Judge Allows Jurors to Hear Past Domestic Violence Convictions As Winters Murder Trial Begins

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by Antoinnette Borbon

William Gardner is being charged with lying in wait for his ex-girlfriend and then shooting her to death in Winters last year.

Gardner, whose lengthy criminal past included five prior incidents of domestic violence, as well as drug possession and vandalism, sat emotionless.

Both District Attorney Jeff Reisig and Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hays argued to keep in evidence all prior incidents of domestic violence and all the crime scene photos, for the jurors to hear about and to view during the trial.

William Gardner, now 31 years old, had allegedly stalked Leslie Pinkston of Winters, California, before allegedly killing her in November of last year. He then fled to Las Vegas where U.S. Marshals, along with the Las Vegas Police Department, found him holed up in a friend’s apartment.

DDA Hays explained to Judge Mock that William Gardner, III, had become violent after every relationship with women who ended things with him.

She talked about Mr. Gardner’s pattern of acting out violently against the women who spurned him.

Ms. Hays went over each incident that Gardner had been convicted of in the past, stating, “In this case, Gardner’s actions were cold, brazen.” But in all of Gardner’s actions, he exhibited violence.

Ms. Hays read the last text from Pinkston to Gardner shortly before he allegedly killed her. “William, it’s done, I’m going to be with someone else.” Hays showed how Ms. Pinkston had ended the relationship and, “hours later was dead, was dead,” she stated.

Ms. Hays continued arguing, per her motion before the court, to keep these past incidents in evidence. Hays referred to a common scheme from the infamous case, People v. Spector, saying that it was similar to the case at hand.

Ms. Hays described that defendant Phil Spector, in the older case, also had prior incidents in which he was drunk and pulled a gun on ex-girlfriends after they spurned him.

She pointed out that the prosecution in the Spector case had been allowed to use the prior incidents in their case against the defendant.

Defense Attorney J. Toney argued that prior cases were prejudicial. One incident involving a prostitute, Mr. Toney argued, had no relevance to this case, nor did the vandalism done on a victim’s relative’s car after Gardner became angry at  the victim for breaking up with him.

Hays continued to cite the Spector homicide case, where jurors were allowed to hear testimony about prior incidents of domestic violence. She asserted this evidence is not prejudicial but will portray Mr. Gardner’s nature.

She said his behavior has been incendiary in those instances, and the jurors should be allowed to hear testimony from prior convictions and/or witnesses from past cases against Gardner.

Judge Mock ruled to allow the past domestic violence cases into evidence, but disallowed the vandalism conviction.

CRIME SCENE PHOTOS

Photos of the crime scene and autopsy were discussed in evidentiary issues/motions, as well.

District Attorney Jeff Reisig requested all photos be left in evidence for jurors to view. He argued that the pathologist will need the photos to help explain to jurors the fatal shots to Ms. Pinkston’s head, which led to her death.

But the defense argued that some of the photos were of a very graphic nature. Toney stated, “Jurors may find them disturbing, causing them to have nightmares and be distracted emotionally.” It could be prejudicial, he argued.

Jeff Reisig discussed how a couple of photos showed Ms. Pinkston’s last move before the fatal shot to her head. He said she was trying to get away as Gardner fired the shots that ended her life and the photos will reveal that to jurors.

Reisig stated, “Murders are messy, but jurors are entitled to see the injuries that are relevant to Ms. Pinkston’s cause of death.” He asserted that the pathologist will need them to help explain the fatal wounds.

Judge Mock stated, “Although I realize prosecution wants to humanize this case, I do feel that pictures of Ms. Pinkston with her daughter could be prejudicial, they tear at my heart strings and may also with jurors.”

He ruled to allow all photos, with the exception of the mother/daughter one and a couple of extremely graphic photos of the autopsy.

Jury selection begins with a questionnaire, and opening arguments are estimated to be heard by Thursday morning.

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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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14 thoughts on “Judge Allows Jurors to Hear Past Domestic Violence Convictions As Winters Murder Trial Begins”

  1. Tia Will

    Thanks for the article Antoinette. It is heartening to hear that domestic violence, an issue that in the not so distant past was dealt with inappropriately by a member of the Yolo County judiciary, is now being treated in a factual and responsible manner. I applaud Judge Mock for his inclusion of factual material in allowing the presentation of documented past behavior in similar circumstances while disallowing photos clearly intended not as objective representations of fact but rather to emotionally manipulate the jury.

      1. Tia Will

        BP

        I will correct you because you are wrong. I believe that what I have said is that every case is different and should be judged on its own merits. That certainly does not mean that if the same individual has been convicted of the same crime on multiple occasions that could not be brought to a juries attention. What I do not think should be brought to a juries attention is, for example, the fact that a woman makes her living as a pole dancer or a prostitute in a rape case.

        If you can find a quote of mine to the contrary, I will clarify and or apologize as is warranted.

        1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          Tia, if you knew that an alleged victim made her living as “a pole dancer or a prostitute,” would that remove your ability to fairly serve on a jury in such a case?

          It seems to me, with all so-called prejudicial information, the court needs foremost to determine whether jurors can act fairly and follow their instructions. If one or more cannot, those people should be removed.

          I realize, of course, that the law tends to err on the side of caution, not allowing any prejudicial information, unless the judge believes it is material to the case in question. And even then, such decisions to allow such information into a trial may be cause for an appellate court to overturn a conviction.

          My view is that the most important factor is choosing jurors who are least likely to use prejudice or bias to decide the case they are judging.

          To this particular case, I am curious to know whether the jurors will be allowed to know that the defendant fled from the area the day of the crime and he was caught hiding out in Las Vegas several weeks later? That, to me, suggests guilt. Maybe it is just prejudice.

        2. Antoinnette

          Tia … I thought I heard him say muscle but he was referring to in the neck area, if I’m correct? He did say brain tissue…

          At Richrifkin … jurors are allowed to hear he fled and was caught in Vegas it’s already been said in testimony and will be in my piece tomorrow.

      1. Antoinnette

        Thank you, Sisterhood…to be honest, I can’t think of a case that has been emotionally difficult to cover…lol

        I think I have learned there are so many more factors in these cases than you will ever read or see on t.v. So being inside the courtroom everyday helps all of us learn more into the history and dynamics of a situation…often so sad too..

        But I have learned a lot too and been blessed with some wonderful friendships!

        Thank you for reading and the encouragement!

  2. Tia Will

    Rich

    The question is not “if you knew that an alleged victim made her living as “a pole dancer or a prostitute,” would that remove your ability to fairly serve on a jury in such a case?”

    I am sure almost everyone would answer “no” to this question because most people want to see themselves as fair and unbiased. And yet we know from their own words that some people do make judgements based on the behaviors of the victim and that some lawyers will play upon this tendency to judge not exclusively on our assessment of the facts, but rather on our tendency to impose our own moral values and judgements on those facts. While I would see such a woman as at increased risk for such victimization, someone else may see her as “asking for it”. Neither preconceived notion should be relevant to our interpretation of the facts, and yet we all carry them into the courtroom with us. So I think our positions are actually quite close. I think that we would benefit from open minded, fact based jurors. But I do not see a way of obtaining that since in our current system it actually comes down to a competition between prosecution and defense attorneys to try to select a jury which they believe will be most amenable to their point of view.

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