by Jackie Snyder
The trial of Jonathan Pryor began the morning of April 21, 2015, at the Yolo County Courthouse in Department 1. Pryor, a resident of West Sacramento, was arrested in 2013 after allegedly pistol whipping his former girlfriend. The charges being brought against Pryor include: assault with a semi-automatic firearm, threats to commit a crime which may result in death or great bodily injury, and possession of a firearm after being convicted of a felony.
Once entering the courtroom, the jurors were briefly instructed by Judge Richardson, presiding over the case. He then allowed the deputy district attorney and the defense attorney the opportunity to make opening statements.
Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hays began her opening statement by presenting a photograph of a severely bruised and badly beaten face, belonging to the victim. DDA Hays stated that on July 18, 2013, the defendant pistol whipped his girlfriend (the victim) and threatened to kill her, after she came home late from being out with a friend. The victim claimed that an additional person, present at the time of the incident, pulled the defendant off her. The victim believed that if this person had not been there, she may have died. DDA Hays warned the jury that most of the witnesses she plans to call will be in custody. She also stated that testimony between the victim and other witnesses may be conflicting. Due to these factors she was unsure of the outcome.
Defense Attorney Justin Ward then briefly gave his opening statement. Mr. Ward explained to the jury that he was not questioning whether the victim suffered an assault, as that was made obvious by the photograph presented by DDA Hays. He was questioning, however, who committed the actual assault. Mr. Ward claimed that the only person who can actually say she was present when the crime was committed is the victim, as all other witnesses will deny they were ever there. This reason, Mr. Ward claimed, should be evidence that the defendant is not guilty of the crimes in question.
Once opening statements concluded, Judge Richardson excused the jurors for a break. Once the jurors had left the court room, DDA Hays presented to Judge Richardson two cases, whose authority illustrated when invoking the Fifth Amendment was inappropriate. According to DDA Hays, the victim was nervous and did not want to testify, however, she agreed to do so. Mr. Ward felt as though the victim should be aware of her rights (regarding testifying) before she made the decision to testify. DDA Hays did not think that an in-depth inquiry as to the victim’s rights, as they pertain to testifying, was necessary to perform, before questioning the victim under oath. DDA Hays felt that if an in-depth inquiry were conducted regarding the victim’s Fifth Amendment rights, the victim may choose to not testify and clearly her testimony was important. Judge Richardson agreed that an in-depth inquiry would not be necessary. If the victim did decide to “plead the fifth,” the judge would reevaluate at that time.
The first witness called to the stand was the victim. The victim testified that the night before the incident took place, she and a female roommate went out. The victim’s roommate was a prostitute and, in an effort to keep her roommate safe, the victim kept her company while she was working. The victim then stated that, after her roommate finished turning tricks, they went to a bar and consumed alcohol. Once the bar closed, both women continued to party at another individual’s (someone they met at the bar) house. All women were extremely intoxicated, and, at one point in the night, a conversation via telephone took place between the victim’s boyfriend and the woman with whom the victim and her roommate were socializing. The victim’s boyfriend got the idea that the victim was being unfaithful to him and this made him angry.
Shortly after, the victim and her roommate returned home and fell asleep. The victim then claimed the next thing she heard was footsteps coming up the stairs and men shouting. The victim testified that, while she was half asleep, her boyfriend stormed into the room and began hitting her several times in the head with gun and “stomping” on her back. He did not stop until his friend pulled him off of her (the victim). The police were called and the victim, suffering serious head injuries, was transported to the hospital. Once released from the hospital, the victim stayed with a friend before moving into a hotel. The victim testified that, not long after the incident, she contacted her boyfriend and continued having a relationship with him.