Security Footage and Its Usefulness Takes Center Stage in Folsom Prison Stabbing Trial

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By Anna Kristina Moseidjord

SACRAMENTO, CA – A criminal trial involving a Folsom State Prison inmate stabbing reconvened in Sacramento Superior Court last week for those accused of cornering a fellow Folsom inmate in the prison yard and stabbing him more than 13 times.

(Note: The reporter was not able to ascertain full names of defendants and other participants in the Zoom hearing.)

Thursday’s hearing involved extended testimony from CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) employees of Folsom State Prison, where the stabbing occurred.

There are three defendants in the case, all of whom were Folsom inmates at the time. Two of the three defendants appeared physically in court Thursday, while the third appeared over Zoom, and all paid close attention to the witnesses testifying.

The testimony Thursday was mostly focused on a detailed discussion of an important piece of video evidence: namely, a piece of prison security footage that purportedly documents the attack.

The video is somewhat grainy and unclear, however, and according to witness testimony, it is not necessarily possible to identify people from the footage alone.

As one CDCR employee testified Thursday, “looking at the video footage, you can’t tell who anybody is.… You can’t see the weapon, but you can see the stabbing motion.”

The defense clearly called into question whether the defendants could be identified as the attackers from this piece of video evidence, suggesting through questioning that if it was too grainy to clearly identify the attacker, the victim, or even a weapon, there must be some doubt as to who is doing the attacking in the video.

Their questioning of multiple witnesses focused on whether or not they could not identify the witness from this security footage alone.

The video does, however, seem to clearly show the victim of an attack being punched in the face by someone who then walks away.

The victim is then on the ground, and when his first attacker sat down elsewhere in the prison yard, he is again approached, this time by two other men. The video then seems to show these men stabbing him repeatedly as he lies on the ground (all this according to the testimony of the same CDCR officer as mentioned previously).

The fact that the victim in this case was in fact stabbed was corroborated by multiple CDCR officers examining his wounds after the incident took place. The exact weapon used to stab the victim 13 times seems to be unknown.

Security footage from elsewhere in the prison does also seem to show the last two attackers running away from the victim and “making throwing motions” over a fence and toward the roof of a different building.

However, CDCR officers didn’t find any weapons on that roof, even after a thorough search. Discussion of this footage prompted the defense counsel to ask a witness “when you watch the video you can’t see anything leave anyone’s hand and land on a roof, correct?” to which the witness said no.

The defense did briefly mention, however, that a “stabbing instrument with a highlighter handle” which they described as “inmate manufactured” was found elsewhere in the prison after the attack.

The defense also implied that the prison investigator responsible for documenting the case may have been lax in his follow-up investigation, because he did not look for other potential witnesses following the incident.

The trial was also marked by moments of levity. At one point, one of the attorneys for the defense asked a witness to confirm that they were talking about the orange-clad man between “the lawyer in the red tie and the really good-looking lawyer”—referring, of course, to himself.

Thursday’s hearing in this case was presided over by Judge Ernest W. Sawtelle. The case is ongoing.

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