A jury seemingly hung due to this simple, yet powerful word: “No.” Will it happen again?
By Carly Gunn
Gerald James Elledge is currently facing a retrial in Yolo County’s Department 14 due to a hung jury in the first trial earlier this year. The defendant is now facing one felony count and one enhancement for a violation of Penal Code section 459, burglary. Both prosecutor Shelby Davitt and defense attorney Dean Johansson gave their opening statements this morning.
Ms. Davitt began by retelling the story of July 25, 2018, when a young female’s apartment in Arlington Farms was broken into. The night was warm and still as the resident’s front door was busted down and a loud bang followed.
At around 6:30pm the resident rushed out of bed to investigate the booming noise, when she was met at her bedroom door by a man. As they stared at one another for roughly five seconds, she remembered he was Hispanic, wearing a white tank top, about 5’10 and had some facial hair. After being in great shock and disbelief, the resident dialed 911 and waited for Davis police to arrive. Upon police arrival and after recording her statement of the crime, they then patrolled the surrounding areas.
As the invader was on foot and nowhere to be seen, another burglary was unfolding in Tanglewood Apartments. Officer Richard Squibbs, on the scene at Arlington Farms, received a dispatch that another burglary was happening in south Davis and rushed over.
After asking for an update on the scene, Officer Squibbs realized it may be the same man due to the similar profiles. Lastly, in Davitt’s opening statement, she said that the zigzag footprint left on the Arlington resident’s door matched that of the man in the second burglary.
Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson began by asking the jury to stray away from the “maybes” and the “coulds,” but to focus on the absolute fact, the beyond reasonable doubt that every case should strive for.
Mr. Johansson pointed out the fact that it would be challenging for Mr. Elledge to have gotten across town that quickly from one site to another, let alone commit two crimes. Johansson stressed the fact that in the first burglary nothing was stolen, only a couch cushion had been moved. Whereas in the second burglary, an entire television and computer system was in the process of being stolen.
During this second burglary, Mr. Elledge was arrested and suffered some injuries during the process. He was then taken to the hospital where he was met by the Arlington resident. Officer Squibbs had notified her that they had arrested a man in a second burglary that matched the profile she had given. She met the police officers at the hospital, in which the police made it clear that it was okay if this was not the man that broke into her apartment.
Upon seeing Mr. Elledge behind the hospital curtain, the Arlington resident said she was pretty sure it was him. Dean Johansson closed with the fact that “pretty sure” is not beyond a reasonable doubt, and someone’s life cannot depend on “maybes” or “coulds.” After both of these opening statements, two witnesses were then called to the stand, the Arlington resident herself, as well as Officer Squibbs.
The witness recounted the night as previously described above. She explained her fear and shock as she was faced with an ill-intentioned stranger in her home. After the police believed they found the suspect, Mr. Elledge, they asked her to identify him. She said she was seven or eight out of ten sure it was him. Later that night, after coming down from the adrenaline and scare, she repudiated her previous statement and was now nine out of ten sure it was him. However, this case is not proving to be this simple. It seems as though all the pieces align and the puzzle is completed, however, it is soon understood why the previous jury was hung.
After the Arlington resident identified photos of Mr. Elledge on the stand, she claimed that, yes, it was he who broke into her apartment. She then stated “No,” when asked by Mr. Johansson, “Do you see the man that broke into your apartment here in court?” Shortly after she was excused, Officer Squibbs was called to the stand.
Officer Squibbs recounted the summer evening and reinstated the previously mentioned points of the case. Officer Squibbs was at the scene of the first burglary at Arlington Farms, then also sped over to Tanglewood for additional backup in the second burglary. Upon arrival, Squibbs asked for an update, in which the police present on the scene said the burglar was a Hispanic man in a white tank top with some facial hair.
This is when he called the Arlington resident to ask for her identification. After recalling the incident, Officer Squibbs was asked if the burglar from Tanglewood was in the room and he said, “Yes,” and pointed at Mr. Elledge.