By Sarah Gregory
The trial began with the jury selection. The court was looking for 12 jury members and one alternate. Judge Paul Richardson informed potential jurors of the identities of witnesses who would be called and the allegations facing Luke Ulricksen.
The defense asked the significance of the 5th Amendment to each potential juror, since the defendant chose not to speak for the upcoming trial – meaning that Ulricksen will not testify and most likely will not even utter a word in front of the jury, in order to protect himself from saying something that could potentially incriminate him. The juror candidates stated that they would not hold the defendant’s choice against him and would continue to remain impartial.
The defense also inquired into the prospective jurors’ opinions of the credibility of law enforcement. A few potential jurors noted that the testimony of a police officer can hold a little more weight than that of someone else, because of an officer’s training.
Police officers are trained to practice situational awareness, which is the ability to identify and comprehend information about what is happening around them. This means that an officer would have a more accurate testimony, because he or she would be trained to notice the finer details of an incident.
The prosecutor also asked if any of the potential jurors had the unfortunate experience of dialing 911 and how the police officers who responded had handled the problem. All of the prospective jurors who responded told of positive experiences with law enforcement.
A follow-up question to this was whether or not any of the juror candidates had been a victim of burglary. Almost every single potential juror in the set said they had. One juror stated that her house had been ransacked and the first thing she felt upon evaluating her belongings was being violated. She had trouble grappling with the fact that someone unbeknownst to her had touched her personal belongings with an intention that she could not have guessed.
The prosecutor’s final question was whether any of the potential jurors had a problem with having circumstantial evidence prove part of a case. The prospective jurors did not necessarily disagree. Instead, they thought that, combined with direct evidence, they could support the circumstantial evidence in a case.
Ultimately, 17 jurors were dismissed, either for cause or due to a peremptory challenge (with no reason needing to be given), and the final jury was selected.
Luke Ulricksen is being accused of prowling on private property. Prowling generally refers to lurking in a specific area with the intent to commit a crime. The prosecutor also has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that these crimes were done with the criminal intention of breaking into a Woodland residence. The defendant had plead not guilty to the single count.
The prosecutor began his opening statement by telling the jury the story of the incident in the early morning hours of March 1, 2016. The defendant was seen peering into someone’s house by a neighbor, who called the police.
He briefly described the witnesses that would be called. These included the individual who called 911 to the report the defendant, the arresting officer, and the resident of the house near which the defendant was allegedly lurking.
The defense began her opening statement by declaring that, while the prosecutor was telling the jury a story, or rather an imaginary account of events, she was going to present the jury with the facts.
She admitted that her client was hanging around someone else’s house. However, he was frantic and also compliant with the arrest, despite his reasons for being on the property. This indicates that he had a reason for being there and it was not to burglarize the place.
The first witness, “DR,” was the neighbor who lives across the street from the house that the defendant was allegedly planning to rob. He is also the individual who called 911 at the time of the incident.
The prosecutor asked DR to recount the events of the early morning hours on March 1, 2016. The witness stated that around 12:30 a.m. his dogs started aggressively barking towards the front of his house.
This is when the witness decided to go outside and see what his dogs were excited about. He noticed the defendant walking toward him from down the street. The defendant asked if DR lived in the house he had exited. The witness responded that he did.
At this point, the defendant walked across the street and peered into the windows of at least two other houses, and one of those was the house directly across the street from DR. According to the witness, the defendant did not walk directly up to the house, but stayed about 10-12 feet away from the front and leered into the windows.
The witness was unable to identify the defendant in the courtroom because he never saw the face of the man who approached him. He said the street he lives on is poorly lit and the man was also wearing a hat at the time.
After the defendant allegedly went across the street, DR tried to go back to sleep, but his dogs started barking again. He stated that his dogs only bark at people who are on his property, not simply on the street.
The witness saw that the defendant was returning to his property and this time actually stepped on his lawn. The defendant noticed that the witness was nervous and told him that if he was making DR agitated, he would put his knife down. DR never actually saw a knife, he was only told by the defendant that one was there.
The witness then decided to call 911. Until police officers arrived, the entire incident including the man’s presence at all three houses only took about five minutes.
Next, the defense cross-examined DR. She asked if the defendant appeared frantic, and the witness responded that the individual did seem out of sorts.
The defense also asked if DR had at any point during the incident seen the defendant clearly. The witness stated that he had seen the individual a little bit more clearly because of a single street lamp positioned across the street directly in front of his neighbor’s house. DR then admitted that the defendant could possibly be the man that approached him that night.
DR proceeded to describe the neighbors who lived in the house across the street from him, as well as the demeanor of the defendant that evening. The witness reported that he believed a mother and daughter live across the street from him. The witness also indicated that the man did not seem threatening in any way and never tried to conceal himself.
The defense finished by asking if the defendant had any tools, such as a flashlight, that would indicate he was planning to do something at any of the properties. DR stated that the defendant had nothing on him except for the aforementioned knife, which he was unable to clearly observe.
The second witness to be called was one of the residents of the house across from DR, the house at which the defendant was allegedly seen lurking.
The witness, “SM,” stated that she lives with her mother and identified the defendant as someone with whom she might have gone to high school.
The prosecutor asked about the nature of the relationship between them. She noted that she and the defendant are essentially strangers, and that they have not spent any time outside of school together in any sort of social setting.
After SM, the prosecutor’s third witness was called. This witness was Francisco DeLeon, a Woodland police officer. He has been an officer for 13 years and is currently assigned to the patrol division.
The prosecutor began by asking the officer how he responded to the call from DR for service in the early hours of March 1, 2016. The officer stated that the call for service said there was a “suspicious subject in the area” and he responded as standard police protocol warrants.
He stated that he shined his spotlight onto the middle of the road as soon as he arrived on the street. Officer DeLeon immediately saw the defendant in the middle of the roadway with his arms above his head.
He asked the defendant to lie face down. This is when the officer saw the tire iron on the ground next to the defendant. Officer DeLeon then ordered the defendant to crawl forward in order to get him away from the tire iron.
The officer detained and searched the defendant. After he did so, he observed an open pocket knife next to the tire iron. He did not notice it before because the blade was relatively small, at only three inches.
DeLeon also testified that no one else was around, especially at that time of night and he did not speak to DR, the man who called 911. However, Officer Lyssa Gomez, the primary dispatch officer, did so when she arrived on the scene.
Next, the defense cross-examined Officer DeLeon. She asked if the defendant was easy to find. He responded that the defendant was and that he did not have to search for him.
She then inquired about the weapons that were found along with the defendant. The officer testified that the weapons were not in the defendant’s hands. The defense asked if the pocket knife was legal, unlike a switchblade. He responded yes, and that it was an easily accessible model, one that anyone could acquire.
Officer DeLeon also testified that he did not remove the knife from the defendant’s person and he found no other weapons in his search. However, the officer admitted that he only conducted a cursory search and did not actually dig into the defendant’s pockets.
The prosecutor began a redirect examination. He asked the officer if a tire iron could be used to break a window. The officer responded in the affirmative.
Judge Richardson called a sidebar. He ended up letting the jury go and told them that he had to discuss something with the attorneys and that the trial would reconvene the next day with a continuation of the examination of Officer DeLeon.