By Pedro Maturana
The trial of Sok Cheat Pin concluded on Friday afternoon with the jury finding Mr. Pin guilty of Count 1, possession of a firearm with a previous felony conviction, and guilty of Count 2, discharge of a firearm.
Mr. Pin will return to court on April 8, 2019, for sentencing.
Previously: Real Gun or Toy Gun?
by Elizabeth Griffiths
The trial of the People v. Sok Cheat Pin resumed today, and one witness was called to the stand, which was followed by closing statements. Mr. Pin is being charged with possession of a firearm and shooting a firearm with gross negligence.
The prosecutor, Deputy DA Preston Schaub, called Detective Robert Brazier, one of the investigators in the case, to the stand. He currently works for the West Sacramento Police Department in the investigations department as a detective. Detective Brazier interviewed Mr. Pin’s girlfriend, “Ms. M,” after receiving information that the call she had with Mr. Pin at the jail may contain information relevant to his case.
When Detective Brazier interviewed Ms. M, she said that she found the firearm in the apartment and hid it. She never stated that Mr. Pin told her about the firearm, but she knew there was a firearm in her home and it needed to be moved. She claimed that she hid the firearm because there are children in her house and she did not want them to find it.
She eventually claimed that she gave the firearm to someone else; however, the detective never tried to contact the person to whom she said she gave the firearm. The firearm still has not been located.
The prosecution began their closing statements by asking the jury to think about the questions: “Is it him?” and “Is it a real gun?” Mr. Schaub stated that the statements and actions of Mr. Pin and his girlfriend show they are aware of their crime and aware of their guilt.
Mr. Schaub said the first statement Mr. Pin gave to the police was that he was in his car smoking marijuana when the shots were fired. However, in the jail call he had with his girlfriend, the narrative changed to his saying he was shooting a toy gun.
The prosecution then pointed out discrepancies between the English conversation in the jail call and the words conducted in Cambodian. In English, the conversation was about Mr. Pin not having the gun, and in Cambodian, the conversation was about hiding the gun. Mr. Schaub said they switched to speaking in Cambodian during this call in hopes that no one else knew Cambodian.
Mr. Schaub then brought up the belief that the gun was not a toy gun because of how it fired like a real gun. The prosecution also claimed the way the shooter was shooting the gun suggests gross negligence, due to how the shooter was positioned in the surveillance video and his firing of the gun, as well as the fact that they were in a residential area.
The defense, represented by Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira, began her closing statement by saying that it is not the defense’s job to bring in evidence because the burden of proof is placed on the government. She then posed the question: What could the government have brought in that would have been objective evidence?
She began by referring back to testimonies that stated all guns leave behind gun residue when shot, and this residue usually stays around for about a week. She pointed out that the government never got the lab tests back that would have shown whether Mr. Pin had gun residue on his hands, even though those tests only take about a couple weeks and the incident took place in November.
She also pointed out how it was interesting that no footage was ever provided as evidence. The body cameras of two of the officers were said to have died before entering and searching Mr. Pin’s apartment; however, no footage of the other two body cameras were shown.
In addition, she stated that the footage from these cameras could have shown where the officers searched when they said they could not find the gun. The footage also could have confirmed what Mr. Pin was wearing that night to connect him to the crime. However, none of the footage from these cameras was used in the trial.
Ms. Sequeira also pointed out that no one ever asked the 16- and 17-year-old boys who were there that night what happened in the apartment. She also said the claim that they could not have fired the guns because of their age is unreasonable because the court consistently sees people of this age commit crimes involving the shooting of guns.
The defense also said that the police officers were given consent by Mr. Pin and his girlfriend to search the apartment. Thus, the police officers had no limits to what they could search. However, all the officers searching still could not find the gun, even though it was only an 800-square-foot apartment.
She concluded by discussing how there is no evidence that the gun was a real gun, since no testimony was given about how light from a real gun would look in a black and white video. In regard to the charge of shooting a firearm with gross negligence, Ms. Sequeira pointed out that the closest building is far away and the height that the gun was shot at would have made the bullet go above any of the other buildings. She also stated that there was no evidence given that would prove the bullet would have traveled the distance the prosecution claims it did, thus the shooting of the firearm could not have caused any injury or death.
The jury will begin their deliberations on Friday.