By Taite Trautwein, Fabiha Zaman, and Danielle Eden C. Silva
Domestic Violence Trial Begins
By Taite Trautwein
The trial of Rosendo Garcia Amavizca, a man accused of inflicting corporal injury on a person with whom he is in a dating relationship, began Wednesday morning. Details surrounding a violent encounter between the defendant and his girlfriend on August 6 outside of Wayside Market in Knights Landing were brought to the attention of the jury.
The prosecution began their opening statement by framing the trial as the story of “two people who refuse to recognize the truth as it sits before them,” referring to Amavizca and his girlfriend. Continuing, the prosecution claimed that Amavizca “refuses to accept responsibility” and that his girlfriend “may not want to accept that she is in an abusive relationship.”
The deputy district attorney claimed that Amavizca grabbed the victim from behind, bit her on the cheek, pushed her to the ground, and hit her. He went on to say that the victim still loves the defendant, and because of that he does not know what she is going to say on the stand.
The deputy district attorney claimed all of his evidence would be supported by Investigating Officer Myles Torres as well as Wayside Market surveillance video.
Deputy Public Defender Emily Fisher gave her opening statement next, summing up the story of the case in three words: “infidelity, intoxication, instigation.”
Fisher claimed that the alleged victim in this case had a reputation as a cheater. She also pointed out that everyone involved in the altercation had been drinking and that the victim had been known to get in fights often around the small Knights Landing community.
Fisher stressed she is not calling the victim a bad person, but she referred to the altercation as a “mutual scuffle” and questioned Amavizca’s intentions when he grabbed his girlfriend.
The majority of witness testimony during the morning session came from a friend, of both Amavizca and the victim, who was present during the incident and claimed to have broken up the scuffle.
The witness described standing outside of the market with Amavizca when the victim ran across the street toward them. He described her behavior as aggressive and heated as she approached them.
According to testimony the victim escalated the argument, beginning the scuffle when she struck Amavizca first with what the witness described as an “uppercut thrown in haste.”
The witness claimed he saw the victim throw herself to the ground without prompting from Amavizca. He also claimed that the scratches on the victim’s face observed by law enforcement occurred from a prior incident and that at no point did he ever see Amavizca hit the victim.
Following this, the witness was shown surveillance video of the incident, in which a man and woman can be seen in a physical altercation before disappearing out of frame. The woman later falls back into the frame, and then the altercation is broken up by a man who the witness identified as himself.
The witness did not dispute any of the evidence shown in the video.
Next, the witness was presented with audio of an interview he gave to Lead Investigator Myles Torres on the night of the incident.
In the audio, the witness contradicted his previous testimony multiple times, saying Amavizca “kinda hit her” on the side of the head. During the interview he also said “he hit her first, then she threw one,” calling the defendant’s strike “a little jab.”
During the interview, in response to Torres questioning who was being the most aggressive, the witness responded “him” and claimed the victim’s scratches came from falling in the gravel.
After being played this audio, the witness claimed Amavizca “had to hold her to stop her” and stated, “I can’t blame the man for doing what he did.” He also continued to claim that the defendant “did not directly punch her.”
During cross-examination from Ms. Fisher, the witness claimed he had no interest in the outcome of the case and was not playing favorites.
When asked why he stayed at the scene after the fight ended, he responded, “I don’t know why I stayed there. I should’ve left. I wouldn’t be here.”
When asked if the victim was still his friend, he stated, “Less and less. Fading fast.”
The witness also claimed that he had seen the victim take methamphetamine in the past.
Finally, the witness to the incident claimed that he believed the victim in the incident was the aggressor and that Amavizca was merely defending himself.
Before the morning session concluded, brief testimony from the victim began. Upon initial questioning, she claimed that she and Amavizca had been together for a year and were still dating, and that she was bothered by having to testify against her boyfriend.
Through tears, she admitted that she did not want to be there, but still would not lie for Amavizca.
The remaining testimony of the victim was expected to take place in the afternoon session of the trial.
Victim Gives Testimony in Corporal Injury Case
By Fabiha Zaman
In the afternoon session on Wednesday afternoon, the prosecution continued their examination of the victim in defendant Rosendo Garcia Amavizca’s case. Amavizca is charged with inflicting corporal injury on a person with whom he is in a dating relationship.
The incident occurred on August 6, 2017, in the parking lot of the Wayside Market. The alleged victim, the girlfriend of Amavizca, recalled that on that night they got into an argument. She mentioned that it was something having to do with cheating and although the exchange was all verbal at that point, it later escalated to a physical fight.
The victim explained that Amavizca grabbed her to try and make her listen by putting his hands around her shoulders. She said that he was trying to tell her that he loved her, but he was also accusing her of cheating.
After holding her in that position for approximately 10 minutes, Amavizca bit the victim on her left cheek. Though it did not leave any noticeable marks when the victim observed it the next day, there was a bit of blood.
The witness testified that there was one other person who was present at the fight. He was a friend of both the victim and Amavizca. The witness said that he was trying to get the victim and Amavizca to quiet down and trying to make peace between them.
As the prosecution continued the questioning, the witness revealed that she also punched Amavizca somewhere in the nose area because he had pulled her hair when she tried to push him away. The victim noticed that there were no chunks of hair pulled out but he had pulled hard enough that some strands of hair came loose.
After her hair was pulled, the witness said she threw a tantrum and lay down on the gravel contemplating what had just happened, and eventually called 911. She admitted that she had been drinking and remembered that Amavizca also had a beer bottle similar to hers, however she could not recall if he was actually drinking.
The victim has visited the defendant in jail after the incident around five to ten times. She has also made phone calls to him since the incident. The victim also said that she speaks with the other friend who was at the scene of the fight about once every two weeks. They have not spoken about the case, only mentioning to each other how they did not want to come to court and testify.
The prosecution then played the audio recording of the 911 call the victim made that night and proceeded to ask the victim questions pertaining to the call. However, these questions posed to the victim led to Judge David Rosenberg asking the victim if she wanted an attorney present while answering, to which she answered yes. The court then took the mid-afternoon break while counsel tried to settle the matter.
After the break and upon reflection, the court decided it was okay to proceed without the victim having an attorney present. The prosecution then followed a line of questioning that had to do with a discrepancy between the 911 recording and what the victim had testified to in court. The issue seemed to be with the way she ended up on the ground during the fight. In the 911 call, the victim said that Amavizca had tackled her to the ground, however, in her testimony she said that she had thrown herself to the ground.
When the prosecution pointed this out, she said that the drinking she did that night might have had an effect on the way she was remembering things and that in court today she was confused as to why she said that.
The prosecution then played Deputy Torres’ dash cam footage from that night, since Dep. Torres had responded to the scene and taken a statement from the victim. There was nothing substantial in the video itself, so only the audio was played for the efficiency of the court. In the recording, Dep. Torres could be heard questioning the victim and examining the injuries he could see. While giving her statement to Dep. Torres, the victim mentioned that she was actually bitten twice and was slammed to the ground.
After the footage finished playing, the witness said that she barely recalls giving that statement, but recognized her voice and was not surprised by anything she said.
Dep. Torres also took photos of the injuries on the night of the incident, and the prosecution asked the witness to identify the photos and the injuries for the jury.
Before the prosecution finished questioning her, she admitted that she loved Amavizca and was happy to see him.
Deputy Public Defender Emily Fisher, representing Amavizca, conducted the cross-examination. During the cross, the witness revealed that she was most upset about her hair being pulled because it had been pulled out by other people. Secondly, she was angry at the nature of the argument and that Amavizca was accusing her of cheating. She even told Dep. Torres to take Amavizca to jail forever because she had gotten that angry.
During cross, the witness explained that she had been married to her husband for 20 years. They still lived together and had a son together. Her husband knows Amavizca and is aware of their romantic relationship.
The witness also admitted that the reason for their fight that night might have been the fact that Amavizca thought he could never be the victim’s boyfriend if she was married.
While defense counsel continued questioning the witness, the court found that the witness might have also been under the influence of methamphetamine the night of the incident with Amavizca. She admits that she was aware of how using methamphetamine and drinking simultaneously might have made her feel more emotional and caused her to be more erratic. She also revealed that she definitely down-played her involvement in the altercation with Amavizca when she was explaining it to the prosecution. The witness said that she also punched Amavizca and was more aggressive because she was so angry with him and wanted to get him in trouble.
The witness also added that she does not believe Amavizca deserves to be attacked and that he should be allowed to use appropriate measures to defend himself.
During re-direct, the prosecution played a small clip from the video surveillance footage of Wayside Market. The witness said that the video was consistent with what she remembered from that night. The prosecution then pursued a line of questioning, pertaining her testimony in the preliminary hearing on November 13, in an attempt to have her testimony impeached. Before prosecution could finish, court adjourned for the day. The jury will reconvene tomorrow morning at 9 A.M. in Department 14 and the examination of the victim will continue.
Court Trial for Domestic Violence Continues
by Danielle Eden C. Silva
The jury trial for Mr. Rosendo Garcia Amavizca resumed in Department 14.
Mr. Amavizca has been accused of committing corporal injury in August of last year. He was present during today’s trial.
Prior to the witnesses, the Honorable David Rosenberg announced that he would deliver jury instructions and clarify which jail calls between the victim and the defendant may be used as evidence. Judge Rosenberg ruled that one of the jail calls may be used and he would listen to another one later for more careful consideration. The jury was then brought in.
Deputy Miles Torres was sworn in.
His testimony centered on August 6, 2017. A domestic violence call led Deputy Torres to the victim and another witness. Deputy Torres had taken car footage which relayed only the audio of the victim’s and a witness’ interviews. He explained the victim appeared closed off and unwilling to speak with him despite her having been the one who called in on domestic violence.
The deputy also took photographs of the victim’s injuries.
The prosecution, having previously established Deputy Torres’ background in domestic violence training, asked if Dep. Torres could identify the type of wound. The officer identified it as a bite mark. While he recalled that injury, he noted that if the victim had not called it a bite mark he could not have noted it as a bite mark.
The deputy recorded both freshly-made bruises and old injuries. These injuries included a fresh injury on her right cheek, an injury with fresh blood on her chin, a reddened injury near the corner of her left eye, and two injuries on the right side of her face. He determined the reddened injury to be fresh.
In Deputy Torres’ injury questions, the victim noted she had a bite mark on her chin and her hair had been pulled.
In the victim’s recollection of the incident, Mr. Amavizca was stated to have given the victim a “bear hug style from the rear” and saying “shut the f- up.” The victim noted she ended up on the ground but wasn’t sure how she ended up there. At some point, her hair was pulled.
The victim was bitten before being pulled away from the defendant. The second bite came after the bear hug, receiving a bite from the front. Deputy Torres noted that the other witness appeared to have had a few drinks but was cooperative and claimed Mr. Amavizca had jab punched the victim.
In cross-examination, the deputy revealed the victim punched the defendant due to anger. Deputy Torres also agreed that the entire interview audio wasn’t shared. The interfering witness stated at least once he didn’t believe the defendant to be violent.
Domestic violence calls were elaborated. If injuries are present, the dominant aggressor should be arrested. Sometimes no crime is committed but visible injuries are mandated to an arrest. Also, the defendant never used the term bear hug, only picking it up after the officer used it.
Deputy Torres expanded on his statement on bruising, saying it varies between people and its occurrence date could be difficult to determine. The other witness, however, did appear intoxicated and Deputy Torres recalled that witness testifying in preliminaries and appearing sober.
In the prosecution’s cross-examination, Deputy Torres couldn’t clarify if the other witness was intoxicated. Domestic violence calls were elaborated on further, stating calls don’t always end with an arrest. In this case, Mr. Amavizca, being suspected as an aggressor, was taken in.
In the officer’s experience, domestic violence callers often act standoffish and regret calling because they wish to protect their family.
As the jury left, the court ruled that the aforementioned jail call may be included due to providing context for the admitted jail call. In the jury instructions, the jury would be told these calls wouldn’t be for the truth of the matter but for jury consideration.
After the jury returned, Detective Lech Garcia returned to the stand after having testified on Tuesday.
On August 9, 2017, Detective Garcia interviewed the defendant for his statement during the incident. Mr. Amavizca shared that he had slapped the victim.
Portions of the interview video were also shown to the court.
Following the video, Detective Garcia confirmed the victim claimed to be the defendant’s girlfriend. The defendant said she hit him and, when he hit her, the hit shouldn’t have caused bleeding.
In the defense’s questioning, these were clips were noted to be portions of an entire interview. Detective Garcia shared Mr. Amavizca had been cooperative, received his Miranda rights, and chose to talk with him. The detective confirmed Mr. Amavizca asked, “Is that fresh blood?” when he noted Mr. Amavizca had issues with his right hand.
Detective Garcia confirmed Mr. Amavizca had no injuries.
In response to a jury question, Detective Garcia shared that Mr. Amavizca noted the victim liked to act as if she were single.
After Detective Garcia was excused, Investigator Miles Lewis appeared. Mr. Lewis had been asked to investigate jail calls. He legally received two logs on Mr. Amavizca’s record: one of every jail call received; and one of every visit he received. The investigator noted that there were over 20 calls listed.
In the defense’s cross-examination, the total calls the defendant had received were listed in the log. Some of the calls may have been to the attorney’s office. The logs were submitted to the exhibit.
The victim was the last to appear on the stand and had testified yesterday. She had been asked if she spoke to Mr. Amavizca and would recognize her own voice, both of which she confirmed. Two jail calls were played: the first mentioned the witness who pulled them apart, saying “don’t remember nothing”; and the second noted the victim had attempted to find that witness.
In cross-examination, the victim didn’t realize she had a no-contact order, stating that the defendant might as well be in custody if she can’t see him.
The jury questions clarified that she didn’t know she was being recorded and made the 911 call as a poor decision. The victim stated she hadn’t been afraid of the defendant.
In followup, the prosecution noted the automatic recording informing her the call could be monitored. She confirmed she didn’t want the defendant to be where he was. When asked by the defense, the victim stated she had downplayed her own involvement in the incident and that was why she considered it a poor decision.
The victim was excused and the defense rested. The jury was released for lunch.