By Haroutun Bejanyan
Thursday, July 30, marked the initial day of closing arguments in the trial of Michael Reyes, Liberty Landowski and Lisa Humble. The closing arguments commenced with prosecuting attorney Amanda Zambor, and ceased for the day with only one of the three defense attorneys, James Granucci, presenting his counter argument in defense of defendant Michael Reyes.
Ms. Zambor chronologically assembled the events and evidence leading up to and after the incident. She began by addressing the relevant factors pertaining to the victim. One, the victim had gotten in a fight with Reyes’ stepdad. Two, he had been selling drugs in Broderick, a gang territory in which he did not belong. And three, he was a dropout member of another gang known as the Franklin Boys. According to Zambor, all of these factors resonated with Reyes over the two weeks during which he thought about confronting the victim.
When Reyes finally spotted the victim riding his bike, along with his wife, Reyes hopped out of the car, drawing his gun, yelling “What’s up mother******! You got a problem?” Although, Reyes called out the victim, trying to instigate a fight during the heated verbal argument, the victim did not want to engage with Reyes when he was armed, stating, “Not when you have that.”
Reyes waited as the victim turned and rode away on his bike, then opened fire at his back. Even though his intent was specifically to kill the victim, he had no regard for whomever else, including the victim’s wife, could be hit in the kill zone when he fired the six shots. Then he fled on foot, as did Landowski in her car.
She proceeded to hide the car and take a taxi to switch to a different car. Zambor urged the jury to not fall for the false claim that Landowski and Reyes only knew each other for a day, during which she was not aware of his gang affiliations. The evidence suggests that both Landowski and Humble were good friends, and that Reyes and Lovett were good friends, and it has become well apparent that Humble and Lovett were dating one another.
Therefore, Zambor declared, Landowski must have met Reyes much before the stated time, through their strong mutual contacts. Reyes did not make an effort to hide his gang identity but was, in fact, actually proud of it, explicitly displaying it on his Facebook profile as well as flaunting the facial tattoos. Not only did Landowski know Reyes for much longer than she claimed to admit, but she was well aware of his gang affiliations since he did not keep it private.
Contrary to what Reyes testified about installing spyware on Humble’s phone to remotely access her phone’s police scanner, Zambor asserted Humble heard the police scanner herself and knew what happened, as was evident in the audio recording played in court.
When they found out about the incident, the two female defendants did not proceed to flee and fend for themselves, but instead decided to aid the perpetrator.
For instance, when both Humble and Landowski went to Rite Aid to buy toiletries, they bought four toothbrushes instead of only two for themselves. And when they rented the room at the Crowne Plaza, they rented it under someone else’s name because they were planning to harbor and conceal Reyes.
Zambor countered Reyes’ testimony about shoving the gun in Humble’s pants before rushing to answer the door, and instead stated that Humble was at the far wall when the police came in so Reyes would not have had the time to get to the door if he was, in fact, the one who placed the gun in her pants.
Regarding Humble’s and Landowski’s phone calls from custody, they both referred to the car that was at the incident, seeking assurance from the person they called that it was still hidden. They did this, Zambor attested, because they knew that if the car was found it would link them as well as Reyes to the crime.
Zambor asked the jury to return a guilty verdict for each count charged against each defendant and elaborated on her reasons for the disputed counts. For the attempted murder of the victim by Reyes, he fits the element of making a direct but ineffective step to kill when he fired the weapon in the direction of the victim.
If he had been just trying to scare the victim, as Reyes has claimed, he would have shot in the air or maybe only once or twice, but he deliberately fired six times towards the victim, hitting him three times.
For the gang enhancement against Reyes, Zambor argued that Reyes committed the crime for the benefit or direction of the gang in addition to his own personal vendetta.
She said he aimed to enhance his reputation within the gang, as well as the gang’s reputation in the community, through reacting violently to disrespect shown against his family.
In Zambor’s own words, “His street cred would be compromised. If he didn’t react, he loses face and if he loses face, his gang loses face. This is how gangs survive, on organized structure of fear.”
For accessory to attempted murder by both Landowski and Humble, Zambor insisted they listened to the scanner, knew Reyes was in trouble and, thus, got a hotel room under someone else’s name.
Although Reyes made an effort to alleviate the accusations against the female defendants and direct things onto himself, Zambor stated that he couldn’t account for why they would get a hotel under someone else’s name. She affirmed that there was evidence to suggest that both Landowski and Humble sheltered Reyes in the hotel and aided him in hiding the car that could link him to the crime.
Next, Granucci presented his counter argument in defense of Michael Reyes. He began by establishing that Reyes did not commit the crime to assist, benefit or promote the gang – it was a strictly personal act, which happened quickly and recklessly.
Reyes’ prior criminal history did not reflect any violent crimes and consisted of petty theft in 2008, marijuana sale in 2011, and being found in a stolen car with a weapon in 2012. None of these crimes were committed with gangs, he took responsibility for all of them, and the drug sale was done to support his family – not to support a cartel or gang syndicate.
Whereas Officer Herrera reported in his testimony that the Broderick Boys consists of over 300 active members, Reyes’ Facebook account indicated only 56 friends who are also Broderick Boys. Granucci pointed out that these are just guys in his neighborhood with whom he grew up and with whom he associated, in a loosely structured gang which is not hierarchically or elaborately organized.
Reyes’ Facebook account revealed other friends in addition to Broderick Boys, including dropout members and Franklin Boys. In his Facebook messages, Reyes did talk about guns, drugs and assaults, but nothing indicated he had broken the law. The only thing the Facebook messages proved was that he is an active Broderick Boy. Nothing in the Facebook or text messages indicated that he was looking for the victim or that he even knew the victim was a dropout member.
In fact, Reyes didn’t even meet the victim until October of 2014, which was shortly after returning from Arkansas and meeting Humble and Lovett. The first time Reyes found out about the past incident between the victim and Reyes’ stepdad was from the victim himself, and they quashed it and put it behind them. There is no evidence that Reyes at any point knew the victim was a dropout member or sold drugs.
The days prior to the incident on November 18, Reyes met Landowski and, along with Humble and Lovett, rented a hotel room where they could hang out together for two nights. According to Granucci, it was at the Great Value Inn in West Sacramento, not the Crowne Plaza in Sacramento.
On the morning of the 18th of November, Reyes received a ride from Landowski to buy more methamphetamine. He was preparing to be dropped off when he spontaneously encountered the victim and his wife riding by on their bikes. There is no evidence that Reyes knew where the victim was at the time. Reyes usually carried a gun for protection in the Broderick area and was not carrying the gun specifically to target the victim.
The coincidental encounter spurred Reyes to get out of the car with his gun in the holster to confront the victim. As Reyes testified himself, he was close enough to shoot and kill the victim if he wanted to, but he was looking to talk, rather than shoot.
When their conversation escalated into an argument the victim stated, “I’m not gonna fight you with that gun in your hand,” and then turned to ride away. Feeling insulted and dissatisfied, Reyes rashly acted on his impulses. Without thinking rationally, he fired in a fit of rage to frighten the victim, who was nearly 60 feet away.
The victim’s wife testified that she was just up ahead of the victim when he was shot. However, on the day of the incident she told Detective Smith that she was two houses away from her husband, the victim, and could not be seen around the corner. Her initial story corresponded to where her bike was also found at the scene. During Reyes’ testimony, he said that, when he fired, the victim’s wife was around the corner, which is consistent to what she originally had told Det. Smith.
On the day of the incident, the victim’s wife had lied to two officers about her real name, was high on methamphetamine, and had memory problems due to drinking a large quantity of tequila earlier. When the victim testified, he stated there were only two people in the car – Landowski, who was the driver, and Reyes. But when the victim’s wife testified, she said she saw multiple people in the car.
After discharging his weapon, Reyes ran and hid, later to meet up with Landowski, Humble and Lovett at an apartment in West Sacramento. When he got there, Reyes tampered with Humble’s phone to install spyware. Although Reyes may lead a life different from most, Granucci proclaimed that Reyes has been honest about his life, always acknowledging being a Broderick Boy and taking responsibility for his past crimes.
Granucci ended the day by leaving the jury pondering until tomorrow with one proposed question, “What crimes have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt?”