Near Mistrial in Long-Running Burglary Case


By Novpreet Shoker

Monday’s jury trial for Joseph Hernandez, Rakhem Bradford and Joshua Givens resumed amid tension as the defense moved for a mistrial after the jury heard conflicting testimony from a key witness in the case.

This morning took a turn when defense counsel for Hernandez brought this issue to Judge David Reed and asked for the trial to be dismissed because the jury had already heard biased and irrelevant testimony. Prosecution agreed to have the testimony stricken from the record, but was adamant on proceeding with the jury trial as is.

Judge Reed found insufficient evidence to rule for a mistrial, and therefore agreed to the alternative decision of striking the testimony in question and admonishing the jury. At this point, Judge Reed asked all counsel if any of them had suggestions for admonishments to the jury.

Tension further arose as Hernandez’s defense counsel claimed that even admonishing the jury would be “ringing the bell again,” and that it is now a “lose-lose situation.”

Despite this, Judge Reed brought the jury back into the courtroom, and addressed the previous testimony as stricken from the record, explaining to the jury that it was not to be considered during their deliberation on the charges against the defendants of burglary, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of a significant amount of stolen property.

After this motion was settled, the trial resumed as the People questioned a central witness to this case. This witness, a former UC Davis student, was also a part of and directly involved in many of the burglaries the defendants are accused of.

Firstly, the witness was asked about the layout of the Cuarto dorms at UC Davis, a location the witness claimed to have targeted often for electronics. She described the buildings and various details about the dorms through a map presented to the jury.

Prosecution then went on to show various security footage of this witness, as well as another accomplice, walking in and around the different buildings of the Cuarto dorms. The witness confirmed that the silhouette in each video was indeed her, and when she was asked what she was doing in those videos, she explained that she and the other person were checking the locks on each resident’s door to find an unlocked room by chance.

There were 12 videos shown to the jury of these two individuals walking at various times between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. in October of 2013.

The witness also clarified that, although the electronics they were looking for were specifically MacBooks, they also took HP and Dell laptops

When asked why she committed these crimes, while clearly knowing right from wrong, the witness explained that there was the “fear of being caught,” but also a feeling of “excitement.”

The questioning continued as the prosecution asked the witness to go into detail on a specific crime in which another accomplice, and Mr. Bradford, were involved.

Immediately, Bradford’s defense attorney, Ava Landers, objected, and asked to approach the bench.

After extensive, but private, discussion among all counsel and Judge Reed, Judge Reed allowed the witness to continue with her testimony.

Later in that October in 2013, the witness explained that she, another accomplice, and Bradford had been drinking in downtown Davis. Once the bars were closed, she and the other accomplice decided to make another run and steal, and she noted that, although Bradford was there, he was fairly intoxicated and he therefore passed out in the backseat of her car.

The witness explained that she and the accomplice decided to check out the Sharps & Flats Apartments in South Davis, because she was familiar with the buildings and their layout from when she had formerly dated a resident who lived there.

Because Bradford was so intoxicated, the witness and the accomplice decided to look for easy-target apartments on their own, and left him sleeping in the car.

Once the two found an apartment with a window slightly cracked open, they returned to the car to tell Bradford to stand outside in the parking lot while they went back. The prosecution asked if Bradford complied, and the witness said that he did stand outside for about five minutes, but, because he was physically unable to, he returned to the backseat of her car to go back to sleep.

When asked if Bradford was supposed to be the lookout for them, the witness admitted that she was not entirely sure because her accomplice was the one directing Bradford.

As for the apartment they had spotted, the witness described how the accomplice took off the window screen and opened the already-cracked window. He then jumped into the room of the apartment, and proceeded to unlock the front door for the witness to walk in.

Prosecution asked what they stole that night. The witness recalled a black HP laptop, a crossbody bag with a wallet inside, and more laptops that were carried out in one of the residents’ black backpacks.

When asked where these items went, the witness explained that the accomplice took all the electronics and sold them for whatever value he deemed appropriate. She also clarified that she did receive money from those sales, and used it for gas, food and shopping.

At the end of that recounting, the witness was asked if Bradford was involved that night. The witness definitively answered that Bradford did not participate.

Another matter discussed outside of the jury’s presence was the length of this trial. Judge Reed discussed scheduling with counsel and came to the conclusion that this trial might run a week past the estimated end date, which is into the third week of August.

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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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