Defense Cries Foul At Prosecution’s Refreshment of Victim’s Recollections


Yolo-Count-Court-Room-600by Saghi Nojoomi and Katie Wu

Defense attorney Richard Dudek objected to Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hays’ method of refreshing a victim’s recollection with police reports in a domestic violence preliminary hearing on Friday.

The preliminary hearing for People v. Michael Donnahoe concluded on Friday with a predetermined August 29 arraignment date. Defendant Michael Donnahoe is accused of physical and verbal assault of his now ex-girlfriend and her son during a physical altercation on April 20 that left the victim with minor injuries.

When asked, DDA Hays’ first witness correctly identified the man in custody as the defendant and her now ex-boyfriend  of three months. Although not related, the witness claims that during the time of the altercation both she and her son lived with the defendant in Woodland. On April 20, a physical altercation between the witness and the defendant developed when the witness received a phone message from her sister that angered the defendant.

According to the witness, the defendant grabbed the phone out of her hands and started yelling. The witness claims that the defendant thought the message was “from another man,” even though it was from her sister. When Ms. Hays asked the witness what she did next, the witness stated that she “tried to grab it back” before “he grabbed me [her] in the kitchen.”

According to the witness, Mr. Donnahoe banged the backside of her head to the wall, leaving a “little indentation.” When asked where her son was during the altercation, the witness stated that he stood behind the defendant crying and screaming, “Momma, momma.”

The witness claimed that the defendant bent her over the kitchen counter with his hands on her neck. Ms. Hays questioned the witness on whether she was bent over backwards or forwards, to which the witness stated that she was bent over backwards and “tried to get away.”

Fearful for her life, the witness stated that she managed to run to the neighbor’s house even after the defendant blocked her from the exits. When asked where her son was, the witness stated that he was with her, standing on his own and following her. According to the witness, the defendant blocked her from the door as she tried to exit. When she made an effort to leave through another door he blocked her from it again, before she ran around him and out the first door she had tried.

Adding to the events of the night, the witness stated that the defendant had stolen money from her, as well. According to the witness, money that was supposed to be in her wallet was gone after the incident had occurred.

Although she could not remember the amount, the witness claimed that money was gone when she looked through her wallet after the defendant handed her phone and wallet back. When asked when he supposedly handed the phone and wallet back, the witness stated that after she went to the neighbors and called 911 the defendant handed the phone and wallet back, apologizing for the incident.

Before continuing, Ms. Hays asked the witness if she trusted the officers that responded to her 911 call and if she told them the entire truth. After establishing the police report’s credibility and the witness’ honesty, Ms. Hays questioned the witness on what the defendant had said to her as he had her pinned on the kitchen counter.

When the witness admitted to not remembering the details of what he said, the prosecution approached the witness with the police report from the night of the incident. Asking the witness to review it, Ms. Hayes then questioned whether the defendant had yelled, “I will f—ing kill you,” when he held her on the counter as the report indicates.

While Mr. Dudek objected to the leading remarks, Ms. Hays asked the witness to review the reports before responding to her questions. When asked what had happened the night before April 20, the witness once again admitted to having no recollection. Ms. Hays advised the witness to glance at the report before she resumed questioning the witness about the events of the night before April 20.

After reviewing the report, the witness stated that the defendant had his hands over her mouth, keeping her from speaking. When she entered her car in an effort to drive to the police station, the defendant followed her into the car and apologized before she arrived at the station.

Although he questioned the merits of a police report as a method of recollection for a victim witness, the judge ultimately allowed Ms. Hays to continue, amid rapid objections from the defense counsel.

During cross-examination, Mr. Dudek asked if it is fair to assume that, prior to glancing at the police reports, the witness did not remember or recall the defendant’s statements on April 20, nor the altercation from the previous night.

He continued by questioning the witness about her phone contacts and the message that started the April 20 altercation. When the witness admitted that her sister’s phone number was not saved on her phone at the time of the altercation, the defense counsel alluded to the fact that the defendant had no knowledge that the phone message that caused the altercation was from the witness’ sister.

The message, “Happy Easter I love you,” had caused the defendant to physically assault the witness. When asked if she ever called 911 from her phone, the witness stated that she did not remember if she called from the neighbor’s house or her phone.

Officer Mat Jameson, the police officer on duty that day, recollected the police report from the altercation. According to what Officer Jameson can recount, the victim assumed that Donnahoe was using meth, which is thought to have led the defendant to become highly paranoid and jealous of her relationship with others. Although it turns out that the text was from the victim’s sister, the unknown number was not yet identified as her sister, so this led to his suspicion of her text.

Jameson continued by saying that the defendant’s accusation regarding her text message ultimately led to domestic violence. The victim’s head, he said, was banged against the wall, and she was then forced to lean forward over the kitchen counter as the defendant was choking her. It was noted that this testimony differed from the victim’s on the stand, where she had said she was bent over backwards. Jameson stated that the defendant’s threat, “I’m going to f—ing kill you,” raised the victim’s fear for herself and her son. She ultimately managed to get out of her apartment, notifying the police of the sore abrasions on her elbow and finger. After their physical encounter and the victim managed to escape from her apartment, the defendant went outside to return her phone, but also returned to her an empty wallet, which originally had $70 in it.

Although the victim affirmatively recounted that the neighbors had called for the police, Officer Jameson believed that he was dispatched from the 911 call that came from the victim’s phone call to 911, not from her neighbors’ phone. Several interruptions from the defendant led the victim to call 911 a number of times. Finally, her call was received by police after several attempts.

The defense attorney asked about the victim’s reaction, how distraught and flustered the victim and her son were immediately after the fight.  “She was calm, but [her son] was upset.” he stated.

“What makes you say that?” Mr. Dudek asked.

“He was crying.” he responded.

Bail remains as set with an August 29 arraignment date.


About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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