‘Red Beard’ Murder Trial Ongoing; Crime Lab Investigator Is Questioned on Confirmation Bias

By Lois Yoo

ALAMEDA, CA – The so-called “Red Beard” drive-by shooting/murder trial reconvened here Monday at Alameda County Superior Court, East County Hall of Justice, Dept. 707.

The accused’s real name is Zacharia Grubbs and the trial began about a week ago. His cell contact name found in the victim’s phone listed him as “Red Bread,” which police believe to be a misspelling of his actual nickname, Red Beard—many witnesses pointed out the suspect in the shooting had a red beard.

On June 7, 2018, Grubbs allegedly murdered a victim who was riding a motorcycle on a residential street in San Lorenzo. It has been reported that the defendant and the victim knew each other, but it has been debatable as to how they knew each other.

The prosecution said the defendant has told the police before that he knew the victim and had a bad relationship with him because he is known as a gang dropout and robber.

A detective from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, whose name was not available, testified to his role in the gang suppression unit which began back in 2013. This detective became familiar with the murdered victim as a dropped out gang member around that same year.

He was not completely sure whether the victim had dropped out of a gang in 2017 or not, which would have been one year prior to the shooting. The victim’s connection to a gang would have confirmed Red Beard’s statement that he knew the victim but did not have a good relationship with him because of his reputation as a dropped out gang member and robber.

Next, an unidentified female witness discussed the photographs that were taken and collected at the crime scene for the investigation process.

She described numerous photographs that were brought into court as evidence. They included a photo of a jacket, square bag, and the motorcycle that were next to the victim. She also described photographs of the driveway of a home around the area of the shooting.

Next, she identified a photo of a box with a hole in it from the gunshots, as well as a hole in a refrigerator that was inside a local resident’s garage.

This female witness confirmed that a Honda Accord vehicle that was in front of one of the homes had red and brown stains on it, but no other damage from the shooting.

She also stated, “We didn’t find any license plate or markings to identify the type of motorcycle it was,” referring to the motorcycle that the victim was riding when he was shot.

The last witness that came in was Cary Wong, who works in the Crime Lab at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and has done so for almost 12 and a half years. He explained he is responsible for examining any firearms-related evidence and crime scene processing.

He explained to the court his typical process of examining firearms such as the one that was allegedly used in the shooting by the defendant. He described the process of swabbing the steering wheel of the van that the defendant drove when he shot the victim, and the controls on the side doors of the vehicle.

Wong confirmed that there was no license plate on the motorcycle and that there were “scuff marks, and scratches, and dents on the right side.”

Wong also observed the van, which he described as “dirty and messy overall.”

He assured the court that his findings were not affected by results that came from a prior presumptive test performed on the bullets, which found the two bullets to be the same.

Wong stated, “That had no effect on my examination or conclusions. I still had to independently look at the two pieces of evidence and come to my own conclusions, as well as provide notes and photographs of what I had seen.”

One of the attorneys, who could not be identified due to the live court recording format, questioned Wong about whether he knew what confirmation bias was and whether that was factored into his examination process. Wong answered, “It is to be avoided as much as possible.”

Wong admitted that knowing the results of the previous test “would be an example of potential confirmation bias.” He stated the test he performed was subjective, but had “some elements of objectivity.”

The trial is set to continue for the rest of this week.

About The Author

Lois Yoo is a third year at UC Berkeley and is originally from Los Angeles, California.

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