By Alexander Ramirez
ALAMEDA – The second part of a preliminary hearing didn’t turn out well for the defendant here late last week in Alameda County Superior Court in the case of a drive-by shooting that occurred in March 2020 and led to the death of Eric Chavez Richard, Jr.
The defendant, Melvin Dwight Hines, III, was held for trial—he is charged with murder and other felonies.
His attorney, Annie Belas, argued he should not be held on any of the charged counts because of inadequate identification.
Belas questioned the validity of eyewitness testimony and expert testimony to sufficiently identify Hines as the shooter during the drive-by in March. A previous court case of People v. Azcona was used to support her point, in which similar expert testimony as this case was found to be invalid.
Regarding bullet casings found in the vehicle used in the shooting and at the scene of the crime, Belas said that “there is too much of an analytical gap between what criminalist Lao stated, and any alleged data.”
The count of body injury toward another person involved in the shooting was also argued. People v. Canizales was used to explain the concept of kill zone theory, and People v. Bland was used to argue that there must be individual analysis of every victim regarding specific intent to kill in order to prosecute.
However, according to eyewitness accounts of the shooting, the shooter was seen aiming their pistol out the window during the drive-by. This was enough to convince the court of intent to kill.
Judge James P. Cramer said, “I don’t know who the primary target was. I don’t think that is necessary…it might be necessary for a classic application of the kill zone theory, but I think what it means, in my mind, how it affects my thinking, is…the shooter intended to shoot both men from the factors that the Supreme Court says I should consider.”
While the expert testimony was not explicitly cited as a reason for discretion, the intent to kill argument based on witnesses during the drive-by, and the fact that the car was in possession of Hines on the day of the shooting was what led to Judge Cramer to ultimately find sufficient evidence to charge Hines on multiple counts including murder, attempted murder, infliction of great bodily injury, and use of firearm, among others.
The arraignment on all charges was scheduled to take place Feb. 19, and jury trial will be set at that time.
Alexander Ramirez is a third-year Political Science major at the University of California, Davis. He hopes to hone his writing skills in preparation for the inevitable time of graduation.
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