By Derrick Pal
WOODLAND — Peace Officer Raymond Barrantes’ testimony here in Yolo County Superior Court Friday was a rocky one.
When his testimony was about to begin, Deputy Public Defender Emily Fisher had an immediate objection to the credibility of the officer’s testimony based on his location.
“Your honor, I have an objection to make…every preliminary hearing I’ve done so far with an officer, a law enforcement officer, has been in a room at the police department because they were trying to come up with a way to still have some integrity with the process even though not everybody can come into the courtroom…this is not integrity of the process,” argued Fisher.
“I don’t know where this officer is, I don’t know what he’s doing, I don’t know who may or may not have contact with him, and I’m just concerned because this isn’t the procedure we’ve been doing with a private room and having integrity in this process despite the pandemic,” she added.
Judge David Reed noted the objection, stating that “it is somewhat irregular not to be in a room. I’m going to continue this, but I would strongly suggest that anytime you testify in the future, you do it in a station, or come in person.”
With that, Barrantes, referring to Dec. 22, 2020, said his attention was drawn to a 2011 BMW traveling westbound on Sacramento Avenue in Yolo County and which he found, from a license plate records search, was a stolen vehicle.
The occupants of the vehicle were identified to be defendant Marcelino Castaneda and a female passenger.
But now, DPD Fisher scrutinized Barrantes’ procedural investigation of the vehicle.
“It’s important for you to try to differentiate property that may belong to the person who owns the car and property that may belong to someone who is in the car, fair to say?” asked PD Fisher.
When queried what Barrantes found in the trunk, he responded that “there was miscellaneous clothing, miscellaneous tools, but it was hard to differentiate who the owner was because I wasn’t able to get ahold of the registered owner.”
“Mr. Castaneda never told you he had any belongings in the trunk, isn’t that true?” questioned Fisher. “Anything that you attribute to Mr. Castaneda from the trunk is based solely on your own opinion…nothing in the trunk, Mr. Castaneda admitted to being his.”
The PD then asked him why he didn’t take photos of “how you found it.”
“I took pictures of the stuff that I deemed relevant…or else I could have been taking several pictures,” responded Barrantes.
“You only took pictures of what you felt was important in this investigation? It wasn’t important to you to take a picture of where you found the gun?” stated Fisher.
“No I didn’t take a picture of where exactly I found the gun,” said the officer.
Fisher concluded that was “because you made your opinion that Mr. Castaneda owned the gun, or had the gun before you even conducted your investigation, isn’t that true? You made an opinion as to Mr. Castaneda’s guilt the minute that you saw a gun in the woman’s [passengers] bag?”
Officer Barrantes responded that, due to the proximity, this was his conclusion.
“I didn’t arrest [the passenger] because she wasn’t driving the vehicle. According to her, she had no knowledge of the firearm.”
“(But) the firearm was found in a bag where she was sitting. That wasn’t important to you?” emphasized Fisher.
Officer Barrantes responded that “it was my opinion that he [Castaneda] placed the firearm there because she had no knowledge of it,” adding, “Did you see Mr. Castaneda put a gun into a bag in the passenger’s side of the vehicle? Did you hear him say ‘I put a gun in the passenger’s side of the vehicle?’”
Officer Barrantes stated that he could not confirm either of these events.
After the hearing, Judge Reed ruled that there was overall sufficient evidence and strong suspicion of the charges against the defendant for possession of a stolen vehicle, however, bail was reduced in this case to $25,000.
A further hearing is set for Feb. 26.
Derrick Pal is a fourth-year student at Sacramento State majoring in Criminal Justice and pursuing a minor in Sociology. He is from Elk Grove, California.
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