Murder Trial Ongoing; Officers Admit DNA Swabs from Accused Not Checked

By Tiffany Thai

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The trial of Aaron J. Tagata proceeded Thursday in front of Judge Harry Dorfman at San Francisco Superior Court—Tagata is charged with a murder that occurred in 2017, and is represented by Deputy Public Defender Alexandra Pray.

The trial resumed as Assistant District Attorney Aaron Laycook finished calling on his first witness of the day, San Francisco Police Dept. Captain Christopher Canning.

The jurors submitted several questions for Capt. Canning following his testimony the previous day.

As a voice for the jury questions, Judge Dorfman asked Capt. Canning if there was evidence that tied the accused from the residence he was arrested at to the scene of the crime where there was Muni bus footage.

The officer said there were four hoodies that were similar in style to the hoodie pictured in the footage and there were documents with Tagata’s name linking him to the residence where he was arrested.

Notably, Canning noted the hoodies were similar, but were not actual matches to the hoodie pictured in the video.

Judge Dorfman also asked whether the DNA samples including swabs of the deceased’s fingernails and Tagata were tested. Capt. Canning said they were not tested as he did not believe there was a need at the time of the incident.

ADA Laycook introduced three photos into evidence. One photo contained an image of two small knives recovered, and the two other pictures were of 49ers hoodies collected from the accused’s residence.

ADA Laycook in his questioning of Canning demonstrated that, although the two hoodies were similar, they were different from the hoodie in the Muni video because of factors such as the font, text, color of the hoodie drawstring, location of the logo, and whether there was a hood.

Revisiting a question posed by a juror regarding Canning not testing the DNA samples, ADA Laycook asked Canning what the reason was for not requesting the samples to be tested.

Canning responded that he did not request the samples be tested because he was confident they had the right suspect.

In the defense cross-examination, PD Pray also asked Capt. Canning why he did not test the samples. He again emphasized that he did not test the samples because he believed there was “sufficient evidence.”

ADA Markey called Scott Markey, an SFPD homicide investigator.

ADA Laycook noted Markey knew about the suspect from a Daly City Police officer. As a result of this knowledge, Markey made contact with the accused, Tagata.

PD Pray crossed-examined Markey by casting doubt on his findings, asking Markey if the DCPD officer said the suspect looked similar to the suspect in the Muni footage. Markey said “yes.”

PD Pray then asked Markey if he told the DCPD officer he was certain Tagata was responsible for the murder. Markey said he did not.

Judge Dorfman turned to the jury and asked if they had questions. Among the questions written, Judge Dorfman only allowed one question from the jury.

The question said, “Did you (Markey) have the DNA sample from the suspect cross-checked with the victim?” Markey replied, “I did not.”

The third individual called on by ADA Laycook works for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. They take requests from agencies for video footage on public transportation such as the Muni bus where the incident occurred.

The SFMTA employee said the request they were given was the time of the incident, and using this information they provided nine minutes of footage to use for the case.

ADA Laycook then brought a previous witness from earlier in the case, Deputy Vigil, who helps manage recordings of calls using Global Tel Link including visitations and inmate phone calls.

ADA Laycook introduced into evidence a recording of Tagata’s inmate phone call the day he was arrested in an attempt to contact his mother, but another individual picked up the phone.

The call was difficult to listen to as Tagata whispered at points.

Tagata was recorded saying:

“I’m in jail for murder?” “Can I talk to my mom?” “I can’t call her.”

Tagata did not get to talk to his mother during the call, but concluded the call by stating “I love you.”

This audio recording concluded the morning’s events. The trial is set to resume Dec. 3 in Dept. 19 in San Francisco Superior Court.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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