Jurors Question How Criminal Charges Are Distributed

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By Danielle Eden Silva

Jurors paused their deliberation to hear attorney arguments on the how criminal charges are distributed between multiple people.

The deliberating jurors for a vandalism and petty theft case asked the court the amount of responsibility multiple people may have over a crime. In their question, they used the example of two individuals committing a crime — one person commits $300 worth in damage and the other commits $10,000 worth in damage. How would the amount be divided between the two of them?

These jurors, deliberating for the vandalism and petty theft charges against Sonny John Linard, led the court to create new jury instructions. The court explained that the jury should not focus on defendants who are not present. The jury should focus on whether the defendant directly committed the crime or if the defendant “aided or abetted.”

The attorneys argued specifically on how aiding and abetting applied. Deputy District Attorney Sara Abrate used the example of a senior high school prank. If 10 students plan to egg, toilet paper, streamer, and spray paint the school, all are held accountable for the action even if they did separate jobs. Promoting or knowing about the crime is enough to show aiding and abetting.

Attorney Abrate stated the tire tracks, tools, and footprints were present on all four days of theft. The defendant is charged with vandalism and theft of copper wire from Bullseye Farm in Woodland. In addition, she claimed the defendant financially benefited from the crime. He provided the materials to commit the crime and should be seen as just as guilty for all the damages.

Deputy Public Defender James Bradford held a different stance. He argued that the prosecution still had the same burden of proof and could not shift the blame. Attorney Bradford pointed out that the prosecution had not mentioned aiding and abetting from their opening to closing statements. In addition, he shared that the act of aiding and abetting requires actions — knowledge alone is not enough.

He used the senior prank example again. If an 11th student was inspired to copy what the first 10 had done, they would not be held accountable for the original offenses.

In her final rebuttal, Attorney Abrate argued that the jurors should look again at the jury instructions which provides their own definition of aiding and abetting. She reminded them not to consider why another person wasn’t there but to concentrate on how the defendant was an active participant. The defendant had driven off a road into the middle of a field and continued to bring tools and cash in what was stolen. She stated the defendant was just as guilty.

The court released the jury to deliberations once more.


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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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