By Monica Velez
On the morning of January 12, 2016, Deputy DA Robin Johnson assured the court in her opening statement that the case of Marcos Marquez was going to be quick and to the point. However, this was the only argument Johnson presented that the jury seemed to agree with.
With a jury deliberation of no longer than two hours, Marquez and his family looked relieved to hear “not guilty” at around 4:15 p.m.
Marquez was charged with a felony, bringing a controlled substance into the Yolo County Jail, tucked into his sock. Johnson explained in both her opening and closing statements the three things she needed to prove.
The defendant took methamphetamines into jail (one), the defendant knew he was bringing methamphetamines into the jail (two) and the defendant knew that the amount he took in was useful (three).
The first witness to take the stand was Deputy Sheriff Andrew Livermore, questioned first by Johnson, who pulled Marquez over on October 7, 2015 for having a headlight out.
Marquez cooperated, not attempting to evade, and openly admitted to Livermore that he had a suspended license.
After confirming the status of Marquez’s license, Livermore arrested him, searched him and towed his vehicle.
As they approached the jail, Livermore said he warned Marquez to tell him if he had anything illegal on his person, reminding him that if they found anything in the jail it would be an additional charge.
Livermore said Marquez responded with, “Yeah, I know.”
Johnson asked Livermore about the signs leading up to the jail that gave warnings and reminders not to bring in any illegal weapons, substances, etc.
Johnson argued that the signs were a visible reminder, but Deputy Public Defender David Muller argued that, since the incident took place around 9 p.m., the signs were not readable in the dark, with the patrol car headlights being the only light source, and Marquez was not able to see the signs from the back of the patrol car.
Livermore agreed that the signs were probably not visible but he did not know for sure.
Muller asked Livermore if he checked Marquez’s sock or anywhere around it when he searched him before putting him in the patrol car, and he said no.
Correctional Officer Nathan Ryhal was the second and last witness to take the stand. He was was working the booking area on the night of October 7.
When asked by Johnson what his procedure was during booking, he said before performing the check he usually asks if they have any illegal weapons or substances on them. Ryhal said that, after a thorough pat-down, “In his sock I found a clear plastic bag with a crystal-like substance in it.”
Ryhal said that Marquez looked surprised and when asked what the substance was Marquez said he did not know. Ryhal agreed that instances like this happen, but he also said that every time he finds contraband during someone’s booking they almost always look surprised.
The substance was sent out and tested, confirming it was .898 grams of methamphetamine, what is considered a useful amount.
Johnson’s argument was that Marquez was fully aware of what he was bringing in to the jail, and that there was no way he could accidentally bring in methamphetamines rolled up in his sock.
Muller argued that Marquez had made an honest human mistake, not remembering that the contraband was in his sock. In his closing argument, Muller compared this incident to finding a five-dollar bill in a jacket not worn often.
Muller also compared Marquez’s situation to a missing phone incident his wife had. He explained how she tore apart the whole house looking for her phone, later realizing it was in her sweater pocket the whole time, but forgetting it was there.
“I’m not saying Mr. Marquez is a saint, but he’s not the devil people are making him out to be,” said Muller.
Johnson brought in the question of what was reasonable.
“This isn’t something that happened just by accident,” said Johnson. “… He folded it (baggie of methamphetamines) over in his sock … it’s reasonable that he knew it was there.”
The jury’s decision was able to keep intact “the shield of innocence” Muller described around Marquez, seeing the same thing Marquez’s mother and wife knew.
“He’s (Marquez) not dumb … he’s been in there (jail) before and knows what happens,” said his wife. “He’s not gonna jeopardize more time in there.”
The broken headlight and driving with suspended license charges were dropped. Although Marquez does face other misdemeanor cases, he no longer has to worry about a felony.
“Yolo County is no joke … it’s vicious,” said Mrs. Marquez. “They need to have systems that help better people and let them learn from their mistakes … not just put everyone away (in prison).”