Character Witnesses Attempt to Bolster Defense Case in Woodland Murder Trial

murder[1]by Antoinnette Borbon

In testimony this morning, witnesses for the defense described Susan Hoskins as a woman who was loyal, trustworthy, law-abiding and honest – “wouldn’t hurt a fly,” as one friend explained.

Susan Hoskins is charged with the pre-meditated murder of her estranged husband on the night of August 3, 2014. During the 911 call she told police dispatch she shot her husband because he “is an —- and he kept calling me a whore.”

Prosecution described the couple’s relationship as a “rocky,” up and down, on again-off again marriage and that, out of pure frustration, Susan shot her husband, Bryan Hoskins.

But defense had a contradicting account of Hoskins’ state of mind. Their claim is that Susan is a woman who, by all accounts, has been nothing but a loyal friend exhibiting trustworthiness, honesty and a good moral compass. Defense contends that the defendant acted as a result of the abusive past she shared with her husband.

One by one, the two defense attorneys would question witnesses about Ms. Hoskins’ character and whether she had ever talked to them about her husband being abusive.

Although Judge Dave Reed would only allow limited questioning into certain areas of testimony, jurors were still able to learn that Hoskins suffered somewhat of an emotional and sometimes physical abusive relationship during her 17 years of marriage with Bryan.

Taking the stand this morning was Hoskins’ mother. She talked about the closeness she and her daughter enjoyed.

The mother was also asked to describe her daughter’s demeanor after Hoskins’ father’s passing. “She was devastated, sad and she came to stay with me for about six weeks. Bryan only stayed a few days here and there but Susan was with me the whole six weeks,” she explained. The mother said Ms. Hoskins was very close to her father and his passing hit her hard.

“At one point, we both just collapsed in each other’s arms,” she stated.

“Was this a stressor for her?’ asked defense attorney Tony Serra. “Yes, it was,” replied the mother.

She described a few incidents where “Bryan had become so drunk one evening that he began vomiting on the dining table.”

When asked by defense if she had ever seen Bryan hit or yell at Ms. Hoskins, she stated, “No, but he used slight innuendos, subtle things and at times had strange behavior.”

“She lived her life morally, she raised her kids well,” said the mother.

Along with an ex-sister-in-law, a co-worker and one of the doctors with whom Ms. Hoskins worked, the witnesses described a woman who could always be trusted and who obeyed the law.

“I have never seen her become agitated, yell or be violent,” stated Hoskins’ ex-sister-in-law. Another friend and co-worker talked about the friendship she had with Ms. Hoskins during the years they worked together.

“She was always there to help me,” stated the friend/co-worker, as her voice quivered.

“Did you ever see any marks on Ms. Hoskins?” asked the defense. “Yes, one time I saw a bruise on her arm but she just said, ‘I am just a klutz.'”

Ms. Hoskins had repeatedly told her co-worker that Bryan was a “mean son of a —- while drunk, a mean drunk,” stated the friend and co-worker.

In cross-examination, DDA Linden asked about statements given to a detective. “Do you recall telling the detective that Susan told you, ‘When he drinks, I walk away?'”

“I don’t remember saying that but if it’s in the report, I must have said it. It has been a long time since I gave the statements and I was emotional, had a panic attack that day,” explained the friend.

“Did she ever tell you that she was afraid of him, or he beat her?” asked DDA Linden. ”No, she said ‘he’s never hurt me.'” She testified, “She said he was hurting himself with the drinking but he never hurt her.”

Dr. James Morrison, a doctor with whom Susan had worked at a family practice in Woodland, described Ms. Hoskins as “having a great personality, people liked her, trusted her and she worked well with others.”

Dr. Morrison was asked about a time when Ms. Hoskins had been fired by personnel management. He explained he was very upset about it but did not have knowledge of why it happened. He said it was for a brief period and Hoskins was back working at the family practice.

During cross-exam, prosecutors asked the defense witnesses about medical records that Hoskins had asked her son to help her alter. None of the witnesses had knowledge about her trying to alter the records but asserted it would not change their opinion of Hoskins.

According to the prosecution’s case, Ms, Hoskins attempted to alter the medical records to show that she had been physically abused by her husband.

But her attempt was futile.

“If you knew that Susan tried to alter her medical records, would that change your opinion of her?” asked defense attorney Serra.

“No, not at all,” answered the friend and co-worker.

Following testimony from the defense’s witnesses, an Evidence Code section 402 hearing, regarding admissibility of evidence, was called to discuss the testimony of a witness coming in later to testify for the defense’s case.

The prosecution contended that, if jurors were able to hear in-depth testimony into an abusive relationship, it would elicit sympathy.

However, the Honorable Dave Reed explained, “I will allow limited questioning on that matter.”

Testimony resumes in the morning.

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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  1. Tia Will

    Thanks for the account Antoinette.

    I would like to make two points. It is not unusual in cases of either psychological or physical abuse for neither family members or friends and co workers to be aware of the true nature of the situation including the true cause of bruises or other injuries up to and including black eyes and/or broken bones. Victims often actively hide the evidence of abuse out of shame, embarrassment, feelings of hopelessness or just because they cannot envision any other life for themselves.

    Having said that, if Ms. Hoskins, having worked in a medical office, would certainly know the gravity and illegality of an attempt at changing medical records and if in fact she did this, it would certainly change my opinion of her.

      1. Tia Will


        “What is your opinion of her now ?”

        As always, innocent until proven guilty. If she did indeed attempt to alter medical records, that would certainly be one piece of evidence undermining her honesty and reliability.

        1. Barack Palin

          During the 911 call she told police dispatch she shot her husband because he “is an —- and he kept calling me a whore.”

          Does that make it legal?

        2. Davis Progressive

          not on face value, but the jury is going to have to assess the extent to which this was self-defense, if at all and the extent to which her state of mind and potential mental issue play a role.

          the fact that tony serra is the defense attorney is noteworthy.  at this point in his career, he chooses cases very carefully.

    1. Antoinnette


      I’m anxious to hear her story. I’ll be back there on Monday as she testifies.

      I’m so grateful we have an awesome editor, I was literally falling asleep as I struggled to finish this piece but teamwork made it turn out pretty well!



      Thanks! Cathy!!!!You rock and David for allowing me my own personal style of writing…?

  2. Biddlin

    Nothing like an unbiased view to the case. Nothing at all.

    By the way, I was shocked when I read,” because he “is an —- and he kept calling me a whore.”

    Now where is that list of prohibited words I asked for, Don? Lol…


    1. PhilColeman

      You were shocked? Confirming that you were being facetious or sarcastic, correct?

      From every appearance, the omissions of two not-nice words were the editorial effort of the author, Ms. Burbon. I’d bet everybody reading this that, for both omissions, each of us came up with the same correct wording and did not suffer from understanding the full meaning of the quote.

      Ms. Burbon, I suspect, was attempting to maintain some level of language decorum in the article without compromising the intent of the message. If so, I personally applaud her!

  3. PhilColeman

    This case is a classic example of what is sometimes described as the “Burning Bed Defense.” There was a movie and book titled “Burning Bed,” describing the true story of a long-abused Texas wife taking matters into her own hands and setting fire to her husband while he was sleeping. At the time, there were predictions that lots of husbands’ last conscious moments would be smelling gasoline while they were in dreamland. Fortunately, for the abused, the abusers, and adjacent neighbor’s homes, this never became a popular alternative for domestic violence relief.

    But thanks largely to an incredible acting performance by the gorgeous Farrah Fawcett in a very unglamorous role, the “unintended benefit” of the movie was to further raise national awareness of domestic violence.

    Claims have been made that “The Burning Bed” was primarily responsible for all of the domestic violence preventions and controls we see today. Having actively lived that era (not as an abuser), I’d say that domestic violence reform efforts were already in motion, and Burning Bed mildly increased the acceleration.

    The Texas woman was acquitted, but for pleading temporary insanity not acute domestic violence. Our legal system still feels that long-term domestic violence is not a license to kill. Based on that alone, an acquittal in this case would seem very remote. But that may explain the reason why Tony Serra is involved in this case. He possibly sees something peculiar, and an opportunity here to set a new legal precedent.

  4. Antoinnette

    Yes. …I saw that movie,  Phil. It’s a great movie. One of her best roles. My favorite was, Small Sacrifices.

    She was always a favorite of mine.

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