by Monica Velez
The afternoon of February 23, 2016, marked the end of evidence and testimony in the Lang Her trial. Getting through eight witnesses, the only testimony that stood out among the many character references the defense attorney, Christopher Carlos, insisted on squeezing in, was the defendant’s.
Her was the sixth witness, lasting most of the day, and he is being accused of an alleged rape on July 9, 2012, at his apartment during a party. This will be Her’s second time at an attempt to be acquitted, the first trial being in 2015 when the jury hung.
In the morning, people related or closely associated with Her took the stand. Her’s cousin, who has known Her all his life, was asked by the defense if he has ever seen Her do anything improper with women, either while drinking alcohol or staying sober. His cousin replied no to both questions.
Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven only asked Her’s cousin if Her ever explained the details of what happened on the night of July 9, 2012, to him. Her’s cousin replied no.
Her’s current girlfriend of two and one-half years took the stand, saying that before they were together she had heard rumors of the allegations against Her. She said Her has never been sexually aggressive with her, never mistreated her, and has never done anything improper at the couple’s parties she has attended with him.
She described Her’s character as “honest, trustworthy and caring,” and said he is there for her and that is why she knows she can trust him.
Raven’s only question to Her’s girlfriend was whether Her had told her details of the case, to which she replied no.
A friend of Her’s since kindergarten, who was at the party the night of the alleged rape, described the party as being “chill” with everyone just talking, sitting around and drinking. He said nobody was acting “stupid drunk” or causing drama, but a couple of people were drinking more than they should have.
Her’s life-long friend said he himself was “buzzed” at the party and left before midnight. When asked by Carlos, Her’s friend said he has never seen Her do anything inappropriate around women, drunk or sober.
“He’s someone I would trust with my life,” said Her’s friend.
Raven asked Her’s friend if he had heard anything about the case or if Her had given him details on the case. He replied no, and said he did not know about the case until the trial started, and was not told any details.
Another of Her’s cousins took the stand, considered an expert witness regarding the Hmong culture (the culture of the defendant’s and alleged victim’s families). He has known Her since he was born.
Carlos asked the Hmong expert about civil compromises that take place within families in the Hmong culture. The witness said that most families don’t like going through the police to handle problems and prefer to handle them internally.
If families had disputes, the elders of the culture would try to solve the issue. When asked by the defense, the witness said that civil compromises are common in this culture.
According to previous testimony of the alleged victim (Y.X.), Her’s parents had tried to go to Y.X’s parents to persuade Y.X. to not press charges. They said if the alleged victim wanted, she could marry Her, and if she was not happy with that they would give her any amount of money she wanted.
Carlos asked the witness whether or not dating is acceptable. He said that dating should be kept private until the couple is married, but in the United States public dating occurs between the younger Hmong generation, and the elders do not like it.
The witness said being a virgin is highly stressed in the Hmong culture, and pre-marital sex considered “unholy” and “impure.” The witness said, however, that pre-marital sex happens all the time, and as long as nobody knows about it, it is usually fine.
Some of the consequences for pre-marital sex would be other families finding out, making it harder for that person to find a suitable husband. Raven asked him if the consequences of having pre-marital sex is worse for girls, and the witness said not necessarily.
The boy’s name would be damaged and he would be considered a “player,” although he would not be considered “impure” or “unholy” like a girl would.
The witness said a woman’s reputation would not be tarnished for having pre-marital sex, so long as it is kept quiet.
Lang Her was the next witness, starting before noon, and he waived his constitutional right to not testify in his case. When asked by Carlos, Her said he had no hesitation about this decision.
Carlos asked Her to look at the jury while he was answering the first handful of questions he would ask him.
“Did you rape her?” asked Carlos.
“Absolutely not,” replied Her, while directly looking at the jury.
Carlos then started to ask Her whether or not he had sex with Y.X. the night of July 9, 2012, and Her said they did have sex that night, but it was consensual. According to Her, Y.X. was awake while they were having sex and he did not try to get her drunk for the purpose of having sex with her.
Her said a couple days before the party, one of the mutual friends of his and Y.X.’s asked him if she could throw a party at his apartment and he agreed. Her said that this particular friend had a boyfriend in Japan at the time, but Her wanted to date her and told her that if things did not work out with her boyfriend, he would like “to become more romantic with her.”
The mutual friend had been on a “dinner date” and to a movie with Her prior to the night of the party. She was also Her’s date to his sister’s wedding.
Her said he was drinking beer and hard alcohol, starting from 8:30 p.m. that night.
After playing drinking games, Her said Y.X. wanted to go to sleep and he and the mutual friend helped her up the stairs to Her’s bedroom, where she slept on Her’s roommate’s bed. Y.X. and the mutual friend have stayed at Her’s apartment four or five times before, according to Her.
Her testified that Y.X. seemed and sounded okay, and he gave her a bag just in case she got sick, but he did not see her throw up at any point that night. Her said he went back downstairs after that.
When the party ended and people left around 12:30 or 1:00 a.m., Her said he tried to clean up a little, collecting cans and washing the stains of spilled drinks. He went upstairs to his bedroom shortly after and said he checked to see that Y.X. was okay.
Her said Y.X. sat up and said she was fine. He said Y.X. put her hands around him, kissed him and touched his “crotch.” Her said they started making out on the bed and he touched her “buttocks” and breasts.
At this point, Her said he “knew where this was going.”
Her took off his underwear and shorts and said Y.X. took off her underwear and shorts. Her said that he started to lose his erection, saying he was very drunk and tired by now.
“It was kind of embarrassing, actually,” said Her.
He does not remember whether or not his penis went into her vagina and said that after they both realized it wasn’t working he turned off the lights and then he went to bed.
According to Her, Y.X. did not tell him to stop and did not push him away.
Her said the next morning he found Y.X. on the couch, and he woke her up because he had told her he would take her to class. Her said Y.X.’s demeanor was fine, she wasn’t crying and she did not seem upset nor did she act like anything was wrong. He only noticed she was a little hung over.
Carlos asked Her about the DNA that was found on Y.X.’s panty liner and the swab of her vagina that was tested. The DNA was a match for Her, and he said it might have been pre-ejaculation that was found, but he does not recall ejaculating.
The next time Her and Y.X. talked was during a pretext call. Her said Y.X. almost immediately started to accuse him of rape. He said he was shocked and did not know what to say because none of it was true, and he had never been in a situation like this before.
“It kind of hit me like a sledgehammer,” said Her.
During the pretext call, Her denied being with Y.X., and asserted that he had said that because he did not want Y.X. to twist the story on him. He said he was surprised and did not know what to say because he has never been in any trouble before and he did not do anything wrong to her.
Her said Y.X. kept “badgering” him to tell her something that was not true. Y.X. told him that he took advantage of her and, in the pretext call, Her said he was “pretty sure” he did not do anything wrong to her.
Days after the pretext call, Sergeant Ariel Pineda had left messages for Her. Her said he had a suspicion about why Sgt. Pineda was calling, and he was scared because he had never been in a situation like this before.
“I saw my life flash before my eyes,” said Her.
Her said he felt Sgt. Pineda wanted a quick and easy confession, as he said to Her that everything would be easier if Her would tell the truth, while reiterating the question, “Are you sure you have nothing else to say?”
“I got the impression that Pineda didn’t want to hear the truth,” said Her.
At the time, Her told Sgt. Pineda he did not have any sexual contact with Y.X. because he thought admitting he did have “consensual sexual contact” with her would link him to a crime he believes he did not do.
When a complaint was made about Her at UC Davis, he had to go to Student Judicial Affairs. He also denied there that he had sex with Y.X. because he thought it would be admitting to assault.
Eventually, Her received an email from UC Davis, saying that Y.X.’s story was more believable than his, and it was enough to kick him out of school. This is when Her said he made a desperate attempt to reach out to Y.X. because he realized his educational career was over.
On November 30, 2012, he sent text messages to Y.X. “begging” her to reconsider, saying that he would do anything to stay in school and out of jail. He said he did not “want to be defined by this,” and that he wanted a “second chance.”
Accompanied by his brother who is a police officer, Her turned himself into the sheriff’s department.
During cross-examination, Raven asked Her why he needed a “second chance” if he did not do anything wrong. Her replied that he was talking about a second chance at his educational career and a second chance at talking to Y.X.
Raven asked Her about the different stories he has told over the course of the trial. Her said he did not change his story, and some things he remembers more than others. He said he does not recall any major changes in his story.
The deputy district attorney pointed out that, during the pretext call, Her did not admit that he was with Y.X. and had sexual contact with her, although he testified today to the contrary. When asked by Raven why he chose not to tell Y.X. what he just told the court moments ago, Her said he didn’t know and it “threw him for a loop.”
Her said he did not do anything wrong and that is why he said he did nothing at all.
Another story change Raven pointed out was when Her was describing Y.X.’s level of intoxication. He had told Sgt. Pineda that he saw Y.X. throw up, and today he told the court that he did not see Y.X. throw up.
Her said that, being a drunk person at the time, he could not judge how drunk another person would be and he now does not remember if he saw her throw up or not.
Her told Sgt. Pineda that, after he took Y.X. to his room to sleep, he did not touch her or have sexual contact with her. Now he testified that he did have “consensual sexual contact” with Y.X., and Her said he did not tell Sgt. Pineda because he thought Pineda would try to turn the evidence around on him.
Her explained that people who are usually accused of rape don’t get the benefit of the doubt and he felt that was what the detectives were doing to him.
Her continued to say he did not recall what he had told Sgt. Pineda and other police officers on the case. He repeatedly said he did not tell law enforcement he and Y.X. had “consensual sexual contact” because he was afraid admitting this would be misconstrued.
Raven brought up the fact that Her did not know that his DNA was found on the vaginal swab tests or Y.X.’s panty liner during these interviews. The first time Her admitted to having “consensual sexual contact” with Y.X. was on May 19, 2015, when he found out that his DNA was found on the swab from Y.X.’s vagina and her panty liner.
Raven argued that, after learning of this piece of evidence, Her made significant changes to the previous six stories he told. Raven argued that Her finding out his DNA was a match is when Her decided to tell the truth. Her replied, “I guess so.”
Her said that at the time he thought the best way to tell the truth would be in front of a jury so the evidence wouldn’t get twisted against him.
By 2:35 p.m. the defense and the People both rested, concluding the evidence for this trial. The trial will resume with closing arguments from the attorneys and instructions for jury deliberation.