By David Greenwald and Manuel Espinoza
SAN FRANCISCO – “Can you see her?” Assistant DA Lailah Morris asked the jury. The defendant, she described, was “fully inside her.” “No, I don’t want this,” the victim allegedly said.
“In reality [the victim] had just been raped,” she continued. “Get me out of here.”
It would take six years for the events from May 2014 to come to trial. Enrique Saucedo-Zapeda faces two counts of raping an unconscious person and having sex with someone impaired by drugs or alcohol. Now the jury will have to decide if the actions of the defendant that day were rape.
Ms. Morris in her at-times emotional closing made such a case. She noted that the victim was the only one able to communicate what happened to her that night.
When she testified, the Assistant DA argued, she showed real emotion.
“If you think those were crocodile tears, I don’t know what to say,” the ADA argued.
According to [the victim]’s testimony, she was at a party, drinking. The party was hosted by the defendant, a friend and work colleague of her boyfriend. She had about five beers and two shots of tequila. She went to the upstairs bedroom and fell asleep.
When she woke up, the defendant was leaning over her, her underwear off, his hands on her hips, and he was having sex with her—penetrating her.
She told him to get off. He ran off. She would go home, eventually tell her boyfriend, and go to the police. Medical examiners found three sets of DNA in her—hers, her boyfriend’s and the defendant’s.
The ADA pointed out that, during a pretext phone call, the defendant admitted, “When you woke up, I stopped and pulled out.”
She argued that meant, “I was inside you when you were asleep.”
That means she argued, he admitted to rape.
Ms. Morris argued that the victim was vulnerable. The defendant knew this. He knew that she was in the bedroom alone. He knew where the men were that would have protected her and he knew she was unconscious.
Ms. Morris argued over and over again that “he only stopped because I woke up.”
He was arrested three years later after being located in Fresno, having skipped town, leaving his job and place of residence.
He admitted to the police that “nothing is to my favor.”
The ADA would argue that “the evidence outside of him—all points to guilt.”
Ms. Morris pointed out discrepancies between his story and the alleged victim’s. He said that her eyes were open and responding. He said that he was drunk and she was awake.
However, the DA told the jury, “Why would she lie?” If she was being indiscreet and messing around, her boyfriend did not catch them in the act.
Ms. Morris argued that all her actions that night were consistent, circumstantially, with someone who was raped.
The boyfriend comes in after the suspect leaves, sees her crying, she wants to leave immediately.
She is clearly upset—something happened, although she doesn’t tell her boyfriend until later that night, at which point he tells her she was raped. She goes to the police, goes to the hospital for the rape examination.
The examiner finds tearing on the membrane of her vagina. They find DNA from the three individuals.
The DA argues, “The stranger’s DNA is inside her body, how does it get there if there is not a rape?”
After the incident, Mr. Saucedo-Zapeda flees to Fresno—Ms. Morris asks why? The police are looking for him. She argued that he is afraid of the police, but not because he is an immigrant. He is afraid because he knows he committed a crime and he is running from raping her.
Defense Closing and Rebuttal
by Manuel Espinoza
On March 2, 2020, the defense closing argument and prosecution’s rebuttal were delivered in a rape case. The closing arguments were held in Department 27 of the Hall of Justice and the case was presided over by Judge Teresa Caffese.
This case charged Mr. Enrique Saucedo-Zapeda with two counts of rape and involved both expert and eyewitnesses testifying in court. The victim alleged that she woke up to Zapeda raping her while she was intoxicated and unconscious at a house party, after which she sought help and reached out to police. Following the incident, Zapeda fled San Francisco County but returned to face the charges. Deputy Public Defender Eric McBurney represents the defendant and Assistant District Attorney Lailah Morris represents the People.
The defense began their concluding argument by sympathizing with the alleged victim, stating that this must have been a hurtful experience and now she let her voice be heard. The defense followed this by stating that, after removing emotion, this case should be judged by its complexity. They stated that Zapeda had been demonized by the court before any evidence had been presented, and that this was a result of stereotype and statistics. Furthermore, the defense added that because of the alleged gap in the victim’s memory, it could have easily been her boyfriend that was on trial before the jury. Again, they added, “This case is complex, not simple.”
The defense argued that fear of the police was one barrier in the process and stated that, based on the testimonies from the victim, her boyfriend, and Zapeda, they were all afraid of seeking help from law enforcement. When it came to the police interview of Zapeda, the defense argued that it was more like an interrogation or coercive effort.
They stated, “In the real world, an interview for us is an interrogation for them,” insinuating that Zapeda would have admitted to whatever they asked him because he feared for his documentation status.
The defense then moved on to speak about the accuracy of what the prosecution was alleging. They argued that because the victim was unconscious and intoxicated and not able to recall certain moments, she should not be able to confidently describe what occurred that night many years ago. They added that because of this and the obligation of the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zapeda committed this crime, the defendant must be found innocent.
The defense then took aim at the results of the DNA evidence that was brought forth. They stated that because the house party took place at Zapeda’s house, naturally everyone there was bound to come into contact with the defendant’s DNA. In response to the injuries that the victim sustained, the defense stated that even consensual sex can result in tears along the private regions.
The defense argued against both the first rape charge, stating that it requires the prosecution to prove that the defendant knew that the victim was unconscious, and against the second charge, that it requires them to determine the level of drunkenness.
The defense brought up the victim’s testimony, when she stated that on a scale of 1-10 determining the level of drunkenness, she stated it to be a 7. The defense argued the victim “cannot have it both ways. She said she was drunk but then went to sleep and woke up sober.”
The defense then argued about the idea of consent. They insisted that when the defendant went to his room, where the victim was at the time, they engaged in mutual sexual conduct. The defense claimed that this was consensual sex, and once the victim no longer wished to continue, Zapeda got dressed and left.
The defense finished their argument by alleging that this case was coordinated and that the victim “needed this story to make sense of what happened.” They claimed that there was no rape or attempt of rape, and since Zapeda had never been convicted of a crime previously, the jury should find him not guilty. At this time, the defense ended their argument and the prosecution presented their rebuttal.
The prosecution began by rebutting the defense’s concluding argument. They claimed that it is a logical bodily response that something suddenly happening can jolt someone back to consciousness and the adrenaline from that can outweigh the effects of alcohol. They added that the victim spent two hours alone in the room getting rest and sobering up, and was then jolted up by Zapeda raping her.
The prosecution also rebutted the defense’s argument that the parties involved were afraid to contact the police. They stated that despite any fears they may have had, the victim and her boyfriend still chose to contact the police, and Zapeda ultimately fled. This fact was intended to show that Zapeda indeed did commit the crime.
The prosecution also added that the DNA evidence which was found corroborated the story that the victim presented. The DNA evidence proved that there was penetration and sexual contact.
The prosecution then took aim at Zapeda’s statements. They stated, “The only person with the motive to lie is the defendant because he knows he is guilty.”
Zapeda waited for years after the incident to claim that the sex was consensual, which the prosecution alleged to be a lie. The prosecution also added that when the police interviewed Zapeda, there was no interrogation, it was simply questioning.
The prosecution concluded that just because there was alcohol involved does not mean that the witnesses’ stories are untrue. The prosecution then contradicted the defense’s claims by stating, “The law recognizes that there is gray area and Zapeda fleeing is proof of guilt.”
If the defense’s argument is to be followed, then, the prosecution stated, “they are alleging that she was raped twice, by Zapeda and the boyfriend.”
The prosecution alleged that Zapeda planned on taking advantage of the victim that night. They argued that Zapeda knew she was drunk and sent her to his room. Before this occurred, the victim and her boyfriend stated that Zapeda walked in to the bathroom while they were having sex.
The prosecution claimed, “Zapeda walked in on them having sex and it makes him want to have a little piece.” When the victim was drunk and vulnerable, the prosecution stated that Zapeda sought to take advantage of her. The prosecution described Zapeda entering the room where the victim is by saying, “He comes in, sees her lying there, pulls her pants down and rapes her.”
The prosecution ended their rebuttal by offering the jury something to remember. They stated that on this night the victim was alone and vulnerable. The prosecution once more stated that when the victim woke up, she clearly saw what was happening to her. The rebuttal ended with a statement to the jury, to “remember what the victim told you.”
After hearing the closing argument and its rebuttal, the jury was released for deliberation.
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