Preliminary Hearing In Domestic Abuse Case
By Sidney Adebayo
The preliminary hearing of the People v. Russell Burnett was conducted on Monday July 25, 2016, in Yolo County Superior Court Department 14 at 1:30 p.m.. The presiding judge during the hearing was Judge David Rosenberg.
The preliminary hearing involved an alleged victim and the defendant, who has been arrested and unable to make bail so is currently in custody at the county jail. The defendant and alleged victim dated for approximately seven years and have two children together, ages five and six. They both lived in the defendant’s mother’s house, where they raised both children together.
Dispute over Relevance
Before addressing the matters of the preliminary hearing, the People felt it necessary to address an issue involving a different altercation in which the alleged victim was arrested for a misdemeanor violation of Penal Code section 242, battery upon another person. While the altercation has yet to be explored, the People brought this case up during this preliminary hearing because it is still pending, and they argued that it should not be material to this case. The People also argued that, if the court were to address it during trial, it would present an unsubstantiated bias to the current case. The defense, however, argued that the altercation was material to this case because it indicates a history of negative behavior which is vital in arguing against the People. After hearing both arguments, Judge Rosenberg ruled that the altercation involving a violation by the alleged victim will not be introduced in the current case, due to its marginal relevance, unless the defense attempts to argue self-defense.
Alleged Victim’s Testimony
The complaining witness claimed that earlier this month, at 11:30 p.m., she called the police and reported that the defendant had beaten her. According to her, this was because the defendant asked her to go to the store for him, which she refused to do but went for herself. The alleged victim believed that the defendant thought this was deliberate, which she denied. Nonetheless, as soon as she entered the home she claimed she was met with rage and yelling from the defendant, which she claimed to have ignored. This was until the complaining witness made her way to the bathroom, where she reported being pushed with both hands by the defendant, which made her fall with her back to the wall and land on her bottom. She responded by attempting to punch him and missed. He punched her on the floor approximately five to seven times. She covered herself with her arms but was hit in the back of her head and arms. The alleged victim then proceeded to leave the house with her kids but, according to her, the defendant prevented her from doing so. The witness reported suffering bruises on her head and arms from this altercation, as the pictures from People’s Exhibits 1, 2, and 3 corroborate.
The complaining witness alleged that the defendant had beaten her on at least five other occasions prior to this one, but she has only reported it to the police one other time, in 2013, when she suffered a one-inch laceration on her head as a result of the defendant’s alleged physical abuse. The alleged victim also claimed, when the prosecutor asked when she was last hit by the defendant, that she was last hit approximately a year ago.
After the complaining witness gave her direct testimony, the defense was allowed to cross-examine her and ask questions to clarify the details she had presented. During this time, it was discovered the alleged victim has a history of using methamphetamine, as the defense queried when she had last used the substance. The alleged victim claimed she last used meth approximately one year ago.
During cross-examination, the defense asked that the alleged victim clarify a contradiction that occurred. When first asked by the prosecutor, the witness had claimed that she wanted to take the children away but the defendant prevented her from doing so. Then, when the defense was reviewing the details of the incident with her, she claimed to have taken the kids away with her. The alleged victim then clarified that at first the defendant would not let her take the kids, but then complied in rage when the daughter would not stay with him.
The alleged victim was also asked to clarify where the bruises occurred, because the defense claimed the witness accidentally misled the defense a bit by pointing to her shoulders when she said she was hit in the head. During this time, the defense also had the complaining witness clarify that the big bruise on her head was not there when the cops arrived. According to the witness, this was because the bruise did not show up until sometime after the police left and she was too much in pain in her arms to even know that she was hit in the head until the bruise showed.
The defense had no witnesses, and the defendant was not asked to present a testimony of the details of the incident during the preliminary hearing.
Afterward, the prosecutor brought up the matter of the defendant being previously convicted for violating Penal Code section 273.5 (infliction of corporal injury). The prosecutor requested that judicial notice of that conviction be granted, and allowed as evidence during this trial. The defense had no objections, and Judge Rosenberg granted the request.
Supervised Own Recognizance
The last matter which was addressed was the issue of problems with bail. The defendant paid his bail, but it was determined to be insufficient. The defense argued that, since the defendant was employed part-time and the alleged victim will not be in his place of residence, the defendant should be granted supervised release on his own recognizance. According to the prosecutor, after a discussion with the alleged victim, the alleged victim had no objections to this request, and wanted her children to be able to see the defendant. The prosecutor, however, objected to the motion due to fear for the alleged victim’s safety. The prosecutor also reiterated that the defendant was given the opportunity to raise the appropriate amount of bail and failed to do so. The dispute over supervised own recognizance will be decided upon on Friday, July 29, 2016.
More to Come
The arraignment on the information will be heard on August 9 at 10 a.m. in Department 14 of Yolo County Superior Court.
Defendant Held to Answer in Molestation Case
By Raya Zahdeh
On July 26, 2016, the court gathered in Department 7 for witness testimonies in the preliminary hearing of the People v. Trevor Fisher.
The defendant and the witnesses in this case were located at the Woodland Memorial Hospital on the evening of November 18, 2015. The details as to why they were at the hospital were not discussed directly at this session of the hearing. However, Judge Samuel McAdam did mention that the defendant had been accused of molesting his cousin, who was also present at the hospital that evening.
The hearing began with examination of a witness for the prosecution, Deputy Sheriff Juan Ceja. During Deputy DA Jennifer McHugh’s examination, Deputy Ceja stated that he had received a dispatch call to go to the hospital, where he spoke to Mr. Fisher and requested that he answer questions.
Deputy Ceja claimed that the defendant was willing to go to the police department to answer questions in the detective interview room, and that he agreed to get a ride there with Dep. Ceja. Ceja did not recall whether or not he conducted a search of the defendant before allowing him into the vehicle to ensure his safety. He also denied confiscating any personal items from the defendant. Defense Attorney Bradley Holmes followed by adding that the defendant was searched without a reading of his Miranda rights.
Ceja stated that the defendant did not ask to exit the vehicle or leave the police department, and that he answered the detective’s questions voluntarily. The deputy also noted that the defendant was not handcuffed at any point that night.
During Mr. Holmes’s cross-examination, Dep. Ceja stated that he spoke to Mr. Fisher and the victim’s mother before arriving at the hospital, and he was informed that the defendant was at the hospital. Ceja further explained that he had received a letter from the alleged victim at the hospital at some point after he arrived.
Mr. Fisher gave his testimony, and stated that he was first approached by Deputy Ceja while he was outside in the hospital parking lot. The defendant claimed to have been sitting in a friend’s car, although the defendant’s own vehicle was also in the parking lot.
The defendant stated that, although the officer approached him normally and asked him if he would answer questions, he felt as though he had no other choice but to agree to answer the questions at the police department. Mr. Fisher also stated that he was informed of the allegations before Dep. Ceja arrived at the hospital.
Later on in the witness testimony, the defendant stated that Dep. Ceja did search him and proceeded to tell him to sit in the back seat of the police car after confiscating his personal belongings. The defendant added that he did not receive his items back until around 2 AM when he requested to leave the police department, at which point the detective interview was over for the night. The defendant offered to come back the next day to finish answering any more questions if necessary.
Furthermore, he stated that Deputy Ceja told him he could leave at any point, but that his tone suggested that there would be consequences should he choose to leave the police department. The defendant also added that he was given his Miranda rights the following day, after he had already been driven to the police department and questioned the night before.
The hearing ended with a short testimony from the defendant’s mother as a witness for the defense. Judge McAdam scheduled the trial to be held on September 20, 2016, at 9 AM in Department 7.