by Justine Joya and Silvia Ramos Medina
On the morning of July 2, Mr. David Whitfield’s case began jury trial. Mr. Whitfield is being charged with the carrying of a concealed weapon.
Before the jury entered the courtroom, both counsels and Judge Reed were disputing whether or not the defendant’s previous crimes should be exposed to the jurors. Ultimately, Judge Reed decided that the defendant’s crimes in 1990 and 1998 would not be presented to the jurors.
Deputy District Attorney Jay Linden delivered his opening statement. On June 18, 2013, two West Sacramento officers, Carruth and Bowers, were dispatched to a local bus stop where a man was reported carrying a knife. Mr. Whitfield appeared to be “talking aggressively” with another individual at the bus stop. When the officers got out of their cars, Whitfield swiftly crossed the street in the opposite direction. Carruth and Bowers followed and demanded him to stop. Once the officers caught up to the defendant, they handcuffed him and conducted a search—finding a 13” kitchen knife and a claw hammer.
After he was detained, Mr. Whitfield gave two inconsistent reasons for carrying the knife and the hammer. First, he explained that he was assaulted by two unknown juveniles and disarmed them. Then, he said he was assaulted by the same juveniles, retrieved the objects from home, and returned to the scene where he was assaulted. He stated he only wanted to scare off his attackers.
Defense Attorney James Granucci portrayed the same incident, but with significant differences. He explained that his client was assaulted at a local Raley’s Store because the attackers believed Whitfield was gay; he had a bow in his hair and pink nail polish on his fingernails. When Whitfield went home and realized he forgot to buy cigarettes, he grabbed the hammer and knife for protection and returned back to the store. However, he never made it to the store. Instead, he went to a bus stop and engaged in a conversation with another civilian. Granucci specified that Mr. Whitfield’s lack of cooperation and apparent “aggressive” behavior was due to Mr. Whitfield’s hearing disability.
Officer Josh Carruth was the first witness called by the people. He arrived first at the scene on June 18, 2013. DDA Linden played Carruth’s cop car video: the defendant was shown standing in front of the bus stop, and then walking away from the police car once Carruth arrived. Mr. Carruth declared it was Officer Bowers who arrested Whitfield, performed the search, and found the knife and the hammer.
Attorney Granucci’s cross-examination raised questions: were the knife and the hammer concealed?
When Officer Carruth was asked if he personally saw a weapon on Mr. Whitfield, saw him fidgeting with his waist area, witnessed any signs of concealment, or if he knew that the defendant was legally deaf, he replied no.
Lastly, Granucci asked Carruth if he knew where the knife and the hammer were found. Carruth responded no and said that Officer Bowers told him where they were.
Officer Daniel Bowers was called on the stand. According to Bowers, the knife was placed directly below Whitfield’s bellybutton with the blade facing downwards. The hammer was located next to the knife and both were tucked in the waistband of his shorts.
When Granucci questioned Bowers, his preliminary hearing testimony diverged from his previous testimony. In Mr. Bower’s recorded preliminary hearing statement, he stated that he rolled the defendant over on the ground after Carruth pushed him onto the floor, and then, he saw the handle of the knife. Yet, in his current testimony, he had to lift Whitfield’s shirt to see any part of the weapon.
Next, DDA Linden called Yolo County Detective, Kristine Fitzgerald, to the stand. Ms. Fitzgerald possessed a recorded conversation between the defendant and another individual.
Before the court was allowed to play the recording, Judge Reed ordered the bailiff to re-collect the transcripts of the conversation from the jurors. The jury was then dismissed from the courtroom.
Seemingly, the last two pages of the written transcripts exposed the defendant’s previous crimes; however, these were to be withheld from the jury.
The last pages of the transcripts were disposed of and the court carried on.
Mr. Whitfield was first examined by his attorney, James Granucci.
On the stand, it was apparent that Mr. Whitfield was unable to hear without a hearing aid. He constantly fiddled with his hearing device and asked those present to reiterate their questions.
Mr. Granucci asked Mr. Whitfield if he had been in his apartment on June 19, 2013. He responded that he was in his apartment in the early hours.
When asked to describe what he was wearing on that particular day, he stated, “I was wearing shorts over a skirt.”
“Were you wearing all of that clothing in front of you,” Mr. Granucci asked. And Mr. Whitfield further declared that he was wearing a halter top underneath a grey tee shirt—something like what you wear at home.
Mr. Whitfield was then asked to recall where he went, from his apartment. He expressed that he had walked over to the 76 gas station.
“Did anything happen when you went to the store?” Mr. Granucci asked.
“There were 7-8 juveniles standing outside. This short kid slapped me. I just assumed they were prejudiced against me.”
Mr. Granucci asked his client to identify a hammer and a knife. Mr. Whitfield specified that both items were his and that he had found the knife inside a mattress in a hotel. The knife he used as a tool and also kept it by his bed as protection.
Nonetheless, Mr. Whitfield confessed that, after leaving the 76 station, he returned home for about five minutes, solely to retrieve the knife and the hammer. He stated, “I tried to fit the hammer and the knife in the shorts, but they didn’t fit, so I carried them.”
Later, Mr. Granucci asked that Mr. Whitfield use facsimiles of the knife and hammer to demonstrate how he held them as he walked back to the 76 station for the second time.
Mr. Whitfield showed the court how he had placed the hammer underneath the knife. “I didn’t want to damage the skirt because it’s very fine material,” Mr. Whitfield added.
Moreover, Mr. Whitfield told Mr. Granucci that he had not walked back to the store – he had gone to the bus stop.
At the bus stop, “There were some black guys. They looked like homeless. I was glad to see them because I’ve been on the streets.
“Did you have the hammer and knife in your hand?” Mr. Granucci asked. “Yes, I put the hammer and knife on the bench.”
Mr. Whitfield then stated that he remained at the bus stop approximately 15-20 minutes, “shooting the shit.” He said once he spotted the police, he decided it was better for him to leave because he had been in trouble before.
“When you left the bus stop, where were the hammer and the knife?” Mr. Granucci asked.
Mr. Whitfield then demonstrated to the court where he had placed the knife and the hammer. Before doing so, he put on the grey tee shirt, which had been collected as evidence.
“I didn’t want the blade touching the skirt. I had to have access to the knife and hammer.”
Mr. Whitfield physically demonstrated how he placed the knife and the hammer inside his shorts; he showed the court how the handles protruded over the tee shirt.
“How much of the blade was concealed?” “At least half” was Mr. Whitfield’s answer.
Mr. Whitfield carried on with his version of the incident. He admitted to being under the influence of alcohol that day, drinking half a pint of gin. He then reported that, after leaving the bus stop, he remembered something like a “hook trip” and someone slamming into his back.
“I’m surprised my glasses and my amplifier didn’t fall out. The impact was so forceful. It was like a car crash. I literally felt the weight of the hammer.”
Mr. Whitfield then threw himself face first on the ground and demonstrated to the court how he had landed after the “hook trip.” He said he partially skidded on the ground, but the skidding was short.
As Mr. Whitfield still stood in the middle of the courtroom with all eyes on him, he lifted up his black see-through skirt to examine it and exclaimed, “Oh no! It’s tore!” Caught off guard, Mr. Granucci rolled his eyes and Judge Reed ordered Mr. Whitfield to sit down.
After the court reconvened, Mr. Whitfield continued to answer Mr. Granucci’s questions. He admitted that he had been arrested that night and that the voice played on the recording was his.
Next, DDA Linden walked up to the microphone to cross-examine Mr. Whitfield.
“Two months prior you were in contact with Officer Bowers wearing the same clothes.”
“I don’t think so,” responded Mr. Whitfield.
Mr. Linden then communicated to the defendant that he had lied to Officer Bowers when he said he took the knife and the hammer from the kids. “What you told Officer Bowers was that you had returned to the store and they were gone.”
“I never went back to the store.”
“Is the officer lying?”
“I was as the bus stop. Not at the store.” Mr. Whitfield continued.
“If Officer Bower testified that you had returned to the store and the juveniles were gone, is he lying?”
Taking a deep breath, Mr. Whitfield responded, “I don’t remember stating that.”
Mr. Linden then questioned Mr. Whitfield about whether he had armed himself with two weapons and he hesitantly responded, “Yes.”
“You know that a 13’ knife is readily used as a stabbing weapon?”
“I mean it can be used, but it’s a kitchen knife. It shines my jewelry,” replied the defendant. “These kids were military strong, like 8 of them. I intended it as a self-defense weapon. I would use it so they wouldn’t get close to me.”
Mr. Linden then continued to question the defendant about the police officers. He asked if he saw them driving by and Mr. Whitfield stated, “No, I saw them parked. I was surprised the cops didn’t think I was this guy’s baby.”
Additionally, Mr. Linden questioned the defendant about the police cars. Mr. Whitfield stated that he did not remember the police cars approaching. He simply remembered the spotlight after they put him in handcuffs.
“Sir, were you looking for oncoming traffic? When you looked at oncoming traffic, you didn’t see police cars? You seem to have a problem remembering how the police cars approached, but you remember exactly how you were holding the knife and the hammer.”
Mr. Whitfield sat at the podium continuously trying to justify his actions; and Mr. Linden demanded that he solely answer the questions he was asking him.
“Now as you sit here today, you feel completely justified to take the knife and the hammer and go back to the store?” This was one of the last questions Mr. Linden asked the defendant before Mr. Granucci went back to the microphone and questioned his client once again.
After Mr. Granucci asked his client a few more questions, Officer Bowers was called to the stand. Mr. Bowers testified that he had previously encountered the defendant wearing the same skirt and halter top. He also added that on the 18th of June, he did not observe that Mr. Whitfield was under the influence. Lastly, he stated that when Mr. Whitfield was detained, he had not fallen on his face, he had fallen on his butt.
The day ended with the deliberation of the jury.