Defense Called Out for Using “Red Herring”: Jury Trial Contemplates Whether Shooter Acted in Malice or Self-Defense


By Minerva Melendrez and Linhchi Nguyen

RIVERSIDE, CA – Defendant Andrew Elijah Delgado faced trial on Thursday for his involvement in the death of Isaac Robles. In criticism of the defense’s attempt to prove Delgado’s act as self-defense, Deputy District Attorney August Sage called their argument a “big smelly red fish.”

Delgado allegedly shot Robles near a camper corral on September 18, 2018. The incident occurred shortly after an illegal transaction took place between the two, where Delgado attempted to buy an AR-15 rifle from Robles.

Robles tried to walk away from the situation, but according to Attorney Sage, Robles acted upon revenge and intentionally shot Delgado in the back from ten feet away. However, in closing arguments, Public Defender Michael Micallef argued that Delgado was merely acting in self-defense and was partially intoxicated during the incident.

The trial began in the morning with testimony by a detective, who arrived at the scene in September 2018. The detective confirmed that she interviewed Delgado about the shooting, and he never answered “anything about thinking that Isaac Robles had a gun” nor did he ever indicate that “Isaac Robles reached for anything.”

Upon arresting Delgado, the detective did not smell any smoked marijuana, heroin, nor alcohol on him, despite Micallef stating that Delgado was intoxicated.

The detective also testified to Sage that she found Robles’s body lying nearby a camper corral. In addition to that, she located three bullet projectiles. One was inside Robles, and another one was found approximately 15 feet to the west of the camper corral.

Knowing that Delgado was standing east to the building and having patrolled the area multiple times, the detective affirmed that “if you’re shooting from where he was, that bullet can make it that far.”

However, during her cross-examination, the detective also admitted that there was no forensic examination on that particular projectile nor for the one in Robles’s body. Therefore, it cannot be fully verified that the two bullets came from the same weapon.

In addition, there was never an analysis of the gun to compare the projectiles, since the defendant gave it to someone else to get rid of it.

Micallef further pointed out the unlikelihood for a bullet to have traveled so far west from where the defendant was standing. He showed the jury that the bullet would have had to pass the camper corral, an auto repair business, and all the way to an apartment parking lot area.

He then asked the detective whether she knows if the projectile was located in the area that it was recovered and for how long. And whether anyone reported hearing any gunshots in the parking lot on the day of the incident.

In response, the detective stated, “The only thing I can tell you is that [Delgado] was on the east side where the body laid, and if he were to have shot in that area, it would’ve landed in that direction. That’s all I can tell you.”

“Right, assuming that it flew enough amazingly in a semi-circular arc and landed on the ground,” Micallef remarked.

In a re-direct, Sage re-affirmed with the detective that even if she cannot determine the exact trajectory path of the bullet, she was aware that the location was a dusty, windy area, making it plausible for the bullet to travel far out west.

In his closing argument, Sage brought light to the fact that this was not the first time Robles and Delgado had interacted, alluding that the shooting had been an unlawful act of revenge. He revealed that “the defendant had had problems with Isaac Robles for quite a while. He got into a physical altercation with Isaac Robles the day before.”

Sage then invalidated the defense’s argument, claiming that neither self-defense nor imperfect self-defense applied to the situation. This is because Delgado had created the circumstances to justify using force by calling Robles back and brandishing the gun.

Further trying to prove a lack of imminent danger, Sage emphasized that nothing but a cell phone was found on Robles, who turned around to flee from Delgado. Hence, there was no merit for the use of reasonable, necessary force against Robles.

Additionally, because Delgado denied acting on any emotions from the prior altercation, Sage nullified the argument that he was acting in a heat of passion, which would have reduced the killing to manslaughter.

“[The defendant] repeatedly shot Robles as he ran away because that’s what you get when you punk him,” Sage asserted, “[he] felt no remorse for taking another life. He killed him in cold blood.” Due to this, Sage stressed that the shooting was an unlawful killing with malice which is first-degree murder, not manslaughter.

Next, to present his closing argument, Micallef urged the jury to consider what a “reasonable person in a similar situation with similar knowledge would have believed.”

He emphasized that by law, if the jury is to believe that the things known to Delgado in the situation were reasonable, then the danger does not need to have existed, making it irrelevant whether or not Robles actually was carrying a gun or not.

Micallef noted that even though information that Delgado relied upon in his decision to use deadly force was false, he still had a right to stand his ground, defend himself, and pursue the threat of danger until it had passed.

Micallef then defined that the conditions for first-degree murder had not been proven since it involves demonstrating that Delgado had acted locally, deliberately, and was premeditated.

“There’s a difference between wanting to shoot someone and kill someone,” Micallef declared. He shot down at Sage’s arguments for first-degree murder by asserting that Delgado had never intended to kill Robles. Also, the fast rate at which events were unraveling during the transaction left Delgado with no time to deliberate the consequences of his choice to kill.

Using this, he reopened the argument that heat of passion was a relevant factor in Delgado’s decision to kill since it can involve any violent or intense emotion that causes a person to act without deliberation.

Micallef stated that Sage’s failure to meet the burden for proving first-degree murder reduces Delgado’s sentence to voluntary manslaughter. He concluded that Delgado did not need to believe that Robles was going to kill him; he only had to believe that Robles posed an imminent danger for invoking bodily harm and suffering.

In his rebuttal, Deputy District Attorney Sage compared Micallef’s closing argument to a red herring, accusing him of diverting from the facts of the case and misrepresenting the prosecution.

“The whole point of a red, smelly fish is to try and trick the dog,” Sage pointed out to the jury, “this case is not about me, this isn’t about how well I argued, it’s about the defendant and what he did, and that was not talked about.”

After the People and defense rested their case, the judge instructed the jury to reconvene in Department 2F on Monday, April 19th at 9:00 in the morning.

Linhchi Nguyen is a fourth year at UC Davis, double majoring in Political Science and English. She currently lives in Sacramento, California.


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