By Taite Trautwein
The procession of witnesses into Department 14 of the Yolo County Superior Court ended Thursday afternoon as one final investigator took the stand to lend his expertise to the robbery case.
Agent Brodie was given the classification of expert witness regarding his knowledge of the Nuestra Familia prison gang, as well as the structure of the Norteño street gang. Deputy District Attorney Kyle Hasapes presented multiple pieces of evidence that he believes implicate defendants Joshua Armond Cadenaz-Lopez and Ricky Gomez Hernandez as members of the Broderick Boys, a branch of the Norteños that operates within Yolo County.
The pair are accused of robbery with an enhancement for street gang activity, conspiracy and possession of marijuana for sale.
The afternoon began with cross-examination from Defense Attorney Jem Martin, who immediately turned his attention to the testimony of a previous witness in the trial that had claimed to be an active member of the Nuestra Familia while in prison in the early seventies.
Agent Brodie stated that, after reviewing multiple debriefs and documentation of statements from known members of Nuestra Familia, he found no mention of the past witness, which suggested he was not a member of the gang. The agent conceded that, in regard to this documentation, “the information is only as good as the person writing it,” but claimed that, because he had not seen any mention
of the person across multiple reports, he was skeptical of that witness’ claims.
In regard to the claim made by the previous witness that he had stabbed someone in prison to achieve membership into the Nuestra Familia, Brodie admitted he had no knowledge of that event, but still maintained that the fact he was never mentioned by other members suggests to him that, if he was ever a member, he was never one of any significance, stating “there is a difference between a member and a soldier.”
Following this line of questioning, Brodie began to field questions about the structure of the Nuestra Familia and Norteño gangs. The agent detailed that the various branches of the Norteños, known as regiments, operate under a chain of command. He stated that the majority of branches within California require taxes to be paid up that chain of command from profits received from any crime committed by a member of the gang.
The expert also claimed that the Nuestra Familia influences the Norteños from inside and outside prison.
Mr. Martin attempted to follow this line of questioning dealing with how law enforcement handles the Nuestra Familia inside of prison, but he was cut short by Judge David Rosenberg, who stated that it was outside the realm of the witness’ expertise. This led Martin to end his line of questioning.
The next line of questioning came from Deputy Public Defender Lisa Lance, who began by asking how gang members are identified in prison. According to Brodie, inmates typically conduct a “new arrival questionnaire,” in which the arrival’s affiliation is documented. When asked to go into further detail on police procedure with these questionnaires, Judge Rosenberg once again stepped in, stating that was outside of the witness’ realm of expertise.
Lance then began to question the reliability of the reports Brodie calls on to form his opinions about gang members, with Brodie claiming it is his job to evaluate the evidence presented in a police report, not the authenticity of the words themselves.
When asked about the last time he had made a mistake in a report he had written, Brodie answered with a resounding “never.” When asked about how he deals with dishonest inmates, the agent said they often turn to polygraph tests.
This led to an end of Lance’s questioning and the dismissal of Agent Brodie, the final witness to be heard in this case.
During the jury’s break, conflict arose between Ms. Lance and Judge Rosenberg over the language of the verdict forms the jury would be presented. Despite argument from Lance, Rosenberg determined that it was far too late for the changes to be made and that the deputy public defender should have made the issues clear days ago if she wanted them changed.
Upon the jury’s return, Judge Rosenberg gave them final instructions before their deliberation would begin. The judge detailed the over 20 counts the defendants are accused of and how they should be handled by the jury.
Jury deliberation is expected to continue tomorrow. A verdict will bring to end a trial that spanned multiple weeks and saw statements made by over thirty witnesses.