Questions Arise over Witness’ Identification of Defendant


By Hannah Grayson

San Francisco – A preliminary hearing was held on Friday morning in Department 12 under Judge Raymond J. Arata. Much of the time was spent questioning the woman who witnessed the alleged crime and identified the man to police.

The first witness brought to the stand was the woman who witnessed the theft. In October of this year, she was walking with a coworker when she heard the sound of breaking glass. She looked over to the source of the sound and she said she saw a man pulling a black messenger bag out of the passenger side of a large black truck parked on the opposite side of the street. She then pulled out her phone to take pictures of the thief as he fled on a bicycle down Treat Avenue where he made a left on 16th Street. After she lost sight of the man, she called 911 to report the crime.

Once the police arrived, she talked to the officers and the owner of the truck for a couple minutes before leaving to head to her office. While walking back to her office, she saw the same man again on Folsom Street between 16th and 17th Streets only a few minutes after the incident. When she spotted him this time, she saw him head into a blue tent. She then called 911 again to report where the thief was.

Once she saw police cars arrive, she quickly left the scene and went to her office. She did not witness the arrest of the defendant.

About 15 to 30 minutes later, she said, the police called her and asked her if she would do a cold show-up to identify the witness. After they picked her up at her office, at the cold show she identified the defendant as the man she had seen steal the bag.

In cross-examination, the defense questioned the woman’s certainty of her identification of the suspect. She hesitated in court to identify the defendant as the man who committed the crime, and then only said she believed him to be the same man. She was very hesitant to say with total certainty that he is the same person.

It was then revealed that the identifying factor on the man was the shirt he was wearing at the time of the crime. She used this bright shirt to identify the man going into the tent as the man she saw steal the bag from the truck.

The next witness on the stand was the arresting officer, San Francisco Police Department Officer Angel Aroche. He recognized the witness and was the one who responded to both of her 911 calls.

When responding the first time, he talked to the witness and also to the owner of the truck. The owner told him that he had left his vehicle at 9:00 that morning with the windows up, the doors locked, and no damage to his car. He also told Officer Aroche that a blue Nike duffle bag was missing, which is different from what the woman witnessed.

Officer Aroche then responded to the second call and approached the tent. He arrested the defendant as he matched the description and he found the duffle bag in the tent.

After Officer Aroche’s testimony, the People rested.

The defense then argued that there is an issue with the witness’ identification of the suspect, especially as the clothing was the feature she found most distinguishing. He also argued that it is an issue that the witness described a different bag which did not fit the bag that was stolen.

Judge Arata commended the argument, but decided that there was satisfactory evidence for each charge.

The defense, Anisa Sirur, then argued for release of the defendant, who is in custody and cannot afford bail. She argued that the defendant is not a flight risk, as he is a member of the community and needs to care for his wife and small child.

The People then argued that because of his previous felony convictions, he should be considered a public safety risk.

Judge Arata sided with the People in considering the defendant a danger to public safety, and kept the bail as it was previously set, effectively guaranteeing he will remain in custody.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch puts 8 to 12 interns into the Yolo County House to monitor and report on what happens. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org

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