By Lauren Smith
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Vanguard Court Watch interns and staff covered court proceedings largely in San Francisco, Yolo and Sacramento County superior courts.
However, because of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, beginning mid-March courts statewide closed their doors to the public, and many began streaming court proceedings online.
The move to virtual court allowed court watch interns to expand coverage to other counties across California, including Riverside, Fresno, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
One domestic violence case that was extensively covered by interns Julietta Bisharyan, Julia Martinez, Maxwell C. Myrhum and Lea Barrios, involved defendant Jesus Reyes.
Reyes allegedly drove his girlfriend to a parking lot near an apartment in West Davis and beat her. Multiple witnesses testified to seeing the defendant “grabbing, punching, and slapping” the victim.
On the stand, the victim testified that the defendant did not hit her, and instead the injuries to her eye stemmed from a tree branch hitting her in the face. She also stated that she loved Reyes and will maintain communication with him in jail.
In a gang-related case, interns Julia Martinez and Linh Nguyen covered a jury trial in which defendant Daniel Jaime Vallejo was charged with “felony criminal threats, criminal street gang participation and driving under the influence.”
The defendant’s car was towed after it was parked illegally. Vallejo allegedly threatened to kill the tow-yard owner and his family “emphasizing his affiliation with the Norteños, specifically the Vario Bosque Norteños of Woodland, and how they run the town, instilling fear into the victims.”
In February, the Vanguard Court Watch interns covered preliminary hearings, theft and burglary cases, and an insurance fraud case.
Interns Julia Martinez and Coco Wang covered a jury trial in which defendant Nouphoy Phetphayboune was charged with intent to commit a sexual offense of a minor.
The 12-year-old victim was invited over to the defendant’s house. As demonstrated through a series of Snapchat videos shown to the jury at trial, Phetphayboune was “standing in his doorway with his hands inside of his pants.”
The videos also show the defendant making “several hand gestures that resembled touching his lips… and postured himself as if he were touching himself underneath his clothing and remained in that posture for roughly 10 seconds.”
Despite this evidence, after two days of trial, the jury was split seven guilty and five not guilty, causing the court to set a retrial.
Interns Julietta Bisharyan, Lea Barrios, and Brittany Mason covered a preliminary for defendant Ray Thomas Lawler, who was charged with running a prostitution ring from his jail cell.
Detective Jennifer Davis testified that she recognized Lawler was pimping via email because she recognized similarities between ads online.
The investigation found phone records between the defendant and his fiancée, allegedly one of his prostitutes, detailing how much to charge and where to place ads.
Lauren Smith is a fourth year student at UC Davis, double majoring in Political Science and Psychology. She is from San Diego, California.
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