbery, assault and gang enhancements with four young defendants. But, as the morning began with Deputy District Attorney Robin Johnson, she would remind the jurors of what the case entails for the prosecution.
Johnson stated that the victim has had run-ins with the law, but it does not mean he isn’t a victim. She stated, “You’re going to hear how the victim, Mr. Nichols, and his girlfriend went to the 7-11 on June 19, 2013, and later, after an exchange of words, were robbed and assaulted by the young men who are known gang members.” She said, “And you will hear from gang experts how criminal street gangs are run, and how this crime was to benefit and further promote gang activity, status.”
Johnson said that, during the assault, the boys yelled gang slurs. She told jurors, “But you’re going to hear Nichols say he didn’t want to testify.”
“But,” she stated, “I want you to analyze all the evidence, read the transcripts from witnesses, listen to testimony and use logic to form your conclusion of guilt. Thank you.”
Defense Attorney Jeff Raven, for defendant Jose Jimenez, began with a video taken from inside the 7-11, on the night of the alleged robbery and assault.
Mr. Raven stated, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m starting with this video because there are crucial parts here, this case is not about robbery or assault; as you can see on this video, three young Hispanics walk into the store, you see Nichols and his girlfriend inside buying items and then you see them walk out, Jimenez and Fuentes are even smiling. You see the male in the red shirt who is buying beer because it’s his 21st birthday.”
Raven continued with, “Then you see Fuentes look outside the store to the Northwest corner and then go running towards the fight that had already been going on with Nichols. Seconds later, you see Jimenez go running too, but within less than a minute or so, you see them both walk back inside the store, nothing disheveled, no marks or blood, dirt on either of them.”
He said, “I want you to focus on the time, and look at the expression of Jimenez, he walks in shrugging his shoulders as if to say, ‘I don’t know what happened?'” Raven stated, “then you see them purchase items and leave.”
Raven said, “Not one witness testified to the description of any of these boys, not one!”
He said no recording or written report was taken from Nichols or his girlfriend on that night.
Raven stated when the cops rolled up on the three defendants, they didn’t know why they were stopped but they were arrested for robbery and assault.
He said there is nothing showing the involvement of Jimenez and Fuentes and that is clear from the video.
Raven asserted, “There was no motive to rob, to assault. Nichols is a man who says he doesn’t back down and someone called his girlfriend a bad name.” He said after an exchange of words, a fight began but it lasted less than two minutes and Nichols told cops he couldn’t describe the men he fought, other than young Hispanic males wearing red.
He said, “You will see, at the end of this trial, my client had nothing to do with these crimes, none of them did and you will allow them to be done with this, to go home and get on with their lives,” and he thanked the jurors.
Defense Attorney Keith Staten for Justin Gonzalez began with a metaphor. He spoke about an officer who once talked about a case and how it was much like this one, that “it’s not a case, and you will see that,” Staten said.
He said there were no reports taken and the items purchased at the store were not what was told to the police on the night of June 19.
Staten said, “I’m glad Mr. Raven showed you the video, you will see important facts.”
He asserted, as Raven did, that “there were no real descriptions of the boys and my client has no tattoos of gang relations at all, there was a second set of kids around the area that night.”
“But everything has to make sense, make a case, and this doesn’t.” Staten said. He said, “There are several reasons why people can make mistakes in identifying their assailant and one can be stress.”
He talked briefly about another gang expert who will be testifying for the defense and asked the jurors to look at everything before making a decision.
Bob Spangler, the defense attorney representing Juan Fuentes, had only a brief couple of statements.
He told jurors at the end of trial the evidence will not conclude guilt. He pointed out, “I think Raven showed you in this video how things went, there is nothing showing involvement with the fight going on.”
Ava Landers, attorney for Anthony Ozuna, was also pretty brief. She also pointed out the relevance of the store video and asserted her client is just a Hispanic boy who was walking in the area that night, not fleeing and was arrested as a perpetrator.
Landers said there were no real identifications of any of the boys.
The trial continued with the alleged victim. But a short voir dire was done because he told the DDA he wanted to plead his 5th Amendment rights.
Alleged victim Scott Nichols agreed to testify later in the day with his attorney present for a bit.