by Cres Vellucci
WOODLAND – Earlier this month, Judge Paul Richardson found 10 activists not guilty after they faced charges for protesting at Monsanto’s Woodland headquarters – but only following repeated court dates, two trial days and some expense to taxpayers of Yolo County in an alleged loitering case.
All 10 arrested were acquitted without even having to put on a defense, since, as Judge Richardson put it, “the government did not prove its case.”
But that same week, within 24 hours, and in the same courthouse and the same department, another big pile of tax dollars went up in smoke in Dept. 13 of the Yolo County Superior Courthouse.
This time, it took a jury less than an hour – jury decisions can’t be made much faster – to rule not guilty in a felony shooting case, and continue Yolo District Attorney Jeff Reisig’s run of bad March luck.
Reisig has a reputation for taking defendants to trial no matter what – even if the charges don’t appear to be objectively warranted. Many district attorneys do the same thing because the vast majority of defendants, guilty or not, take a deal to avoid a trial.
The DA’s gambit usually pays off. But, not in the case of the Monsanto 10, as they called themselves, and defendant Marco Antonio Medina.
Medina’s trial began Feb. 22, on assault charges, for allegedly firing a semi-automatic firearm at David Brown, Felicia Gomez and Jesse Black. According to court records, there was no question
there was a shooting – but the issue was the identity of the shooter at the Greenery apartments in Woodland.
Was it Medina? Gomez said it was, but she refused to testify at trial. And it was learned at trial that she was previously convicted of identity theft and had current identity theft charges pending. And, coincidentally or not, Gomez was released from custody by police shortly after she accused Medina of firing the weapon. Police conducted very little investigation other than taking Gomez’s word for it.
Still, the DA took Medina to trial with only the solitary accusation, and not even the trial testimony of that witness, who would not testify in the courtroom.
And it got worse when a supposed second witness took the stand at trial.
The witness – who was unnamed for security reasons – testified she heard one gunshot sound come from the parking lot and added she saw people running to the upstairs apartment, as well as a red vehicle driving away from the apartments.
However, the witness was unable to classify his race, or recall what the man was wearing that day, and when the defense asked the witness if she could recognize the man she believed to have shot the gun, her response was, “No,” even though defendant Medina was sitting right in front of her.
The red car the witness saw speed away? It wasn’t Medina’s. Instead the license plate identified the owner as the father of Gomez – the woman who said Medina was the culprit.
The jury ruled in less than 60 minutes, but the taxpayers footed the bill for two weeks of trial when all DA Reisig’s office apparently had for evidence was a witness who couldn’t identify the defendant, and the word of a convicted criminal who later refused to testify at trial – whose father drove the supposed “getaway” car.
In the Monsanto 10 case, the case was so flimsy that the judge didn’t even have to hear the defense side before he stopped the trial to find them not guilty.
Sometimes, it appears, putting pressure on defendants by overcharging them or charging them in the first place with little or no evidence is costly – not to defendants, but to taxpayers.