Attorney Confusion Resolved, Prelim Resumes for Murder Case


By Edward Garcia

After a switch of defense attorneys, the preliminary hearing resumed for Christian Rizo, who is charged with the murder of a man in Woodland.

Defense Attorney J. Toney took up the case this afternoon after an issue with the Public Defender’s Office forced them out of the case.

After reviewing the initial preliminary hearing transcripts, Mr. Toney found it helpful to recall a past witness for further questioning. The witness was an innocent bystander who saw the incident from a nearby parking lot.

Once back on the stand, the bystander testified to hearing gunshots and seeing Mr. Rizo in a car with two other individuals.

He went on to explain that his knowledge of the defendant was due to his sister’s acquaintance with him.

In response, the defense asked if he had identified Mr. Rizo. “The camera identified him,” he responded, with regard to a surveillance video. The witness went on to explain that he met with the police twice, approximately a year apart.

Focusing on the details of the incident, he placed himself about 15 to 20 feet from Mr. Rizo’s car. When asked about the clothes of the individuals in the car, he said, “I can’t exactly remember.”

But, the witness did mention he recognized the individual driving the car, and believed there was another individual in the car as well.

He admitted to talking with the driver that night, but not with the defendant.

Deputy District Attorney Jay Linden, in a short cross-examination, wanted to know when the witness had seen the surveillance video. The witness testified to seeing it once, after the initial preliminary hearing.

Bringing an end to his testimony, Judge Janene Beronio excused the witness and asked for the next witness to come forward.

The People introduced another innocent bystander who happened to see the shooting.

Recounting the events, this witness stated he was “walking two friends home from 7-Eleven.” His friends went into their apartment complex while he waited outside, he stated.

Under questioning from Deputy DA Linden, the witness specified that he saw a friend with a couple of other individuals inside a Mustang convertible. His friend was known as “Happy,” he said.

His attention was drawn to this area because a car pulled up and “someone got out with a shotgun and shot Happy,” he recalled.

The witness emphasized, “At point blank range.”

When asked about statements to the police, he could not recall anything. Questioning of the assailants’ clothes received a similar response, “You couldn’t see anything,” he stated.

The innocent bystander did remember being shown a diagram of the scene, and had acknowledged its accurate depiction.

Bringing the People’s direct to a close, the witness stated he only heard one gunshot.

Mr. Toney kept the cross-examination short with two simple questions.

The witness clarified for Mr. Toney that the incident took “no more than ten seconds.”

And, bringing his testimony to a close, the witness stated that prior to the incident he was smoking marijuana.

The last witness of the afternoon was Detective Aaron Moe, who is an investigator for the District Attorney’s Office. Detective Moe is also a member of the Yolo County Gang Task Force.

Beginning his testimony, Detective Moe testified that he was assigned this case on the morning of the shooting, which prompted him to go examine the victim’s body.

The pathologist told him it was “death by gunshot wounds.”

Under questioning from the People, Mr. Moe recalled receiving statements from the witnesses who had testified earlier in court.

He gave a summary of their statements, which were consistent with what was testified.

Detective Moe also added that the witness who saw the shooting knew the victim, Happy, because of past drug sales.

Furthermore, his report had the same witness stating the shooter had covered his face “with a red rag.” He believed the subjects were northerners, stated Det. Moe.

Mr. Linden asked about the surveillance video, to which Detective Moe stated he watched it and took live notes on it.

Lastly, the People inquired about a mother who lived in the apartments just west of the incident, and her involvement in the investigation.

This woman had witnessed a traffic stop involving an individual who was in the car which was shot at, Detective Moe stated. She highlighted the victim’s upset demeanor. It was through this victim that the woman would come to know about the shooting, Moe explained.

During their conversation, the victim gave her an object wrapped in a shirt, stated Det. Moe. It was a sawed-off shotgun, which she placed beneath her car.

Det. Moe clarified that this woman’s statements aligned with those of her son, who was also present.

The defense, during cross-examination, wondered if any of these witnesses Detective Moe had talked about were on drugs. Det. Moe couldn’t recall asking, but believed the woman’s son had admitted to smoking marijuana.

Bringing his testimony to an end, Det. Moe made it clear that any statements which had been collected are documented and preserved.

Judge Beronio excused the detective, and court was adjourned for the day.

The preliminary hearing will reconvene November 16, 2017, at 9:30 a.m. in Department 9.

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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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