Is the Burglary Trial Jury Growing Impatient? Jury Note Sheds Light on Situation

By Jamie Moddelmog and Novpreet Shoker

Detective and patrol officer testify about separate incidents in burglary trial

By Jamie Moddelmog

The long-running burglary trial against Joseph Kaleimanu Hernandez, Rakhem Romel Bradford, and Joshua Anthony Givens resumed on Wednesday with testimony from a Davis police officer and a UCD detective.  The first witness responded to burglary calls on December 7, 2013, and the next witness led the investigation of dorm room theft in October of 2013.

The day began with the testimony of Davis Police Officer Joshua Helton.  Officer Helton responded to two reports of burglary on December 7, 2013, one on Anderson Road, and the other on Portola Court. Most of the questioning he was subject to focused on these incidents and what evidence he was able to collect.

He first answered questions about the incident on Anderson.  He said he arrived at the scene at around 12:30 PM, responding to a call about a burglary in process. There were two residences that he investigated, both part of the same duplex.  After other Davis PD officers joined him as backup, Officer Helton entered 1517 Anderson Rd., which had been one of the places identified by witnesses as burglarized.

He found that the locking mechanism on the front door had been damaged and he presumed that the intruders kicked in the door.  This is why he did not check the door for fingerprints.  Once inside the house, he and the other officers came upon a bedroom that had been converted to a “grow room,” dedicated to growing marijuana plants.  Shortly after the officers entered, the home’s resident, “Mr. W”, arrived.  He told Officer Helton that the only things he believed to be stolen were an Apple computer monitor and a speaker.  However, in a report written jointly by different employees of the Davis Police Department, it states that Mr. W also claimed marijuana was stolen.  Officer Helton had no recollection of personally being told that and said he is not the officer who wrote that in the report.

Officers also discovered a large metal toolbox containing marijuana, $700 and musical equipment.  Mr. W told officers that he was part of a “collective” that grew marijuana legally.

In the house next door, Officer Helton observed similar damage to the front door and noted that the screen door had been bent.  Inside the residence, he saw what he believed to be footprints on the couch.  He took photographs in both residences, but they did not show up when reviewing the evidence.  He did not know how the photos disappeared.

Earlier in the day, Officer Helton had responded to a call about a missing TV on Portola Ct. He discovered damage to the front gate and found the side door leading to the garage unlocked.  Inside the home, he saw what he believed to be footprints on the stairs leading to the second story of the house.  He observed a large “media stand” with a dust pattern indicating that a TV had been there.  The dust pattern also indicated that the media stand had not been touched and the TV had just been lifted off it.

After Officer Helton’s testimony, UCD Police Detective Kevin Skaife was called to the stand.  He was asked questions about his initial involvement in the investigation of burglaries in UCD dorms, as well as how he came to identify the suspects.

There were multiple reported thefts in the UCD dorm complex known as the “Cuarto” dorms on October 16 and 17 of 2013.  There were also three reported “suspicious incidents” where people were found in rooms that were not theirs at Cuarto in October 2013.  The suspicious people were described as a male and an Asian female.

On October 22, Detective Skaife contacted Matt O’ Conner, who worked for the Office of Student Support and Judicial Affairs.  After speaking with O’ Conner about the incidents, he was given the contact information of someone who could help with the case.  Detective Skaife met with this person and received the contact information of one of the suspects.

He also acquired security footage that showed two people who matched the descriptions “wandering” the hallways and opening doors.

Detective Skaife met with the female suspect on November 5 and asked her about her involvement in thefts at the dorms.  She claimed to have walked around the dorms with someone named Jeremy, and had committed no theft herself, but once saw Jeremy steal a phone charger.

He called her back for a second meeting on November 7, and when she arrived at the police department, he confiscated her phone.  He used “Cellebrite” technology to look through her phone for evidence.  He claimed he was able to see everything she would be able to see on her phone and other data that she deleted.

Another setback in burglary trial as jury talks

By Novpreet Shoker

The jury trial for Joseph Hernandez, Rakhem Bradford, and Joshua Givens is ongoing, as the jury itself grows impatient. The focus of this afternoon’s hearing surrounded an anonymous note written to Judge David Reed of Department 8 by one of the twelve jurors on this burglary case.

The note revealed that earlier in the morning before the hearing began, a juror made several problematic comments about the defendants in the case.

According to the anonymous juror who wrote the note, the other juror had complained about having to cancel a conference because of this long-running trial, and, if they were to vote that day, she would vote guilty for all defendants. The defendants in this case are facing several charges along the lines of possession of stolen property as well as of marijuana, and burglary.

After receiving this message, Judge Reed and all counsel chose to ask all of the jurors, individually, about the events that transpired before the hearing.

After several jurors came and went, it became apparent that a handful of jurors arrived late that morning and were not present for those comments, but another handful were there to hear the comments.

The general consensus found was that the jurors who were present to hear the comments made chose to ignore them, and agreed that they could remain impartial and keep an open mind until all the evidence is heard in the trial.

However, some jurors also acknowledged that some of the other members were growing impatient and beginning to talk. One juror claimed that “there has been a lot of talking,” which was becoming frustrating, “because there’s a lack of focus.”

Another juror, revealed to be the one who wrote the note and after being asked for further clarification about the comments that were made, explained that the other juror was certainly frustrated. She explained that the other juror had to cancel her conference due to the length of the trial and had offhandedly stated that she would find all the defendants guilty if they voted that day.

Judge Reed then thanked the juror for her honesty and for fulfilling her duty as a juror.

Finally, the juror who had made the inappropriate comments came into the courtroom and, when asked about the issue at hand, she agreed that she complained about how inconvenient it was to cancel her conference. She went on to deny speaking about the defendants’ innocence or guilt.

The juror did seem to regret her comments, and told Judge Reed that she should not have said that and she is sorry.

The court proceeded to ask the other jurors about the comments, and it became apparent that the juror in question did indeed state that she would find the defendants guilty on all charges.

After taking in all the information from the jury, Judge Reed and all counsel discussed the situation at hand.

District Attorney Michelle Serafin decided that, in order to avoid future disputes, the best decision would be to dismiss the juror in question. However, she did not believe that the other jurors were affected in any way.

Attorney James Granucci, defense counsel for Mr. Givens, agreed that the juror in question had to be dismissed because she was not truthful. He also believed that the other jurors who were present and only heard the comments but did not report them should be also dismissed, because they failed to report the issue, as is their duty.

The other defense counsel, for Hernandez and Bradford, also agreed with Mr. Granucci, explaining that it would be prejudiced to keep those jurors in the trial.

The defense was proposing to dismiss about 6 to 7 jury members.

Judge Reed decided that he would only dismiss the juror in question because of the comments made and the lack of honesty in her answers. The juror was dismissed at the end of the day, and the court will seat an alternate juror on Monday.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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