By Hannah Grayson
On Monday morning in Department 16, Judge Eric R. Fleming presided over the first day of an MS-13 gang-related murder trial with two defendants.
On March 17, 2017, at about 12:47 a.m., a man was fatally shot twice after exiting a bar in the Mission. The first defendant is on trial for the murder, while the second defendant is on trial for helping him and for gang activity.
In the opening statement by Assistant District Attorney Adam Maldonado, he spent much of his time focusing on the security footage of the surrounding area around the time of the murder. The videos showed what appears to be two men following the victim and a friend after they exited the bar. Another obstructed video did not show the victim being shot but just recorded the audio of the incident. The last video showed a man running away from the scene of the crime. Mr. Maldonado’s main argument was in this footage, despite the fact that the faces of the two suspects are never shown.
Maldonado then went on to describe the contents of the phone found at the scene. Pictures found on the phone showed the first defendant, and videos showed him throwing up gang signs. There were also other pictures found of the second defendant with known gang members. The prosecution also showed pictures of the MS-13 tattoos found on the defendant. Maldonado focused in on the gang association as if it were evidence of guilt in this case.
The prosecution mentioned the DNA evidence on the gun. The first test on the gun was inconclusive. A second test was done in October of 2018 when new technology was introduced, which apparently found that the DNA was only likely to be that of the defendant, but it was still not totally conclusive.
In Steve Olmo’s opening statement on behalf of the first defendant on trial for the murder, he focused in on the lack of conclusive DNA evidence. The person who was with the victim had said the shooter was smoking, yet neither of the defendants’ DNA was found on the cigarette butts from the scene. There was also no conclusive evidence that the defendant’s DNA was found on the gun used to kill the victim. The DNA analysts found evidence that three people had touched the gun, but could not say conclusively whether the defendant did.
Olmo also pointed out that none of the witnesses could identify the suspect and that the videos do not show faces. He also mentioned that an officer identified the defendant from prior contact just by looking at the video footage and no other evidence.
George Borges, the defense attorney for the second defendant, argued in his opening statement that guilt by association is not a crime. He stated that his client could not be found guilty just for associating with gang members. He also pointed out his legal immigration from El Salvador and his lack of a serious criminal history.
The People then brought in their first witness, who is the son of the victim and was with him the night of his murder. The two of them had stopped in San Francisco on their way back to San Bruno from a Warriors game and went to a bar. At the time of his father’s murder, they had separated and he was in the bathroom.
The next witness was Dr. Ellen Moffatt, an expert in autopsies and a medical examiner. She performed the victim’s autopsy the day after he was killed. She described for the jury the two gunshot wounds she found on him.
The last witness of the day was Officer Myles McMaster of the San Francisco Police Department. At the time of the murder, Officer McMaster had been dispatched to 19th Street and Mission Street, which was a couple blocks away. He was called to the scene to divert traffic and soon went out to search the area for the suspect or evidence.
In a parking lot close by, he found a handgun in a compost bin. This gun was later found to be the one that killed the victim.
After Officer McMaster’s testimony, the trial closed for the day. It will resume on Tuesday, November 19, in the same department at 9:30 a.m..