By Ankita Joshi
SACRAMENTO – On March 22, 2021, Defendant Shauna Giffin appeared in Sacramento County Superior Court. Giffin, who shot and killed her boyfriend on November 29, 2020, was present on a self-defense claim.
The preliminary hearing consisted of interrogating several witnesses who arrived at the scene of the crime after Giffin had called the police to report that she had shot her boyfriend.
The first witness called to the stand was Deputy James Avalos, who was the first officer at the scene of the crime, and the first officer to interact with Giffin.
DDA Allison Dunham began her line of questioning by requesting Avalos to outline the events on the night of November 29, starting after he had responded to the call of an assault with a deadly weapon at Giffin’s residence.
Avalos started by saying he had responded with a Code 3, which included having “overhead lights and sirens on… get[ing] to the scene as fast as possible.”
Upon arrival, Avalos observed a person on the phone and described her as a “white female adult, 30 – 35 years old, 5’11, maybe 180, black sweatshirt, yoga pants, no shoes on, and she was on her phone waving me down.”
Her demeanor at the time was deemed as “emotionless” by Avalos, as she had a “blank face, [and] she wasn’t crying.”
As DDA Dunham continued her line of questioning, Avalos recounted that the first words Giffin spoke to him were, “Hi, my boyfriend was attacking me, and I fucking shot him.”
At this statement, Avalos got out of the car, conducted a pat search for weapons, did a general questioning of where the weapon and victim were, handcuffed Giffin, and put her in the backseat of the squad car.
Soon after, Deputies Brucker and Schrader arrived at the scene of the crime. While Deputy Schrader stayed with Giffin outside, Deputies Brucker and Avalos entered the residence through the garage.
Avalos recounted that they had found a black and silver handgun in the living room with the slide back and the magazine loaded. At first glance, they were not able to determine if it was a 9mm semi-automatic.
As Brucker and Avalos continued to clear the residence, they observed “broken glass on the floor, multiple 9 mm casings on the floor, and a foot hanging out of the door of the master bathroom.”
Avalos noted he and Deputy Brucker made their way to the bathroom, “forced the door open best I could…went to go check his pulse, he wasn’t breathing, observed he was on his back, his eyes were open, and he was laying in a pool of his own blood.”
To perform first aid, Deputies Avalos and Durham, who had just arrived, decided to move the victim’s body to the foot of the bed in the master bedroom, where Deputy Durham began chest compressions.
Upon removing the victim’s hoodie, two gunshot wounds were observed by Avalos on the right hand and forearm; however, no weapons were found near or on the body.
SAC Metro arrived a few moments later and pronounced the victim deceased at 9:12 pm.
DDA Durham finished her line of questioning by inquiring whether Giffin had ever asked how her boyfriend was doing, to which Avalos remarked that she had not.
Defense Attorney Kelly Babineaux began her questioning by inquiring whether Deputy Avalos had reviewed the car camera’s footage in its entirety before writing up his report.
Avalos replied that he had not.
Babineaux continued by questioning if Avalos had ever met Giffin before, to which Avalos again stated he had not. She finalized this by making the statement that “he has no idea how she acts normally,” which was used to introduce the argument of Giffin being in a state of shock when she first approached the squad car.
Avalos maintained that he had no recollection of Giffin crying; the only emotion he remembered her showing was when she was upset about asking to use the bathroom. However, Avalos stated that he does not know if Giffin had cried when she was in the squad car since he had not watched the entire footage.
Before Deputy Avalos was excused, DDA Dunham asked if there were any pain or injuries claimed by Giffin throughout the night, which Avalos stated there were not.
The next witness called to the stand was Deputy Andrew Bowman, who served as the CSI expert on this case and took the majority of the evidentiary photographs at the scene of the crime.
The majority of DDA Dunham’s questioning consisted of asking Deputy Bowman to go through the evidentiary photographs and outline what was present in them.
The exhibits showcased the injuries sustained by the victim, including “an apparent gunshot wound to the bottom of the victim’s neck … an apparent gunshot wound in the upper right shoulder blade area… an apparent gunshot wound just below the pant line… an apparent gunshot wound to the shin… 2 apparent gunshot wounds to the right-hand area… an apparent gunshot wound to the top of hand bottom wrist area of the hand.”
There were additional wounds that were not depicted on the front of the body, which included some wounds on the forearms, but no gunshot wounds.
In total, nine shell casings were found scattered throughout the master bedroom, master bathroom, and closet.
Babineaux began her questioning similar to DDA Dunham by asking Deputy Bowman to clarify different evidentiary photographs.
On the presentation of Defense’s Exhibit H, Deputy Bowman clarified that there was “an area on one side of the bed that had various propaganda and paraphernalia” that was identified as “Nazi memorabilia.”
Babineaux expanded on the relevancy of these exhibits by stating, “[The victim] was known to be a very violent skinhead who espoused hateful propaganda from that life, and this was information that my client knew which will go to her belief in having to protect herself. And it will also be information that will be important to the court when considering bail.”
Deputy Bowman was excused after answering another redirect by DDA Dunham on the speculation of some of the defects present on the walls of the master bedroom and the location of the shell casings.
The third witness called to the stand was Homicide Detective Nick Sareeram, who conducted interviews with the defendant after she was brought into the station. Detective Sareeram proceeded to outline the premise of the interview he conducted.
The nature of the relationship Giffin had with the victim was outlined. This included having a nine-year-old son with the victim, in a ten-year on-again, off-again relationship. After having her son, Giffin had married a different man but had filed for a divorce and gotten back together with the victim in March 2020.
Sareeram accounted for the days leading up to November 29 and the turbulence felt by both the victim and Giffen.
On November 26, they had hosted Thanksgiving dinner, but the victim had stepped out to go to a friend’s house for 4 hours, while Giffin had thought he would only be gone for a short time. When he returned, Giffen and the victim had a verbal argument, which resulted in Giffin sleeping on the couch that night.
DDA Dunham clarified that nothing physical had occurred at that time.
On the morning of November 27, Giffin had gotten up early to work and had seen the victim leave the house for what she assumed was the gym. However, she did not hear from him all day, even after reaching out over text, calling his friends, and even calling hospitals and jails.
On November 28, Giffin received a text from the victim saying that he was fine, with no further explanation.
The next day, on the night of the murder, the victim returned to the residence and was described by Giffin as crying, “unhinged,” and “more emotional than she had ever seen him before.”
Giffin had reported to Detective Sareeram that the victim had grabbed her by the sweatshirt collar with both hands after their argument had escalated. Soon after this, she had thrown glass on the ground in response.
After the witnesses’ questioning ended, the preliminary hearing concluded with Judge Gevercer maintaining an open murder holding order for Giffin.
Additionally, Babineaux contended that the bail should be reduced from $1 million to $100,000 due to lack of a previous record and flight risk.
However, DDA Dunham contended that bail should be set at no bail because of the supposed previous threats made by Giffin to the victim under the basis that Giffin “had a plan and acted on it.”
After taking both these arguments under consideration, Judge Gevercer maintained the $1 million bail that was previously reduced.
Giffin submitted her plea of not guilty to the open count of murder, as well as a denial of a penalty enhancement for the use of a firearm.
The trial is set for May 10 at 8:45 am in Sacramento County Superior Court.
Ankita Joshi is a second-year student at the University of San Francisco, pursuing a major in International Studies and a minor in Political Science. She is originally from Sacramento, CA.
To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice – https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9
Support our work – to become a sustaining at $5 – $10- $25 per month hit the link: