Sunday Commentary: The Local Media Cover the Tragedy, but Not the Injustice


On Friday morning, Judge Rosenberg’s courtroom was the place to be, with two sentencing hearings for cases that we are tracking.  As it turned out, the two cases could not be more different, both in breadth of media attention and in terms of complexity.

First up was the sentencing of Robert Hodges for killing his three children.  The courtroom was packed.  There were cameras lined up in the jury box hoping to capture a moment of humanity for a man who did the unthinkable – killed his three children and nearly his wife.  They got all that and more.

The Hodges case is a real tragedy.  Horrific murder.  It was heart-wrenching to listen to the victim impact statements, to the hurt, the pain, the bewilderment.  Mr. Hodges himself didn’t disappoint – breaking down, he apologized for his actions.

But Judge Rosenberg was not in a forgiving mood.  Calling Mr. Hodges a “Jekyll and Hyde,” Judge Rosenberg said that he was a “serial killer of his own children,” and called this the “darkest, most depraved case I’ve ever handled.”

This was a horrific case, but never in doubt.  Mr. Hodges copped a plea, taking life without parole in exchange for avoiding the death penalty.  Nevertheless, elected DA Jeff Reisig was on hand for the sentencing in this case.

With Judge Rosenberg having handed out the sentence of life without parole, the courtroom cleared out.  Away went the media.  By the time the judge got around to hearing the case of Ricky
Hernandez and Joshua Cadenaz-Lopez, the court was empty of media and only family and friends of the two remained.

This is too bad because, while media were on hand to capture the moments of a tragedy, they inadvertently turned their back on a massive injustice unfolding before their eyes.

On Friday, the motions for a new trial were postponed as Jem Martin, attorney for Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez, brought to the court’s attention that he may have additional information that would cast doubt on the verdict against his client.

Both men were convicted in a lengthy trial that ended in early November.  Mr. Hernandez faces 85 years in prison for robbery and gang and weapons charges, while Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez faces 85 to 100 years.

In their motions for a new trial, Deputy Public Defender Lisa Lance attempted to get the judge to throw out the gang charges.  If the gang charges were to go away, so too would a gang-weapons enhancement, and Mr Hernandez would go from basically a life without parole sentence for the robberies to between 10 and 20 years.

In the meantime, Mr. Martin believes his client is actually innocent of the charges.  He was not forthcoming with details about the new evidence on Friday, but Judge Rosenberg agreed to postpone the hearing and sentencing to February 22 in order to allow Mr. Martin to more thoroughly investigate the new evidence that could potentially clear his client.

Ms. Lance, in her motion for a new trial for Mr. Hernandez, asked the judge to throw out convictions on the stand-alone gang charges and gang enhancements, which are in part responsible for the lengthy nature of his sentence.   She writes, “Mr. Hernandez is asking for a new trial on only those charges as the verdicts are contrary to the standard and enhancements, and is requesting that Enhancement 2a be dismissed as contrary to the law.”

She argues, “Mr. Hernandez was not in any gang photos, cell phone videos, YouTubes, and had no prior contacts with Broderick Boy members.”

In fact, she argued he is not even from the Broderick neighborhood in West Sacramento and that his biggest tattoo said “Turlock,” showing that “he was from Turlock, not Broderick.”  Ms. Lance argues, “There was no evidence besides innuendo and speculation offered by the gang cops in this case that he was a Broderick Boy.”

Deputy DA Kyle Hasapes countered that there “was more than sufficient evidence to support Detective Boudinot’s conclusion that defendant Hernandez was an active Broderick Boy.”

For instance, Mr. Hasapes notes: “According to Detective Boudinot the statements from defendant Hernandez to Mr. Baeza regarding not snitching are important because criminal street gangs do not tolerate snitching. Snitching is considered the lowest form of person. Snitches are going to be dealt with immediately and typically violently when information could get another person in trouble with law enforcement.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Martin argues, “There was substantial, uncontroverted evidence which supported Defendant’s alibi that he was not present at the robberies because he was passed out at home during that time, high on some combination of alcohol, marijuana and narcotics.”

But the biggest piece of evidence is evidence that “the person wearing the green gloves in the robberies, who was alleged to have been (Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez), was actually an uncharged third party, Alec Jorrin.”

Mr. Martin notes, “The Defense produced evidence that showed that Mr. Jorrin was wearing the exact same shoes, in a video taken just weeks before the robberies that he wore in the robberies. The shoes attributed to (Mr. Cadenaz-Lopez), which were found at another defendant’s residence, do not match the shoes worn by the actual robber, in the surveillance videos.”

The new evidence apparently related to Mr. Jorrin.  But Mr. Martin did not elaborate on it on Friday.

There is no doubt that the murder of his children by Robert Hodges is uniquely newsworthy.  It is one of the worst mass killings in Yolo County history and the senseless nature of it brought out the media from across the region.

The problem here is that, while media are willing to cover the tragedy, they fail to cover the massive injustice unfolding in the same courtroom a few moments later.  Two men face life in prison for crimes in which no one was hurt.  One of these men may in fact be innocent, while the other one faces decades in prison on top of his crimes, based on weak and overcharged gang evidence.

This is a monumental injustice, and unfortunately one that is not getting the coverage it deserves.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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6 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: The Local Media Cover the Tragedy, but Not the Injustice”

  1. PhilColeman

    The media-covered tragedy is horrific and indisputable. Deliberate multiple deaths of children have a way of doing that.

    Piggy-backing that event with the Cadenaz-Lopez dispute pales–and fails–by comparison. The latter case has been described several times as a massive and monumental injustice. In the context of this column the media is faulted for not giving enough attention to this criminal matter, that has some level of equal importance.

    Likely, here is what the media sees, and why they are not as fully convinced that this latter case is not (yet) newsworthy.

    Points and arguments raised in this story were also presented at trial. Then they were subject to cross-examination and rebuttal. We’re not given an assessment of the value of these arguments. However, the later conviction of the defendants indisputably shows that not even one juror was persuaded. This is what the media sees.

    A defense attorney “believes” his client is innocent. A personal unsubstantiated belief is not a sufficient legal standard for a reversal or modification of a criminal conviction. That attorney, and any others sharing a similar belief, must translate that belief to credible suspicion and doubt.

    Staying with that particular defense attorney for a moment more, he’s peculiarly coy and circumspect while pleading with the court for relief. Judge Rosenberg must have thought–tell me what you have and I’ll rule on your request. Nothing definitive was presented, and Judge Rosenberg was quite charitable in allowing defense to come back with more at a later date.

    Then the final attempt at persuading–friends and family believe an injustice has occurred. This is a  common occurrence. Countless trials and convictions have had the same emotion-powered sentiment, but this is nowhere close to being a legal basis of appeal for an earlier conviction.

    Massive and monumental injustice. Let’s say it is. Move away from hyperbole and persuade the courts and the rest of us that this case warrants such an eye-catching description.

    1. David Greenwald

      Do wrongful convictions occur?  Yes, they do.  So the fact that some of the points raised here were presented at trial does not mean that the jury didn’t make a mistake.

      Secondly, the possibility of one defendant’s innocence is compounded with the idea at least that the punishment is disproportionate to the crime.  Say they did this crime, given their lack of criminal record and young age, 85 to 100 years seems grossly disproportionate.

      Third, my guess is that the media is unaware of this case.  But that’s part of the problem, the media lack the resources to really cover the courts and shine a light on potential injustices.

      1. Howard P

        In which case David?  Was Hodges’ plea deal a”wrongful” (perhaps coerced?) “conviction”?  Or is the distinction the one crime went to jury, the other did not?  Hope you meant the latter… your headline and lack of clarity sees to have conflated the two…  easy to correct…

        By the way juries can “make mistakes” by not reaching a verdict, or by finding the defendant “not guilty”… works both ways… wish you’d own that, but pretty much know you won’t…

        Thn there is the ‘technical error’ things… doesn’t mean the person charged was not responsible, just means they don’t have to serve a sentence, and are free. Again, there are wrongful convictions, and wrongful acquittals, “overturns’ on appeal..

        1. David Greenwald

          Not sure what you are asking.  Hodges was a no doubt case, he confessed, he plead, the case is resolved.  Clearly I’m not talking about that one when I say wrongful conviction.

        2. Howard P

          In the past, I seem to recall you and others saying that folk took plea deals when they were actually innocent… coerced… which could be deemed a ‘wrongful conviction’… was just checking…

          Have no problem with you and others questioning the other case as it appears that at least one is factually innocent…

          I still opine that there are ‘wrongful acquittals’… as to “justice” as opposed to ‘legal correctness’…

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