Closing Arguments Heard in Gang Trial

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by Kelsey Landon

Closing arguments in the trial for Jason Michael Lopez and Stephon Jerome Ramirez continued Thursday morning at Yolo County Superior Court.

Deputy District Attorney Kyle Hasapes, representing the People, continued his closing argument, projecting the Google map images from the previous day to the jury.

Mr. Hasapes used this map to show the possible route the defendants took back to the apartment from the Lighthouse Market & Deli in West Sacramento. He highlighted the field surrounding the apartment complex to emphasize the vast amount of area the defendants would have to hide a weapon. The defendants are charged with, among other things, an attempted shooting at an occupied vehicle and gang activity.

Mr. Hasapes finished with the map and moved on to express that the samples taken from Ramirez’s hand after he was taken to the hospital had ten particles of gunpowder residue.

Mr. Hasapes made it clear that everyone who touched Ramirez after his arrest and subsequent trip to the hospital had worn gloves. The deputy DA recited the fact that a third-party transfer of gunpowder residue is possible, but very unlikely to happen.

In the PowerPoint Mr. Hasapes used to demonstrate the main points of his argument, he highlighted the elements of the charges and how they applied to the case, point by point.

The first element of some of the charges is that there was a perpetrator of the crime, and Mr. Hasapes claimed there was no question of that.

The next element was the “aid and abettor” element, which explicitly states that someone has to have committed a crime in the first place in order to fulfill this element.

Mr. Hasapes stated that this meant one of the defendants knew the perpetrator intended to commit the crime and the other intended to aid and abet him in doing so. This aid could even just be in
the form of words, according to the People.

The third element is the uncharged conspiracy element, or the agreement among the parties to commit a crime in the first place.

Mr. Hasapes argued that the plan had been put into action but was not completed; therefore the parties were guilty of an attempted crime. Mr. Hasapes argued that the evidence proved that the defendant intended to shoot at an occupied vehicle, but failed to do so effectively.

The People’s counsel argued that the defendants took direct steps to commit this crime.

Mr. Hasapes said that direct steps require more than merely planning to commit a crime—rather there have to be definite and unambiguous intentions to commit said crime.

There also has to have been immediate steps put into place that put the plan in motion.

According to Mr. Hasapes, the plan would have been completed if some circumstance did not interrupt their intended plans and attempt.

Mr. Hasapes then turned his argument to mainly focus on Mr. Ramirez in his alleged attempt to use a semi-automatic weapon to assault the victim. The semi-automatic weapon would have directly and probably resulted in a use of force if the defendant had been successful in his attempt, according to Mr. Hasapes.

The defendant acted willfully and had the present ability to apply force with a semi-automatic firearm due to his gang affiliations, according to Mr. Hasapes.

The Broderick Boys street gang would not carry around unloaded weapons, according to the People’s argument.

Mr. Ramirez went on to explain to the jury how to understand what qualifies a group of people as a criminal street gang, and how that enhances the charges at hand.

The deputy DA claimed the evidence confirmed that the defendants are Broderick Boys through common signs used to confirm this street gang as well as other indicators, including tattoos and pictures with known members.

Mr. Hasapes described the pattern of the defendants’ criminal gang activity within the Broderick Boys, citing the most recent incident in 2014, which fall within the three-year requirement of a validated pattern. More than one person associated with this group or on several separate occasions must also have committed these crimes.

Predicate gang members were then listed to the jury.

In order to be convicted of these crimes, Mr. Hasapes must have provided enough evidence that the jury believes Lopez to have participated in the incident in a way that was more than passive.

Picture evidence was reviewed once again by Mr. Hasapes, in an effort to support the argument that Mr. Lopez was in the Broderick Boys at the time of the incident.

The police officers who searched Lopez’s apartment after the arrest documented shoes, red bandanas, and a letter to a documented Broderick Boy.

Mr. Hasapes brought up the “BRK” tattoo on Lopez’s face and continued to show more photos of the defendant’s other tattoos.

As for evidence of gang involvement on Ramirez’s part, Mr. Hasapes reiterated that the defendant was wearing red shorts under his pants at the scene. He also associated with known members of the gang and has gang-related tattoos.

Based on the outward expressions of the defendants, Hasapes argued that the defendants had knowledge that other members of the gang engaged in a pattern of criminal street gang activities.

According to Mr. Hasapes, he had successfully shown to the jury that there is a criminal street gang and that the events that occurred were in association with that gang.

The purpose for which they committed this crime, in Mr. Hasapes’ words, was for reputation, respect, and to scare their rivals. Members within the Broderick Boys must maintain their respect within in the community, and Mr. Hasapes argued that this was their way of so doing.

The idea of a shared gun is important to Mr. Hasapes’ argument because his case is based on the grounds that Lopez gave it to Ramirez and directed him to shoot it, Lopez being Ramirez’s superior in this scenario. In this situation, Lopez would have constructive possession of the firearm.

Attorney James Granucci, representing Mr. Lopez, then began his closing argument.

Mr. Granucci began by stating that Mother’s Day of 2016 may have had crimes, but an attempted shooting on behalf of his defendant did not occur. His client did not possess a firearm, constructively or otherwise.

The first responders did their job correctly and found no shell cases or bullets at the scene of the alleged crime.

There had been three contacts made by law enforcement with Mr. Lopez within the last three years before this arrest.

Granucci went on to claim that the CSI work was lacking in this case, and that the problem was the manufacturing of this crime—not taking witness statements but insisting on creating a gang-related charge.

There was absolutely no evidence that the defendants went back to the apartment for a gun and then hunted for the alleged victim, according to Granucci.

When law enforcement could not find the gun at Lopez’s apartment, they took pictures of his clothing and tattoos, and later searched the defendants’ phones months after the incident. The pictures they took from the phone and the defendants’ Facebook accounts did not provide any evidence of wrongdoing.

It was the first time for the testifying gang expert on the case to testify as a gang expert. The gang expert did not talk to any witnesses or anyone that can support that this is a gang case, according to Granucci.

The issue at hand is whether the People have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the gun was real and loaded.

The victim testimony is that they saw a gun, and that someone pulled the trigger several times, but nothing happened. The alleged victims would later identify Ramirez and Lopez.

Nothing came out of the side or top of the gun, and the witness testified they believed it not to be a. 25 caliber.

The witness described the gun as six inches long, or that the barrel was about the size of a marker.

Granucci emphasized that no one saw the bullet law, which law enforcement found in a gutter near the intersection, come out of the defendants’ car. They only found it after they had arrested Ramirez.

When analyzed for prints, they found nothing on the bullet and never tested it to see if it had been in a gun.

The defense attorney went on to explain that a .25 caliber bullet works for the smallest of guns, much smaller than that described by the alleged victim.

Mr. Hasapes did not prove the gun was real, and the gunshot residue expert stated that residue can get out of hand—even the cleanest of guns can leave residue.

Ramirez was handcuffed two or three different times and came into contact with several law enforcement officers carrying their own firearms.

Assuming it was a real gun, Mr. Granucci went on to argue that it was not proven that the gun was loaded and there was no witness testimony to prove otherwise.

Counts 7 and 8 were charging an ex-felon in possession of ammunition or a firearm, to which Mr. Granucci exclaimed that the People did not link any ammunition to Lopez and no firearm nor gunshot residue was found on Lopez.

Count 5 was the charge of willfully assisting a felonious crime, but in order to charge this crime, a felony must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

According to Granucci, this is not the case.

Neither witnesses nor victims knew this was a gang crime at the scene, and the gang expert testimony can only be as strong as what they base their evidence on.

Mr. Granucci argued that this gang expert’s testimony was all based on speculation, that he did not know the relationship between the defendants at all, and his classification of Lopez as an OG (Original Gangsters) gang member was not based on any evidence.

Lopez peacefully allowed the police to arrest him when he was pulled over after the incident.

Mr. Granucci ended his argument by stating that the district attorney’s office could have charged the defendants with a different crime that was more appropriate, like brandishing a fake or real gun, but this charge was not the appropriate one.

Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira, representing Mr. Ramirez, began her argument by listing the four key pieces of evidence to this case: video surveillance, the gunshot residue report, the bullet, and snapshots of the map.

Ms. Sequeira went on to describe the importance of the difference between circumstantial evidence and regular evidence.

When the jury is presented with two reasonable theories based on circumstantial evidence, Sequeira explained, they must accept the theory supporting innocence unless it is unreasonable.

In the video at the grocery store where Lopez and the alleged victim spoke, both parties left the store, got in their cars, and left. According to Ms. Sequeira, the idea that the defendants were hunting their prey is an unreasonable assumption.

Ms. Sequeira went on to state that every link in the circumstantial evidence chain must be proved in order for circumstantial evidence to prove the defendants guilty.

The victim was clear that nothing happened in the store, where supposedly the defendant saw the tattoo in the web of the victim’s fingers, which supposedly set him off. This defies logic, stated Ms. Sequeira.

If the Broderick Boys were this aggressive about territory, this would not have been the first time the victim would have been terrorized, having lived in the Broderick neighborhood for several years now, argued Sequeira.

Wouldn’t the defendants have attacked the victim in front of his kids right there in the parking lot where they first encountered each other, if they were such fear-mongering gang members?

Ms. Sequeira went on to ask what grounds the gang expert had to claim Lopez was an OG. Her argument went on to doubt the credibility of the expert’s testimony, considering his own interest and bias in the trial.

The crime of brandishing is the act of displaying a weapon in a menacing manner. If the firearm had been real it must have been a bigger gun than the one that went with the bullet they found, argued Ms. Sequeira.

According to Ms. Sequeira, the prosecution picked which part of the victim’s testimony that worked for their case, and attempted to discredit the parts that did not—like the part about the size of the gun.

The deputy public defender went on to remark that the gunshot residue test does not prove that you fired a firearm, since there are at least three different ways you can get gunshot residue on you, two of which do not involve firing a firearm.

The gunshot residue test does not prove, either, that the gun was real or loaded.

Referencing the video of Ramirez being taken out of the car upon arrest, there is no bullet falling out in any of the frames, stated Ms. Sequeira.

As far as the testimony about the distance and time it takes to drive from the Lighthouse Market to the apartment complex where Lopez lived, Ms. Sequeira remarked that the prosecution was attempting to manufacture evidence long after the incident had occurred.

How people are validated as gang members is problematic as well, argued Sequeira, citing an incident where law enforcement made contact with one of the victims at a church festival in his neighborhood 13 years prior to the incident.

Ms. Sequeira described several arrests that were made over the years on the grounds of gang affiliation, in which unnecessary pictures were taken of the defendants that were later used against them.

Ms. Sequeira ended her closing argument by stating that these men cannot ever win in a state that allows this kind of validation process, one that she believes to be unjust in their case.

It was then Mr. Hasapes’ turn at rebuttal.

Mr. Hasapes started by stating that the jury should not believe something is reasonable or unreasonable just because the defense says so, unless backed up by evidence.

In his words, this meant that the prosecution does not have to eliminate all possible doubt, only reasonable doubt.

Using a metaphor, Mr. Hasapes explained that although some scenarios may have been possible, that does not mean they are reasonable.

As far as the accusation of manufacturing a case, the deputy district attorney explained that his burden is to prove everything he can, and that the defense can provide their own expert witnesses if they disagree with his.

Mr. Hasapes went on to assert that, according to the victim’s testimony, the incident was not one of brandishing a weapon, since according to this testimony the defendant pointed the gun and pulled the trigger, which would be an attempted assault.

When a gun is pointed at your face, the size of the gun does not cross your mind, Mr. Hasapes explained in reply to Ms. Sequeira’s earlier argument.

As for the tattoo on the victim’s hand, Mr. Hasapes argued that someone who is trained to look for signs of gang affiliation, i.e. other gang members, would have noticed it.

Mr. Hasapes went on to question why the defendants would be at the same stoplight at the same time as the victim.

The deputy DA continued his argument by stating that the gang validation process is a complex system in the West Sacramento Police Department.

Mr. Hasapes closed by arguing that a gun does not have to be loaded in order for the charge to be an attempted shooting—the defendants just had to have intended to shoot at the vehicle.

Judge Janene Beronio then gave the jury their final instructions and sent them to deliberate.



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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch puts 8 to 12 interns into the Yolo County House to monitor and report on what happens. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org

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