A juror, who wishes to remain anonymous, spoke candidly to the Vanguard about the mistrial involving the four young men accused of robbing and assaulting a Woodland man at the 7-Eleven.
The four young defendants – Jose Jimenez, Anthony Ozuna, Justin Gonzalez, and Juan Fuentes – have been charged with robbery, assault and added gang enhancements.
The mistrial concluded with only one conviction for robbery, on Juan Fuentes, who was also convicted of resisting/obstructing a peace officer, and with convictions of gang charges on all four.
Deputy District Attorney Robin Johnson contends that the crimes were committed to further promote the Woodland gang, “The Norteños.”
The juror stated, “I was never convinced by the prosecution of anything more than the four kids were possible gang members but that was about it.”
He said, “But I did feel some of the witnesses were lying. I felt some of the jury panel was biased because the boys may have appeared to be gang members but it never changed my mind of innocence or guilt.”
He continued that he felt jurors were tired and did not understand the law in deciding on a verdict correctly.
He told the Vanguard, “I feel bad for the young boys and was convinced through the video and evidence presented, they were in fact innocent.”
The juror wishes them well with the outcome of their case.
DDA Johnson has offered a plea deal of 3.8 years if the defendants accept an assault conviction, which must accompany the gang charge to stick.
The four young Latino males were accused of robbing and assaulting a Woodland man in June of 2013. The jury hung on whether the four men assaulted and robbed the victim that evening.
For the third time, a mistrial was declared in this case.
The second trial in this case had been set to begin in January. It was continued to April, but on the day trial was to begin, a juror admitted to knowing one of the defendants; therefore, it too, was declared a mistrial.
The first trial for the young men took place in November of 2013. The jurors hung on all counts except for one for Juan Fuentes, who was found guilty of a misdemeanor evading police. But this time around, the jury convicted all four defendants on the gang-related enhancement charges.
Juan Fuentes, as stated above, this time was convicted of robbery, as well as resisting/obstructing a public officer, while the jury hung on the assault charge. For the others, the jury hung on the robbery as well as the assault charges.
As the outcome sits right now, there is an inconsistency with the law. The jury found the defendants guilty of a violation of California Penal Code §186.22(a). Under that section, “Any person who actively participates in any criminal street gang with knowledge that its members engage in or have engaged in a pattern of criminal gang activity, and who willfully promotes, furthers, or assists in any felonious criminal conduct by members of that gang, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, or two or three years.”
On Thursday, the four come back to court to make their decision. The families of the defendants are hopeful.
Motion to Alter Venue Denied in Fourth and Hope case
by Saghi Nojoomi and Silvia Ramos
Judge Rosenberg of the Yolo County Superior Court denied the defense’s motion to change the venue of the trial involving Leona Jull, the former executive director of Woodland’s Fourth and Hope.
Defendant Leona Jull is charged with felony theft of over $30,000 from Woodland’s Fourth and Hope, a local homeless shelter. The defendant served as the former executive director of the Woodland shelter and is accused of allegedly spending over $17,000 in unauthorized gas transactions and over $13,000 in unauthorized personal transactions.
On Monday, a change of venue motion set forth by the defense over concerns involving the media’s influence on the sanctity of a fair trial was heard by Judge Rosenberg in Department 4. While the defense claimed that the case had garnered enough attention to raise concerns over the possibility of a biased jury, Judge Rosenberg reasoned that the case does not require a change of venue.
According to Judge Rosenberg, the felony theft charge has not garnered as much attention as previous Yolo County Superior Court murder and gang-related cases have. With over 200,000 people in Yolo County, the judge reasoned that an unbiased and fair jury could certainly be found in cities outside of Woodland such as Davis and Winters. A change of venue motion would bind both parties to a much farther court date and commute.
Along with a denied change of venue motion, the defense was denied a motion of recusal. Both parties are required back in court on July 21.