by K. Hall
At a preliminary hearing in Department 14 of Yolo County Superior Court, Robin Johnson, the prosecuting attorney, called two Yolo County deputy sheriffs as witnesses to provide testimony in the case against Vincente Andres Marroquin and Fabian Jessie Martinez. The defendants in this case are accused of allegedly assaulting a fellow inmate in 2016 while they were being held in police custody on matters unrelated to this case. The two witnesses for the prosecution positively identified the defendants, Vincente Marroquin and Jessie Martinez, as the alleged attackers. One witness asserted that at the time of the incident both defendants were active members of the notorious Norteños street gang.
According to the first witness, Deputy Matthew Martin, the day of the alleged occurrence he was called to the county jail in response to what was initially described as a “fight between inmates.” He testified that upon his arrival he personally saw injuries on the victim which he believed to be consistent with the nature of the alleged attack. Additionally, Dep. Martin stated that he watched video footage of the incident, spoke with other officers and read their reports.
He testified that in the video, he first witnessed two men standing near a stairwell. Within a few moments a third man, the victim, walks past them. As he does, one of the two defendants delivers a swift blow to the back of the victim’s head. Arguably due to the blow, the victim then falls forward, striking his forehead against a wall before collapsing on the floor. At that point Deputy Martin stated that the victim seemed to be “passed out” because he was seemingly motionless as both men continued to assault him.
When asked by Ms. Johnson if he could identify the alleged assailants that appeared in the video and if they were present in the courtroom, Dep. Martin calmly indicated that he could and proceeded to positively identify Marroquin and Martinez as the two alleged assailants. Upon cross-examination, Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira questioned Martin regarding his subsequent investigation into the incident. Martin offered that Marroquin and Martinez were in no way the only other inmates in custody at the time.
When questioned further, Martin also stated that he could only identify the defendants because of their association with this case and would be unable to identify from memory all the other individuals who were in custody at the time of the incident. According to Martin, of those in custody, all potential witnesses including the victim refused to be interviewed regarding this event.
The second witness for the prosecution, a 6.5-year Yolo County Gang Task Force veteran, was Officer Dana Simpson who confirmed that she too had seen the video and that, at the time of the alleged assault in 2016, she was an active member of the gang task force. Officer Simpson testified that during her tenure there she served as the lead investigating officer in “no less than twenty” suspected Norteños criminal investigations, commonly involving charges of violent assault, murder, robbery and or drug-related crime. Simpson stated that she has attended at least 600 hours of formal gang-related officer training and spent over 800 informal hours of her time on gang-related matters.
Simpson identified Marroquin to the court as a member of the Norteños gang, based upon prior contact with him in relation to a different case. Simpson later confirmed that she had seen a photograph of Martinez prior to this case and confidently identified him to the court as a member of the Norteños gang as well. Throughout her testimony, Simpson discussed distinct tattoos, specifically including variations of the number 14 and the color red as commonly used identification markers among Norteños members. She described several of Martinez’s tattoos in her testimony. She specifically discussed a distinct red “northern star” tattoo, located on the right side of Mr. Martinez’s neck which was plainly visible, as a symbol of his Norteño membership.
Simpson testified that the victim, prior to this case, was unknown to her. However, she mentioned that he had a tattoo on his chest which she described as a “red flag.” According to Simpson, the words in the victim’s tattoo contain reference to the Caucasian race and seemed to her a potential indicator of gang connections. However, upon cross-examination by Ms. Sequeira, Simpson conceded that upon inquiry into the victim’s history no gang affiliation could be found. Furthermore, Ms. Sequeira pointed out that the words in the victims’ tattoo are coincidentally identical to the lyrics in a popular country music song. Simpson said that she was unfamiliar with that song and as such couldn’t definitively rule it out as a source of inspiration for the tattoo in question.
At the close of the day, Judge Rosenberg announced that he will hear closing arguments from both sides tomorrow morning at 10:30 and will subsequently deliver a ruling on whether on not this case should proceed to trial.