by Michelle Lagos
Woodland – Judge Paul K. Richardson declared a mistrial in the suspected Slide Hill Park serial masturbator case after the jury was deadlocked on all counts.
On June 25, 2018, between the hours of 7 am and 7:15 am, while jogging through Slide Hill Park in Davis the alleged victim claimed that the defendant, Martin Arturo Rios, said “good morning” to her as she ran by him. In her attempt to reciprocate his greeting, she directed her gaze toward him. The alleged victim claimed to have then seen Mr. Rios with his pants below his knees, masturbating while staring directly at her with a grin on his face. Fearing that Mr. Rios may attempt to follow her or cause harm to her, she proceeded to leave the scene. The following day the alleged victim reported the incident to Officer Keirith Briesenick of the Davis Police Department.
In the closing statements, the prosecution argued that Mr. Rios has “his pension for a certain sexual thrill, masturbating in public.”
According to the prosecution, Mr. Rios “willfully exposed his genitals in the presence of another person or persons who might be offended or annoyed by (his) actions.” Also when exposing himself, Mr. Rios “acted lewdly by intending to direct public attention to his genitals for the purpose to sexually arose or gratify himself.” The prosecution argued that Mr. Rios knowingly acknowledged his victim by saying “good morning” and directly offended her with his actions by drawing attention to himself in a public area.
The alleged victim was so offended by Mr. Rios that she feared for her safety and reported the incident to the police. When testifying in court, over a year after the alleged incident took place, the alleged victim was so disturbed that she “broke down crying” on the stand and could hardly stomach looking at the defendant. The prosecution argued that Mr. Rios’ actions were the direct cause of her emotional outburst.
The prosecution went on to explain that, in a similar incident on April 19, 2017, Mr. Rios “willfully and purposefully” exposed his genitals to another alleged victim, in the parking lot of a Whole Foods Market on First Street in Davis. Similar to the incident in Slide Hill Park, Mr. Rios was seen by the alleged victim with “his pants down to his thighs, his penis out, and staring” directly at her. The victim immediately called the police and when Officer Mathew Muscardini arrived on the scene, he proceeded to contact a CSI technician who discovered semen at the scene.
Due to this past offense in the Whole Foods parking lot, the prosecution argued that, because Mr. Rios has engaged in this type of behavior before, it was more likely that he would do it again.
In response to the prosecution, Deputy Public Defender Joseph Gocke argued that the officers who were in charge of the case failed to conduct further investigation and failed to create a credible line up.
Mr. Gocke argued that the initial description given by the alleged victim of the Slide Hill Park incident was vague. She described him as being light skinned with dark hair and trimmed facial hair. The alleged victim did not provide any description of the defendant’s height or weight. Mr. Gocke also pointed out that both victims failed to mention Mr. Rios’ lip piercing when giving their description to police.
In response, the prosecution showed the defendant’s driver’s license to indicate to the jury that, while both witnesses failed to describe the piercing on Mr. Rios’ lip, their descriptions of the defendant were similar. And even in the photo the prosecution showed to the jury the lip piercing was almost unnoticeable.
Furthermore, Mr. Gocke stated that, while Officer Briesenick is a “calm” and “good” police officer, she was simply not ready for this type of situation. He pointed out that Officer Briesenick could have called the alleged victims for further descriptions of the defendant but chose not to. Officer Briesenick could have also obtained Mr. Rios’ cell phone’s GPS coordinates but did not.
During the photo line up, Mr. Gocke argued that the officers used a non-blind six-pack line up instead of a blind sequential line up. This, according to their expert witness Dr. Eisen, can at times lead to false identifications. Mr. Gocke also acknowledged that the practice of a non-blind six-pack line up will soon be an out-of-date practice in roughly 100 days. Starting January 1, the blind sequential line up will be the preferred method used during a photo line up because it does not allow for victims to “do a comparative determination.”
However, the prosecution argued that Dr. Eisen was not able to directly give his expert opinion in this case because he did not interview the victims. Dr. Eisen was only able to give a general idea of how the line up could have an impact on the identification of the defendant but he also stated that it would not always apply in every case.
Mr. Gocke also pointed out that, after the photo line up, through Officer Briesenick’s body cam, she could be heard indicating to the alleged victim that she had “credible evidence” and believed that the person the alleged victim had identified “(had) done it on two or three other occasions.” Officer Briesenick went on to say, “Thank you for calling. Even a vague description helps because we know who the bad guys are.”
Mr. Gocke argued that Officer Briesenick’s feedback had a significant impact on the alleged victim. Even after all this time, the alleged victim remembered Officer Briesenick’s statement to her, but could not remember pointing out Mr. Rios in the lineup or even signing her name on the official documents indicating Mr. Rios as the attacker.
The prosecution proceeded to argue that, even though the alleged victim of the Slide Hill Park incident could not remember those exact details; she never changed her description of Mr. Rios. Even when Officer Briesenick indicated that the DA’s office would be conducting an investigation, the alleged victim never changed her description of the defendant.
After a few hours of deliberation, the jury found themselves unable to agree on the charges. The jury found themselves deadlocked, 10 to two for a guilty verdict. With the jury being unable to come to an agreement, Judge Richardson declared a mistrial.