Long Jury Selection, Detached Case, Punctuates Opening of Attempted Murder Trial

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photo by Lauren King, Vanguard Court Watch Intern
photo by Lauren King, Vanguard Court Watch Intern

By Jackie Snyder, Tress Bryant, and Madeleine Gallay

Prosecution’s Opening Statements by Jackie Snyder

The trial involving Lisa Humble, Liberty Landowski and Michael Reyes began on the morning of July 15, 2015, after six days of jury selection. The defendants’ charges ranged from attempted murder to aiding and abetting after the fact. Judge Richardson began by informing jurors of jury instructions. He then allowed both the prosecution and defense an opportunity to conduct opening statements.

Judge Richardson advised the jury that opening statements were not to be considered evidence in the trial. He explained the purpose of an opening statement is for each party to have an opportunity to familiarize the jury with facts involved in the case and instruct jurors on what they (each party) expects the evidence provided will show.

Deputy District Attorney Amanda Zambor began her opening statement by thanking the jurors for their time. She then moved on to speak about Michael Reyes, the only male defendant on trial and the one facing the most serious charges. Reyes, who grew up in West Sacramento, was an admitted gang member.

He had a history with the victim and, prior to the incident in question, Reyes’ stepfather and the victim had been involved in many physical altercations with each other. The victim, described by DDA Zambor as not the most savory character, was a former gang member and currently was operating as a known drug dealer in West Sacramento.

DDA Zambor explained to the jury that the incident in question took place when the victim and his wife were riding their bicycles down the street. A white, convertible Mustang pulled up and Reyes, who was located in the front passenger seat, exited the vehicle with a gun in hand.

The victim’s wife recognized Reyes and urged her husband to move faster. Reyes allegedly fired approximately six shots, hitting the victim in the back. The vehicle then left the scene. The victim’s wife then ran to a nearby residence and the police were called by the owner of the residence.

When police officers arrived on scene, the victim’s wife claimed she recognized the shooter as an individual referred to as “Chubs.” Police remembered a prior incident involving an individual, Michael Reyes, who was also known as “Chubs.”

It was discovered that Reyes was currently dating a female, Liberty Landowski, who drove a white, convertible Mustang, matching the description of the one involved in the shooting. According to the victim’s wife, an individual by the name of Lisa Humble was the operator of the vehicle during the time the incident took place.

However, when the victim’s wife was later shown a photograph of Humble, she did not recognize her as the driver. The driver, she claimed, had bleached blond hair. Humble was clearly a brunette.

A short time later the defendants were discovered at a hotel in Sacramento. A gun and ammunition, which were later determined to match ballistics of shell casings found at the scene of the crime, were found after a search was executed of the hotel room, occupied by the defendants.

DDA Zambor claimed that there was additional evidence linking the defendants to the crime, in the form of recorded telephone calls, made by both female defendants while in custody.

Ms. Zambor concluded opening statements by stating to the jury that the most contested charges would likely be the charges stemming from gang affiliation. She claimed, however, that the evidence will show that the crimes in question took place due to issues such as disrespect, retaliation and reputation, all which were essential to gang culture.

Defense Opening Statements by Tressa Bryant

After six days of jury selection the court was able to begin opening statements for the trial of Michal Reyes, Liberty Landowski, and Lisa Humble. Mr. Reyes is being charged with two counts of attempted murder, causing great bodily harm to another human, use of a 22 caliber semi-automatic weapon, and gang affiliation.

Many of Mr. Reyes’ charges have been enhanced, as Mr. Reyes has committed a felony before. Both Ms. Landowski and Ms. Humble are being charged with the attempt to protect and hide criminal actions and with street gang activity. All three defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges being brought against them.

Mr. Reyes’s attorney, James Granucci, started the defense off with his opening statement. Mr. Granucci did not try to hide Mr. Reyes’ previous crimes or his gang affiliation. Mr. Granucci started out by informing the jury that Mr. Reyes committed a petty theft in 2008, in 2011 tried to sell marijuana, and later committed an auto theft for which he was sent to state prison for three years.

Mr. Granucci also made it clear that Mr. Reyes was indeed part of a gang in West Sacramento known as the Broderick Boys. Mr. Reyes joined the Broderick Boys when he was in seventh grade and has been proud to be affiliated ever since then. He is known for posting about his gang on Facebook and other social media accounts. Mr. Reyes has also been known to post information about drugs and weapons on his social media sites.

Five months prior to the incident, Mr. Reyes met Eric Lovett and Lisa Humble, who were dating at the time. Mr. Lovett was originally part of this trial, but charges against him were dismissed before the start of the trial. Mr. Lovett’s name has still been brought up a lot, but it has been made clear to the jury members they are not to take his actions into account.

The week before the incident Mr. Reyes met Ms. Landowski and the two of them started dating. The group was known to go to different hotel rooms for parties the week leading up to the crime.

On November 18, 2014, the victim and his wife were riding their bikes when, according to Mr. Granucci, by chance they biked past Mr. Reyes. Mr. Reyes, who had personal issues with the victim, got out of the car and challenged the victim to a fight.

The victim refused and tried to bike away. In a spite of the range, Mr. Reyes pulled out his gun and fired seven shots in the victim’s direction. Defense contends that Mr. Reyes was not trying to hurt the victim but was simply trying to scare him because the victim had been terrorizing Mr. Reyes’ family. The victim was hit in the arm, leg and back.

Mr. Reyes is also being charged with attempting to murder the victim’s wife, although, according to Mr. Granucci, Mr. Reyes had no reason to do so and was not trying to hit her at all. A few hours later, following the crime, the three defendants and Mr. Lovett were found in a hotel room near the crime scene.

Following Mr. Granucci, Attorney Rod Beede spoke for his client, Ms. Humble, who is being charged with attempting to hide criminal evidence and with street gang activities. Mr. Beede quickly made it clear that he felt his client was being overcharged for the alleged crimes.

As people who have not grown up in the street life, according to Mr. Beede, it is hard for us to judge what is normal for people living on the street. However, most people are not going to go to the police – instead, they are going to deal with the matter themselves and keep other people informed of possible threats.

According to Mr. Beede, Ms. Humble, like any other day, was letting Mr. Reyes know of police activities nearby, and there was no connection between the incident earlier in the day and the help she was giving him now. That week, the defendants and Mr. Lovett had been meeting at night for drugs and parties, and were constantly changing hotel rooms.

So the four of them meeting up at the hotel room where they were found was nothing out of the ordinary, and was not due to the incident that occurred earlier that day, according to Mr. Beede. Mr. Beede closed his opening statement by stating that the white convertible Mustang the victim claims the defendants were driving had no connection to Ms. Humble.

Attorney J. Toney represents Ms. Landowski, and he passed on his opening statement, stating that the other two attorneys covered the information he was going to present.

Afternoon Session by Madeleine Gallay

District Deputy Attorney Amanda Zambor, prosecuting for the People, began by questioning the second witness of the day, Officer Alisha Slater. A member of the West Sacramento Police Department since August of 2006, she began her testimony by describing the dispatch call she received on November 18, 2014, at approximately 8:06 am.

Officer Slater was the first patrol officer to arrive on the scene at 2025 Proctor Street and Sycamore Avenue in West Sacramento California, where the dispatch call reported that shots had been fired. Continuing her testimony, Officer Slater described the crime scene, and she reported to the court that a Hispanic male adult was lying on his back on top of a backpack in a flowerbed, moaning and appearing to be injured. He was later identified as the victim.

Standing next to him was the victim’s wife. Officer Slater approached her first to check her person for weapons, confirming the crime scene was safe continued to question the victim. The officer repeatedly asked whether the victim had been shot and whether he knew the shooter, and the victim answered yes to both of these questions before losing consciousness. Following the questioning of the victim, Officer Slater and her fellow officer, Officer Lang, turned the victim over to remove his backpack and noticed blood.

Officer Slater continued to engage in a short conversation with the wife, who informed her that the shooter was Chubs, a nickname used for Michael Reyes, which Officer Slater recognized from a previous case with the FBI in 2011. During this conversation Officer Slater noticed that the victim’s wife was possibly under the influence of a stimulant.

Mr. Granucci began cross-examination, having Officer Slater recall that she had never met any of the defendants, and he informed her that the victim’s wife had drugs and a knife in her bag. Upon further questioning, Officer Slater revealed to the court that the victim had initially lied about her identity, telling the officers a false name.

Detective Schmidt, another member of the West Sacramento Police Department, recognized the victim’s wife from prior encounters. Cross-examination continued with Mr. Beede, who revealed to the court a warrant for the arrest of the victim’s wife. Cross-examination concluded with Mr, Toney and Ms. Zambor, who had Officer Slater repeat information previously mentioned.

The next witness to be questioned by Ms. Zambor was the manager of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Sacramento California near I-80 and Madison. He testified that the he was working on November 18, 2014, and remembers Mr. Reyes,  Ms. Humble and Ms. Landowski as the three individuals who were kicked out of the hotel for causing a disturbance.

The manager was present in the lobby and recounted that he overheard that the individuals were going to the hotel across the street. He was able to identify Mr. Reyes in a picture presented to him by policemen who arrived approximately 20-30 minutes later.

Mr. Beede began cross-examination of this witness by asking about the individuals’ move from room 326 to 317, the room that had been checked into on the 17th of November, 2014, using a different name.

Mr. Toney later revealed that a person of that name had been checked in for one night and confirmed that the credit card used to pay for the hotel’s services was real and usable. Mr. Granucci and Ms. Zambor concluded cross-examination with information that had already been reported to the court.

The last witness of the day presented by Ms. Zambor was the victim. Initially nervous of testifying because of threats to his family, he revealed that he has been previously convicted and is on a GPS monitoring system. He continued his testimony by informing the court of his history in gangs and their customs and culture.

Reporting to the court that he had been a part of the Broderick Boys for 20 years, he dropped out of the gang but has had recent encounters with Michael Reyes’ stepfather. Not affiliated with gangs, the stepfather asked the victim for money, and threatened the victim that he wouldn’t pay him back, resulting in two fights before the victim went to prison last year. This concluded today’s testimony.

 

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