The families of two men they believe to have been wrongfully convicted called out for justice on Monday in front of Yolo County Superior Court during a steady rain. Justin Gonzalez was convicted of murder in December and faces life in prison while Joshua Cadenaz-Lopez was convicted of multiple robberies and gang crimes and faces 85 to 100 years.
Mary Martinez, the aunt of Mr. Gonzalez, spoke during the press conference: “We are gathered here to bring to the public’s attention (the events) regarding the wrongful conviction of Justin Gonzalez.”
She expressed misgivings about a verdict that “has been given without fairness and due process of the law. We have concerns over the fact that he has not been given the right to a fair and impartial trial based on suppression of evidence and lack of credibility of witnesses, contradicting testimony by witnesses, (and) there are mitigating circumstances that clearly have not been disclosed.”
She continued, “We believe there have been multiple examples of misconduct in the court’s proceedings such as discovery violations, no DNA, no fingerprints, no credible witnesses that can identify Justin being near the victim at the time of the assault.
“This creates the existence of reasonable doubt,” she explained. “There is clear (and) convincing evidence that Justin is innocent.”
She alleges that there has been “improper contact with witnesses that were not credible which is evidenced by contradictory co-defendant testimony at the trial.”
According to Ms. Martinez, regarding the (witness), Ponce Perez, “initially she could not positive identify Justin – ever being at the scene or anywhere near the victim. Then under sworn oath, she was seen to change her testimony once again, could this possibly be coercion?”
This case, she said, “was not supported by probable cause.
“Using improper, false or misleading evidence, displaying a lack of diligence, thoroughness in showing disregard for the truth, which we feel was orchestrated by the prosecution – creating doubt and bias which resulted in the jury’s verdict – we find this appalling and clearly a wrongful conviction,” she added.
“We are seeking further investigation to ensure that every reasonable effort (is) taken to review and have Justin acquitted of all charges,” she said in closing.
The mother of Joshua Cadenaz-Lopez spoke as well. She explained, “He is looking at 85 to 100 years of time for (a) crime, when he wasn’t even there.”
She said, “The police did not fully investigate and just assumed it was my son since he was in a truck that was pulled over in a traffic stop after the events occurred.”
She explained that there was a lot of reasonable doubt presented at the trial. For example, “Josh has extremely hairy legs and skinny chicken legs. In the surveillance video of the robberies, the person that they are saying is my son, (he) has thick white hairless legs.
“My son has a tattoo on his chest of his daughter’s footprints and name – that clear(ly) would show through a tank top that the person in the (video) did not even have.
“There (are) green gloves that were found in the co-defendant’s items that had my son’s DNA in (them),” she said. But she explained that there were six DNA swabs taken of suspects, and only four of them were turned over to the crime analysts. “And I want to know why all swabs weren’t.
“Other people were taken in for questioning and because they said they weren’t there, they were let go. He had no clothing on him that fit the description of the suspect when he was arrested,” she continued.
She said, “The most incredible piece of evidence is that my son had an alibi. The night of the arrest he was telling the officers in the interviewing room that he had an alibi. Not one officer even followed through on that alibi to check it out.
“He’s paying the time right now for somebody else’s crime,” she said. “In the trial, the police all contradicted one another and nobody wanted to stand up and take responsibility for the investigation.
“There was so much questionable evidence, I don’t know how the jury found my son guilty at all,” she said. “They just made him to look like a gang member and so the jury found him guilty.
“We have been trying to speak out about his innocence from the beginning and nobody’s listened at all,” she said. “I feel that this case has been mishandled from the beginning. I truly believe that someday my son will be free. But that will never give him back the time that he’s missing right now with his one- and three-year-old daughters.”
She said, “I’ve learned through this experience that there’s many other families and people that are going through the same thing. I didn’t know about all this until this happened to me.” She said, “So now I want to educate the public about what is going on in Yolo County because they’re out of control and they’re giving people time that doesn’t fit the crime. And they are giving people guilty verdicts, when they’re not even guilty.”
She closed saying, “I feel we all must work together to stop Yolo County and the DA.”
Joshua Cadenaz-Lopez is scheduled to be sentenced on February 2 in front of Judge David Rosenberg. Justin Gonzalez is scheduled to be sentenced on January 16 in front of Judge Daniel Maguire.
—David M. Greenwald reporting