Guilty until Proven Innocent

By Adam Ruthenbeck

On Wednesday morning in Department 26, we heard the closing arguments in a murder trial. Deputy Public Defender Yali Corea-Levy gave a passionate closing argument.  For over an hour, he spoke just about the holes and inconsistencies in the evidence against the defendant, and implored the jury to consider whether there are reasonable conclusions other than that the defendant committed the murder.

Mr. Corea-Levy began the day by asserting that this is a case of circumstantial evidence, due to a lack of direct evidence that it was defendant who pulled the trigger.  He argued that we cannot make inferences from the limited direct evidence that has been presented, since inferences are often wrong.  He added that we cannot decide based on probability or chance when someone is being accused of murder.

He then reminded the jury of the concept of burden of proof before stating that Assistant District Attorney Omid Talai has not met his burden.  He continued by asserting that the fact there are so many reasonable questions about who was in the car during the murder and who might have pulled the trigger is crucial evidence in and of itself.

Mr. Corea-Levy also brought up the fact that the video footage which supposedly showed the defendant leaving the scene was extremely vague and inconclusive, leaving much room for inferences to be made.

Next, he went over some of the testimony that had been heard during the trial.  He began with Sergeant Gordon, whose testimony included a description of different camera angles and shots that would prove guilt.  But with the actual video in front of him, Sergeant Gordon could only say “I’m not sure” and “kind of looks like it but I can’t recognize.”  This was after testifying as if he intimately knew the details of the cameras.  Mr. Corea-Levy argued that this shows a narrow consideration of evidence.

He then referenced the testimony of Sergeant Jackson, which he called some of the strangest testimony that we heard.  Sergeant Jackson was brought in because he is an officer who knows how to interpret slang, but during his testimony, the questions asked by ADA Omid Talai became about YouTube videos and what he has seen in them.  Mr. Talai asked Sergeant Jackson if he has seen people loading guns in videos, then if people ever wear gloves in these videos.  So now we have YouTube videos being presented as evidence to prove why they wouldn’t test shell cases for fingerprints or DNA.

It is strange that in this case the prosecution doesn’t want to use valuable law enforcement resources to test a shell, when that could be extremely helpful to their case.  This implies, according to the defense, that they didn’t want to find anyone’s DNA on there but the defendant’s.

The fact that the prosecution has relied primarily on circumstantial evidence in order to lock a man up essentially means that they are presuming guilt.  It seems that, in this case, the prosecution and our police officers have operated under the mindset that if we could not find evidence, it is because you destroyed it, not because you are innocent.


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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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