Attorneys Forced to Yell Questions Across the Room for Hard-of-Hearing Witness

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By Dorrin Akbari

SACRAMENTO, CA — The hard-of-hearing victim of a felony burglary provided testimony at defendant Jayson Pulido’s preliminary hearing this week, but the prosecution and defense were forced at times to yell from across the room to question her.

The 87-year-old alleged victim slowly made her way through the courtroom and up to the witness stand in Sacramento County Superior Court, Dept. 17.

Court staff attempted to set up a device that would allow her to hear Deputy District Attorney Alexandra Sanders and Assistant Public Defender Damien Jovel, but the device repeatedly failed as the victim’s testimony progressed.

“My hearing is so bad,” said the witness in between chuckles, as Judge James Arguelles spoke slowly and politely shouted into his microphone to request that she spell her name for the record.

Despite the rocky start, DDA Sanders was able to make her way through the witness’s direct examination with only minor technical glitches. She had the victim recount the events that transpired the night of Jan. 11, 2020, and the subsequent morning.

The witness reported that she had gone to bed that evening at around 10 p.m. Before she went to her room, she had checked to make sure that her doors and windows were locked and her security alarms were on.

The victim lived alone. She noted that she doesn’t “open her windows because of [her] allergies, so they’re always locked.” This served as a key fact for the prosecution.

When the victim woke up the next day, she saw broken glass strewn halfway across her kitchen floor. The shutters of her window were wide open, and she found herself staring at a hole in the glass large enough to fit a hand.

At this point, the witness recalled that she had heard people speaking in her backyard the night before. “I regretted not checking on that,” she said.

Once DDA Sanders concluded her direct, PD Jovel began his cross-examination. Almost immediately, the witness had difficulty hearing his questions.

Jovel was frequently forced to yell at the witness during his questioning. She laughed understandingly throughout the process and tried her best to avoid making him repeat his questions.

“I know you said you’re old. How’s your memory?” PD Jovel asked in a half-joking tone.

“It isn’t too bad,” retorted the witness.

Jovel attempted to use inconsistencies between testimony given by the witness on the morning following the burglary and during an October interview nine months later to create doubt in the case—suggesting that the witness’s earlier testimony would be most accurate.

He pointed out that, while the victim had just testified in court to having gone to bed at 10 p.m. on the night of the burglary, she had told detectives during her October interview that she’d gone to bed at 8 p.m.

Though the witness brushed off that point, Jovel continued with his strategy—noting that detective’s reports from the morning after the burglary made no mention of the witness claiming to have heard voices in her backyard.

The victim recognized Jovel’s attempt to call her claim into question and pushed back.

“If it wasn’t in the detective’s report [that you heard voices in the backyard], then you probably didn’t, correct?” Jovel had asked.

“No, I would say that I did because I was upset about the whole situation. It’s possible they made a mistake [and failed to include that information],” said the witness.

Following the victim’s testimony, Deputy Richard Turner and retired forensic identification specialist Maria Nadeau gave testimony regarding the fingerprint analysis that had ultimately placed the defendant at the scene of the burglary.

Turner had collected the latent fingerprints from the victim’s window at the scene of the crime.

Nadeau had compared those prints to the FBI database and matched them to the existing record belonging to Jayson Pulido.

“Generally, you need at least eight points of agreement [between two prints] to suggest a match. I had in excess of 50 on that [Pulido] identification,” said Nadeau. “I stopped counting at 50. At a certain point, you have to stop counting.”

Given the testimony provided, Judge Arguelles found sufficient cause to move forward with Pulido’s trial.

Dorrin Akbari graduated from UC Berkeley in 2019 with a B.A. in Legal Studies and a minor in Persian. She is from San Jose, CA.

 


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