by Nabil Sirur
Closing arguments were presented in Department 25 for the trial of defendant Mr. Rivas, who is charged with an armed robbery in San Francisco.
On March 24, 2019, the complaining witness, “Mr. A,” claimed he had been robbed at gunpoint by two perpetrators. The assistant D.A. stated Mr. A was on Paris Street and Avalon Avenue outside his truck smoking a cigarette. He lived with a girlfriend near that location. Mr. A was parked about a couple of blocks from the house when he claims that two perpetrators came up to him and one of them held a gun in the back side of his head. The person with the gun demanded that Mr. A never come back again.
The other perpetrator then took his wallet and then both left the scene. After the incident occurred, Mr. A called the police officers and told them that he had been robbed at gunpoint. He had attempted to look at the suspect who had the gun from the corner of his eyes to see if he could get a good enough look at him to identify him.
The defense counsel, Deputy Public Defender Andrea Lindsay, pointed out inconsistent statements Mr. A had made leading up to the trial. She explained to the court that it’s not because he is lying, but that he is confused. First, he initially told the officer the suspect was wearing a blue sweater but later said it was a black shirt. He also expressed that the suspect was wearing gloves, but that later changed as well.
On Monday, the responding officer had testified briefly for the assistant D.A. He stated Mr. A told him he thought the suspect might be the son of the girlfriend he lives with, but was not sure. The officer at the time did ask why he thought it was the son. Mr. A stated to him it was because his girlfriend had had problems with her son ever since he had moved out three weeks ago. He was shown pictures of Mr. Rivas multiple times by the officers. That was when the complaining witness confirmed it was Mr. Rivas, the defendant who is alleged to have committed the act.
The assistant D.A. in her closing arguments was banking on Mr. A’s eyewitness testimony. The problem is he only had a peripheral view of the suspect and, at the time of the incident, and he was under high levels of stress. On top of that, it’s known that Mr. A had made inconsistent statements to the police officers. The D.A. also wanted the jury to know that the had defendant moved out three weeks ago. She was trying to show a motive and a narrative where the defendant was upset that he had moved out of the house and Mr. A moved in.
The assistant D.A. also brought up the fact that both the victim and the defendant are Latino. She referred to a racial effect where she claimed it reduces the likelihood of Mr. A giving a false identification to the defendant because they are of the same race. She also was downplaying in her closing an expert witness’ testimony, who agreed with the defense counsel that it’s nearly impossible to identify someone from peripheral vision.
The facts are that there was no evidence of a firearm, no corroboration and no in-depth interview for the alleged victim about this case. In fact, the defense counsel pointed out that they had to use their own investigators to go out and search for video surveillance near the area to prove that Mr. Rivas was not the person. Usually, the defense argued, if the assistant D.A. was certain it was the defendant who committed the crime they would have had more incentive to get the video surveillance.