By Roselyn Poommai
SACRAMENTO, CA – After a lengthy preliminary hearing of contradicting narratives regarding a domestic violence incident, Judge Trena H. Burger-Plavan denied the defense request for a release from custody and reduced bail, in fear for the victim’s safety.
Deputy Jason Hicks testified he responded to a domestic violence disturbance call on Nov. 18, 2020, by the girlfriend, referred to in court as Ms. Doe, of defendant Low Lueras—charged with two felonies, domestic violence assault and criminal threats.
Emotionally upset, Ms. Doe reported that the two had been in a verbal altercation before defendant Lueras allegedly became physical and “grabbed her by the throat with his hand and choked her” inside their home.
The alleged victim also told the officer that the defendant followed her outside, threatening her with a baseball bat and remarking that he was “going to beat her [explicit].” He then proceeded to place her in a headlock and choke her a second time.
Ms. Doe said she was able to escape to a neighbor’s house, where she used a witness’s phone to call the police for help.
In court, Deputy Hicks described the victim’s injuries that day as a scratch on the back of her neck and “fresh red markings” on the front. He deemed that the visible injuries were consistent with Ms. Doe’s recollection of the events.
Upon the presented evidence, Assistant Public Defender Courtney Zane requested the judge consider releasing her client on his own recognizance (OR), instead of bail.
According to Zane, the witness, whose phone the victim used to contact the police that day, came forward to the case’s detective in December of 2020 with contradicting information.
The witness had reportedly watched the entire event unfold outside when Ms. Doe approached and told the witness that “Mr. Lueras had tried to kill her.” She also claimed that she “watched them arguing and yelling at each other for several minutes, but did not see any physical altercation between the two.”
She then compared the victim and defendant at the scene, depicting Ms. Doe as “erratic” and “bizarre” while Lueras appeared “very calm.”
The witness asserted that Ms. Doe “appeared to be the one out of control and yelling at Mr. Lueras” and was on a call with someone who “didn’t appear to be 911” as she approached the witness.
Confused, the witness asked Ms. Doe why she was “on the phone with a friend instead of 911 if Lueras was really trying to kill her,” and the alleged victim reported that her cell phone had died.
According to Ms. Zane, that incident was “not the first time [the witness] has seen the two argue and that Ms. Doe is usually the one out of control.”
She raised that the witness was not related to the victim or defendant in any way, thus having high credibility.
PD Zane further argued that, despite having an extensive record of prior convictions, defendant Lueras had not committed any new offense since 2013.
However, Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Maroun disagreed that the defendant should be released on OR based on gaps in the witness statement and defendant’s record, arguing the witness never expressly indicated that she observed the argument’s entirety, leading her to miss the initial physical altercation inside the couple’s home.
Maroun noted a possible bias in the statement, stating that the witness indicated that she “has known the parents of the defendant for a very long time.” She added that while “she’s not related to anybody, she clearly does know one party better than the other.”
DDA Maroun then noted “petechiae in the victim’s eyes,” a significant indicator of strangulation, in the victim’s CSI photos. That red dot is “consistent with strangulation, showing that [Ms. Doe] was strangled to the point where her brain was deprived of oxygen.”
“[Ms. Doe] was strangled,” Maroun asserted, “which is a step above your average slap” and required “significant effort.”
Maroun also countered the PD’s presentation of Lueras’ compliant behavior for the past eight years, claiming that his status in prison custody since 2013 played a significant factor in hindering his engagement in recent unlawful activity.
Judge Burger-Plavan concluded the preliminary hearing on the denial of release and reduced bail in concern for the victim’s safety.
Defendant Lueras’ next hearing date is set for May 6, in preparation for trial.
Roselyn is a second-year undergraduate double-majoring in Psychological Science and Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine. A native of Los Angeles, California, she is passionate about the role of human behavior in the criminal justice system.
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