By Leslie Alfonzo
Closing arguments were presented on September 18, 2019, in Department 20 for the trial of a defendant who was charged with auto theft, receiving stolen property, possession of stolen property, and obstructing and delaying justice.
On June 16, 2019, the complaining witness made a 911 call claiming that there had been a man breaking into his car and driving off with his vehicle. The assistant D.A. stated that the suspect drove the stolen vehicle for about an hour until the police started following him. The suspect supposedly hid the vehicle in McLaren Park and started running from the police. The defendant was in a truck when he was arrested.
The defense counsel, Deputy Public Defender Phoenix Streets, outlined several inconsistencies between the witness’ testimony and his statements to the police. The witness testified that the suspect drove back around the corner and almost hit him, even though the witness never gave such statement during the 911 call or to the police. He then testified that he ran to the suspect and placed his foot between the door and the car to keep the suspect from closing the door. The defendant then accelerated, causing the witness to tumble a couple feet on the street, but he sustained no injuries.
The assistant D.A.’s closing argument relied solely on the defendant’s statements to the police. She stated the defendant admitted to taking the car and admitted he knew that by taking the car he could be convicted of a crime. In addition, the assistant D.A. also relied on the defendant admitting he had taken the witness’ phone from his car and switched the SIM cards so it’d be harder for the police to track him. The assistant D.A. claimed that because the defendant admitted to these things he must have known what he was doing. The problem is that on the day of the incident the defendant was intoxicated and was having trouble even remembering what day it was.
Streets then pointed out that Officer George, the officer chasing the defendant, testified that the first time he saw the defendant was when he was running 30 feet away. Officer George also testified that he only saw him for a few seconds because he had lost him.
The assistant D.A. attempted to show that defendant had knowledge of the police chasing him because the defendant took off his bright blue shirt so that he could blend in with his surroundings. However, Streets accurately pointed out that any shirtless and shoeless man running through a neighborhood rings alarm bells rather than blending in.