By Danielle Eden C. Silva
On May 10, 2018, Department 11 reconvened the trial of Heder Leising Migoya. Mr. Migoya is charged with first-degree murder with the enhancement of using a deadly weapon.
The prosecution recalled Detective Lech Garcia as a rebuttal witness. The People focused on the detective’s interview with Mr. Migoya on September 29, 2017. She referred to a translated transcript of the interview.
Detective Garcia and Detective Dana Simpson interviewed Mr. Migoya for three to four hours, Detective Garcia speaking the most with his fluent Spanish. Detective Garcia gave Mr. Migoya his Miranda warnings in English and Spanish before checking that he understood.
In Mr. Migoya’s retelling, his former partner drew the knife on the defendant. He hit the knife away from her and hit her face. He mentioned he believed his former partner had been sleeping with other men for a long time. Additionally, the defendant did not mention walking into a coffee table and making noise during the interview.
When Mr. Migoya entered the room, the defendant described his former partner had been “scared and startled” before turning on the light. As she covered herself, she told him to get out and wait outside. The defendant asked who the man in the bed was as he did not pay rent for another man.
In seeing the victim, Dustin Dougherty, the defendant felt anger and hatred. He mentioned these emotions came from the love of his family and he had to attack first, pulling out his pocket knife. The former partner told him the victim in bed was just a friend but Mr. Migoya had bought that bed for his former partner and son, not intercourse.
After seeing the blood and hearing his former partner scream, the defendant fled to Calaveras County. He noted he needed to head to work and the police would look for him anyway.
Detective Garcia confirmed he studied the transcript and video of the interview, having corrected the transcript himself. Detective Garcia did mention that Mr. Migoya called his former partner a hypocrite and, in response to hearing “Dusty” was dead due to the injuries, shared he wanted to defend himself, “defend his pride as a man.”
In cross-examination, the defense clarified Detective Garcia spoke Mexican Spanish and that Spanish words can have more than one meaning. In one part of the case, Detective Garcia had interpreted the term “camera” as “jacket” instead of “blanket.” Only later when they discovered there was no jacket in the bedroom did they know that the translation was different.
In regard to the interview, Detective Garcia confirmed he asked for an explanation of what happened. The defense mentioned the first quarter of the interview focused on Mr. Migoya’s relationship to the former partner instead of the incident.
Mr. Migoya had mentioned they lived separately but he paid for her housing situation so he could support his son. He still worked at the farm and the defendant and his former partner agreed they could possibly get back together if he kept providing her money. He suspected that she might be cheating on him and didn’t want to be seen as a fool.
The former partner, the defense argued, had been taking advantage of him monetarily. The defendant had to pay $6,000 for a midwife instead of the former partner going to a hospital. The former partner was also upset at the defendant sending money to the mother of his other daughter. He had child support obligations for his son and daughter and bought the bed the former partner used for her and his son.
When the defendant saw the man in the bed intended for his son and former partner, he confirmed his suspicions of her sleeping with other men and became angry. Mr. Migoya saw she was just interested in the money and mentioned he was also helping to pay for the rent that was likely also used for the man staying there.
When the former partner insulted the defendant with a knife, the defense argued the defendant could have hit her face while intending to get rid of the pocket knife from her hand.
When the man jumped on Mr. Migoya, he got angrier and pulled out his pocket knife. In this part of the interview, the defense asked for the definition of “astustada” which Detective Garcia interpreted as scared, with startled being better interpreted as “sorprendido.” The defense then pointed out several instances where the term surprised and scared were used almost interchangeably.
The defendant was noted to cry twice during the interview – the first time when he is told he is a good father and the second time when he hears the victim died. After the reveal of the victim’s death, the defendant noted that love can become hatred.
After a brief separation, the victim swatted at the knife and because the defendant was scared from the blood, he had loosened his grip and the knife fell from his hand. The defendant wanted to defend himself with his fists but he already had the pocket knife and needed to act. The entire interaction only lasted a few minutes.
The detective confirmed that the interview wasn’t completely in a linear narrative. Mr. Migoya was noted by the defense as accepting if the former partner left him, he still wanted to have his son. Mr. Migoya said he wanted to defend himself.
In redirect, Detective Gonzales believed that Mr. Migoya took actions further than he should have. The first quarter of the transcript also wasn’t restricted to the money issues but child custody issues and how the former partner left him. Additionally, Mr. Migoya mentioning her speaking with other men and Mr. Migoya speaking about child support and anger were in separate sections of the interview. The part of other men in bed also mentioned nothing about money. Detective Garcia agreed that the audio, video, and transcript best provided context.
Returning to the defense, Detective Garcia affirmed that Mr. Migoya said he tried to defend himself, aiming for the other man’s legs.
Detective Garcia told the prosecution Mr. Migoya didn’t want to lose his son because he realized he had been the one to make the other bleed.
With Detective Garcia was excused, the defense called Mr. Migoya’s former boss to the stand.
Mr. Migoya had been introduced to the witness through the former partner. The defendant and the former partner lived on the witness’ land from the spring of 2012 to the spring of 2015. The witness saw them as a couple that worked well together in the field. While they did argue, the pair appeared to have a good relationship.
The witness shared that Mr. Migoya always had a tool ready, a pocket knife as one such tool.
During the prosecution’s questioning, the witness admitted they had been disconnected since Mr. Migoya and the former partner stopped living with him. While they did stay in his house for a while, the defendant and the former partner had a cottage which he couldn’t really be aware of them at all times. Mr. Migoya and the witness worked long hours of the day together where Mr. Migoya came off as a social person. The two of them, however, never traveled together.
The court adjourned for lunch, reconvening for the afternoon session.