By Darling Gonzalez
RIVERSIDE, CA – Last week, here in Riverside County Superior Court, Defense Attorney Decio Rangel and Deputy District Attorney Matthew Stong presented closing statements to the jury in a case involving felony oral copulation with a child of 10 years or younger—the defendant is “BILLY,” the grandfather of the victim.
* NOTE: “BILLY” is not the real name of the defendant. The Vanguard is not using the real name to protect the identity of the victim.
DDA Stong began his closing statement with what he claimed were three elements that would prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in this case.
The three elements needed were that BILLY had engaged in the act of oral copulation with the victim (his granddaughter), she was the age of 10 or under at the time and he was 18 years or older.
DDA Stong described to the jury in court how the victim described that she would often play in her grandparents’ house, which she liked to do, and which included drawing, but when she began to talk about her family she became emotional.
He described that the experience was traumatic for her, as well as in the courtroom where her mother was holding back tears.
DDA Stong then spoke about the victim’s testimony and how she talked about the details of the assault from her grandfather.
He described the details included by the witness pertaining to how she got in the room, where her clothes were, how her body was inside of the room, and what she had experienced inside the room, noting, “He would call her to the bedroom and sometimes take her by the hand…Her clothes ended up around her ankles.”
Stong then stated the particular answers given by the victim to an investigating officer where she described the assault in detail and stated “she did not like it.”
On the stand, the victim stated, “I didn’t want things I said to affect anyone else.”
DDA Stong then began to explain the three elements needed for a victim to be comfortable enough to disclose traumatic experiences, which were listed as support, comfort and trust, noting the victim felt comfortable enough to disclose the details of her experiences with her mother because her mother reassured her that “she could tell her anything.”
DDA Stong added, “On the interview and on the stand she realized that what happened to her was not okay, she realized that despite the trust she had with her grandfather, she realized that that was wrong.”
Stong finalized his statement by stating that the case was about a little girl that loved her “grandpa,” trusted him, and had that trust broken.
Defense Attorney Rangel began his closing statement differently, discussing statistics for plane crashes.
Rangel reminded the jury that it was in the courtroom to listen to evidence and make a determination of fact in a particular case, and then he described the concept of reasonable doubt by stating that statistics are not involved in reasonable doubt.
Rangel stated, “Percentages are not something you should look at when you’re thinking about the concept of reasonable doubt. It’s not about I’m 99 percent sure. Fifteen hundred airplanes take off at LAX. If one out of every 100 planes crashes, that’s 15 airplanes alone at LAX. You would never get on a plane again. So it’s not about putting a percentage on it.”
He then began stating that proof beyond a reasonable doubt did not prove “not guilty” or “not highly unlikely” or even if “guilt was likely.”
Rangel clarified that proof beyond a reasonable doubt would prove guilt beyond being “highly likely.”
He stated that independent corroboration with scientific evidence would be something that would be helpful in this case, but, in this case, it was not present.
Rangel then described a scene in the movie “The Shawshank Redemption,” where no gun was found and the main character described it as an inconvenience in the case, and compared it to not having scientific evidence in this case.
“Of course we would like to have it but we don’t have it. It is a highly inconvenient thing not to have. So it’s really important to have independent corroboration which is absolutely not present here today,” the defense attorney argued.
Later, Rangel described a personal experience where he was accused of recklessly driving at a high speed and a neighbor took a swing at his car because he thought he was the reckless driver. However, he said, it was not true.
“So that’s an example of one witness that can be a problem…as indicated, one witness instruction is also very dangerous,” he said, noting that BILLY was innocent of the charges and not guilty.
In the rebuttal, DDA Stong stated to the jury, “It doesn’t make sense that this would all be made up. The victim is a kid. We talked about that. Who is she? Look at the recordings, evaluate her demeanor and credibility. She is not a criminal mastermind.”
The jury was directed by Judge Dean Benjamini to take time to review the case and come forward with a verdict.