By Peter Eibert and Allison Hodge
WOODLAND, CA – Defendant William Raymond West was in Yolo County Superior Court Monday for a pre-trial oral argument concerning two potentially important pieces of recently discovered evidence.
West is charged with five counts of violating restraining orders filed against him by the victim, his ex-wife. West denies all five charges.
Deputy District Attorney Jordan Greenberg, filed two motions to include and exclude evidence. The first motion attempted to admit West’s prior domestic violence history as evidence. The second motion moved to exclude defense evidence showing text messages between the alleged victim and a witness.
Greenberg’s first motion asked to admit West’s domestic violence history as evidence, citing that it was required as “background context” for the jury to know why the victim, West’s ex-wife, had a restraining order against him.
Greenburg also noted that this was important probative information to show the jury “why this is such a serious case.”
Deputy Public Defender Katie Rogers opposed the inclusion of that evidence, noting Evidence Code 352 permits the court to exclude evidence that will “create substantial danger of undue prejudice, of confusing issues, or of misleading the jury.”
She asserted the admission of West’s domestic violence as evidence that resulted in the restraining order “will highly prejudice the jury and not be probative in this case.”
Judge Rosenberg stated he was “not inclined to allow it [West’s domestic violence history] to come in” because of Evidence Code 352, as PD Rogers noted.
Greenberg countered the defense’s assertions, stating that, “In this case, these were not just restraining order violations; the defendant approached the victim several times and threaten[ed] violence to her father. The victim [told] the police she’s scared it will escalate to physical violence.”
However, Judge Rosenberg was unconvinced, stating “You can prove that [the violation of a restraining order occurred] without going behind the order to explain to the jury why it was issued.”
Judge Rosenberg ultimately held that “The evidence will not come in. I’m looking at 352. It has some relevance, but the relevance is far outweighed by prejudice [and confusion] to defense.”
Greenburg’s second motion asked the court to exclude evidence admitted by the defense, showing text messages between the alleged victim and a witness.
PD Rogers, however, argued that such evidence was important to understanding the victim’s actions, stating, “Here you have the complaining witness claiming she could trick him into coming over to violate those restraining orders.”
Greenburg argued against Rogers’ claim, maintaining that this was hearsay evidence that had no place in the trial subject matter. The texts, in other words, do not relate to any element of the crime.
Greenburg reasoned that neither the victim nor the witness is on trial, and that the evidence does not dispute the fact that West violated a protective order on five different occasions. He went on to assert, “Victims’ conduct is not relevant. It will just create a mini-trial that goes beyond what’s important.”
Greenburg also asserted that Rogers was perfectly capable of asking the victim whether she wanted to trick the defendant during testimony.
Judge Rosenberg granted Greenburg’s motion to exclude the text messages, holding that the evidence would only serve to confuse the jury and take up too much of the court’s time.
The victim’s statements made in these text messages will not be admissible going forward.
Defense Counsel Rogers also filed a motion to continue, citing the tardiness in which the evidence of text messages between the victim and a witness were discovered.
She argued that “This information should’ve been sent over much earlier than Saturday when the prosecution knew this trial was going on for 30 days.”
Judge Rosenberg denied the defense’s motion to continue but said he would consider giving a late discovery instruction.
Jury selection subsequently began. West’s case will continue with opening statements and evidence.
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: