By Carly Gunn
January 1, 2019, was not filled with New Year’s festivities, resolutions or fun celebrations. Instead it was met with hurtful words and death threats. The prosecution presented its opening statement this morning, May 14, 2019, in Department 13 for the charges against Daniel Lopez for violating Penal Code section 422. She began by recounting the chilly evening where the alleged victim spent time with friends and family at the Willow Creek Horse Farm. In the midst of laughter and relaxation, the victim heard the sound of tires speeding down the gravel driveway and couldn’t imagine who it could be. The victim then opened the roll-up metal door and saw the defendant, Daniel Lopez, in his white pick-up truck. Mr. Lopez then got out of his truck and started to verbally attack the victim.
The defense’s opening statement reiterated the facts given by the People. However, it included that Mr. Lopez was once an employee of the victims and worked at the Willow Creek ranch with him. Not only was Lopez an employee, but he was also the husband and father of the victim’s daughter. The defense closed by reinforcing the fact that the defendant did not have a weapon.
The first witness called to the stand was the victim himself. He described his employment and ownership at the Willow Creek Horse Farm and that the duration of his employment was four years. He identified Lopez in court and stated they had known each other for four years as well. When discussing Lopez’s employment under the victim, the victim stated that Lopez was not a reliable, good worker, but rather made a lot of excuses. He then re-told the story that the prosecutor had previously given. The victim stated his surprise and curiosity as to why Lopez was on his property and what he was doing there at the time. The victim proceeded to ask Lopez what he was doing and Lopez answered with great aggression, followed with insults and saying, “son of a b****.” Lopez was making the victim grow anxious and unsure as he continued to keep one hand in his jacket pocket while arguing with him. The defendant further said that he was going to beat the victim up and “put him to sleep.” After this altercation which lasted about five minutes, Lopez sped off in his truck, leaving a cloud of dust.
The defense then cross-examined the witness and began with clarifying questions. The attorney seemingly found it important to understand how fast the truck was moving and how it was disrespectful for Lopez to arrive unannounced and unwanted. A decent amount of time was spent on the victim’s previous testimony and what he was currently saying. The differentiation between the words “scared” and “nervous” took up a large portion of this cross-examination, and how they could mean different things. Another area of discussion was that the defendant’s mother-in-law was present and she too was trying to get Lopez to calm down and refrain from being so upset. After this cross, the People conducted a redirect.
The People stated that the victim had called Lopez’s mother to notify her of her son’s whereabouts and actions. The victim took Lopez’s words and actions as a serious threat, and further stated that there is no legitimate reason for him to lie about the things Lopez had stated.
The second witness called to the stand was the victim’s nephew. This witness had few interactions with Lopez previous to this encounter. The witness had brought his brother and mother-in-law to meet his uncle because they had just come in from Mexico and he really valued the relationship he shared with his uncle. Lopez was then identified in court by the witness. The witness recounted his uncle telling Lopez to calm down and he further recalled the threatening words of, “I will put you to sleep.” He then explained that he took this as an implication that he was going to kill the victim. He was not only concerned for his uncle’s safety, but he was also worried about his extended family and his children’s.
The defense then did a brief cross-examination in which the witness stated he worked at the ranch for his uncle. He also clarified that he had not seen a weapon at any period in time and there was no threat made to the victim’s partner.
The third witness called to stand was the defendant’s wife. She stated that they were currently separated and in the process of getting a divorce. She said that the victim, her father, had been actively involved in her life since the age of 13 or 14. Her father called her after Lopez had showed up, and wanted to make sure she was safe.