by Ribhu Singh
On July 28, 2016, in Department 8 of the Yolo County Superior Court, the preliminary hearing in the murder proceedings against Alejandro Loza Quezada reconvened. Mr. Quezada is being asked to answer for his alleged involvement in a potentially gang-related shooting that resulted in the death of a Woodland man on July 1, 2016. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty in this case. Judge David Reed presided over the matter.
The prosecution, led by Deputy DA Kyle Hasapes, called its first witness, the defendant’s ex-girlfriend.
The prosecution asked the defendant’s girlfriend whether or not she was afraid to testify against her ex-lover, and she, in turn, responded that she was not. The prosecution then asked the witness to detail the events of July 1, leading up to the shooting. The witness stated that she and the defendant had spent the day grocery shopping, going to both Raley’s and Walmart to cash a check, and that she had taken the defendant to get a haircut.
She then proceeded to tell the court that she and the defendant had gone to visit their landlord at around 3:00pm to pay their rent. She testified that on the way back from their landlord’s residence, the couple stopped at a convenience store to pick up vodka, and the two of them proceeded to drink alcohol back at their apartment. At this point, the prosecutor asked the witness if the defendant had expressed a desire to purchase bullets, and the witness replied that she “did not remember.”
The prosecution asked if the witness knew anything about the defendant’s gang affiliations, prior convictions for gang violence, or drug dealings, to which the witness answered, “No.”
The People continued to build their timeline, and asked what happened after the two had returned to their apartment and started drinking. The witness stated that the defendant was picked up his by his brother, and that she did not know where the two had gone. The prosecution asked the witness if the defendant was acting oddly, and the witness replied that she had thought the defendant was intoxicated, but clarified that she did not find that particularly odd.
Upon further testimony, the witness divulged that the defendant had returned with his brother and had picked up the witness and taken her to a barn on the outskirts of Woodland. The witness claimed that she did not know why she was taken to the barn, but she remained adamant that it was not to conceal or move any firearms. The defendant conceded that she was heavily intoxicated, and that the barn incident was the last thing that she had remembered.
During the ensuing cross-examination of the witness by Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira, it was revealed that the witness had given conflicting statements to police officers during an investigation of the shooting, and an investigation of the witness’ text messages with the defendant yielded information contradictory to her testimony. Ms. Sequeira stated that the witness’ text message were “criminal at face value,” and she advised the court to allow the witness to consult with an attorney prior to testifying in an attempt to prevent the possibility of self-incrimination. The Deputy DA agreed, stating that the DA’s office was receptive to granting the witness immunity, contingent upon her continued truthfulness with the court.
With her credibility impugned, the witness was excused.
The second witness called by the prosecution was another victim of the shooting, the deceased victim’s best friend, who was a passenger in the victim’s car during the altercation.
The prosecution asked the witness how long he had known the victim, and the witness stated that he had known the victim for 15 years. The witness stated that he did not want to testify, for he was afraid that he would be branded a “snitch.” The witness was very hesitant to testify further and proceeded to incoherently mumble for the entirety of the proceeding.
The prosecution stated that the witness was not competent to stand trial, and later, upon further testimony by the defendant, the defense asked the witness if he had consumed any alcoholic beverages before testifying. The witness answered, “No.” The inarticulate and obtuse manner with which the witness spoke proved problematic for the court reporter, who was obligated to record everything that the witness stated.
The witness stated that he was drinking with the victim in a local bar and that the two of them had gone to a liquor store around 7pm. The witness frequently claimed that he “did not remember” what had happened that night. The witness eventually conceded that an altercation had, in fact, happened and that he and the victim were allegedly shot at on 5th Street in Woodland. The witness stated that he “did not know why he was being shot at,” and he then proceeded to tell the court how he had abandoned his car and run. The witness then stated that he was arrested by a police officer and was taken to a hospital. Upon the witness’s arrival in the hospital, he discovered that his friend, the victim, had died.
The prosecution then brought up the witness’ prior gang convictions, and the defendant claimed that he did not know, nor think, that the incident was gang-related. The witness stated that he “did not know that his friend would die,” and he expressed his anger at the hospital, while in custody. When asked by the prosecution why he thought he was arrested, the witness stated that it was because he was drunk and acting “out of pocket.”
The preliminary hearing ended for the day, and will resume on July 29, 2016.