By Hongyi Wen
SACRAMENTO, CA – Cameras are everywhere, for better and for sure worse for defendant Keymar Johnson and his co-defendant, who were seen trespassing in a home and going through drawers and cabinets in the kitchen.
Thanks to those security cameras installed at the victim’s house, the residential burglary was partially captured and the defendants were identified, the court learned here Wednesday at a preliminary hearing in Sacramento County Superior Court.
The victim testified that a TV and a wedding ring went missing after the incident on July 2, 2019, but the footage did not actually capture the defendants taking these properties.
Officer Rahul Singh testified, “[Victim] told me that he had received an alarm from his alarm company, and the glass breaking sensor was activated at around 2 p.m. that day,” indicating that Johnson and his co-defendant broke into the house from the rear sliding glass door—the victim also had a security camera that captured the defendants breaking the glass.
Singh reviewed the video provided by the victim, but did not record what he saw in the video in his report, explaining, “In my official observation I did not state what I saw, I had just made a copy of the video and booked it as evidence later on.”
Singh testified that the video did showcase how Johnson and his co-defendant entered the house “[b]y using a break(bar) to break the rear glass slide door,” reporting, “From what I recall there is [are] at least two [suspects].”
Singh said, “The victim told me the TV was taken, which is worth around $200 dollars, and his wedding ring which is worth around $400 from the bedroom,” although the victim, said Singh, did not initially recognize the suspects.
Assistant Public Defender David Grow began his cross-examination by questioning whether the victim showed Officer Singh the surveillance video.
Singh explained, “No, so I had [the victim] make a copy of the video and looked at it as evidence later on.” However, he said he believed the video was collected, but wasn’t sure.
Singh does have a memory of seeing the suspects being inside the house on the video, but the last time he viewed it was on the day of the incident. He answered in the negative to the question if he did not “recall anything specific with respect to the suspects that you saw in the video?”
Singh also did not take any photographs of the scene himself, but he did call the Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) to take photographs at the scene. Singh was not present when the CSI came and had an interaction with the victim.
Detective Kenshin Vu was assigned to conduct the follow-up investigation about Johnson’s case and confirmed that the victim had surveillance video that captured the incident, but the victim was unable to make a copy of the video.
However, Vu had chosen other alternatives to record the video, noting, “It was initially captured on my body camera, but the quality of the footage wasn’t that great. So I went back and got a copy of it using my cell phone recording the actual screen of the security footage.”
He said the video showed “two subjects coming into the kitchen area, the security camera was placed about head-level in the kitchen area. They capture two subjects going into the kitchen area, going through all the drawers and cabinets. Then [they moved] to the other direction and out of the camera view.”
The victim was later able to identify who the suspects were through someone else.
Vu said, “He showed the video to his landscaper, and he recognized one of the subjects in there as Keymar Johnson, and said he ‘went to high school with Keymar for about eight months,’ he says he played basketball almost on a daily basis with Keymar and was very confident that the individual depicted in the video was Keymar.”
The landscaper also has seen the co-defendant before: “He said he had seen him before, but had never seen the two of them together before until that video,” Vu recounted.
Based on the information given by the landscaper, Detective Vu continued his investigation.
Vu said he went to the address associated with Johnson, and spoke with Johnson’s mother, who was “not cooperative and refused to talk to us,” Vu stated.
Deputy District Attorney Emilee Divinagracia confirmed with Detective Vu that he spoke with the co-defendant on Aug. 13, 2019, and Vu stated that the co-defendant admitted that he was in the victim’s home and identified the other person to be Johnson.
Defense counsel Grow began his cross-examination by interrogating about the video that Vu obtained. “The video only depicted individuals in the kitchen, is that accurate?” Grow asked.
Vu replied, “Yes, two of them,” admitting that he didn’t see anyone remove anything because of the camera angle. Vu also did not observe anything in the subjects’ hands from the video.
Vu showed the landscaper the surveillance video on his cell-phone. “He told me that one of the suspects there he recognized as Keymar,” Vu said.
Grow also confirmed with Vu that the landscaper did indeed know Keymar and they had played basketball together on a daily basis.
“That is true, for eight months when he attended high school,” Vu answered.
Grow questioned how the landscaper was able to give Detective Vu Johnson’s address. “Based on my recollection, I remember him just giving it to me off the top of his head,” Vu said.
Grow seemed to be in disbelief, “You know how he was able to do that? Did you ask him that? Do you remember him saying anything about how he knows the exact address?”
“I don’t recall those specifically, but my contact with [the landscaper] was recorded on my body camera. For all the detailed accounts of what we talked about we can play back the video if you like,” Vu answered.
“The evidence that we have is a video that someone identified as Keymar Johnson being in a home, but there is no evidence that he took any properties. I don’t think he has anything more than a trespass,” argued Grow at closing.
“Properties were taken, but there is no one that connect Mr. Johnson with any stolen properties. He has not been seen with any properties. There is no admission on his part or statement from co-defendant that he took properties, and it was not depicted in the video,” Grow added.
Judge Helena R. Gweon asked, “Wasn’t there evidence that properties were taken, including a TV and a wedding band?” To which the DDA Divinagracia nodded her head in approval and Grow said, “There was that evidence.”
Gweon then ruled, “I think the circumstantial evidence is quite strong about who took the property,” and concluded that there is “sufficient evidence to prove the charge of residential burglary has been committed by Johnson.”
The next trial readiness conference is set for April 29, in Sacramento Superior Court Department 61, and trial is set for May 3, 2021.
Hongyi Wen is a junior at UC Santa Cruz, majoring in Sociology. He is from Guangzhou, China.
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