By Shady Gonzales
MODESTO, CA – Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Dawna Reeves, Defense Attorney Willard Bakeman, and Deputy District Attorney Patrick Hogan Monday discussed logistics for an upcoming trial regarding an alleged gang-related jail incident.
In January of 2022, in front of onlookers in the jail, two members of the Norteño gang allegedly attempted to “wound” the victim’s face by slashing it. The victim was a former member of the Norteño gang that had been recently removed from affiliation.
Expecting to complete the process of choosing a jury soon, Judge Reeves informed the attorneys she has let the potential jurors know that the trial could potentially last until July 14.
Both attorneys, Hogan and Bakeman, expressed that they would not be able to complete the trial if it lasted nearly that long.
DDA Hogan clarified he would have to hand the trial over to another attorney midway through if it proceeded past July 6.
However, Attorney Bakeman expressed his concern that he would not be able to finish the trial after June 30. Because of this concern, Bakeman realized he would also have to switch attorneys mid-trial or have someone else appointed to it immediately.
In response, Judge Reeves stated: “Yeah, I’m not going to do that.”
Uncertain if it would be possible to have a jury assigned by Tuesday, Judge Reeves opted to proceed with the trial in the hopes of a jury being assigned.
Bakeman requested that the expert witness, a Stanislaus county deputy, be both excluded from the trial and not allowed to sit alongside DDA Hogan throughout the trial.
In response, DDA Hogan argued that the officer would be asked his expert opinion on the nature of the gang allegations and that it would be necessary for the officer to listen to the testimonies throughout the trial in order to accurately form his opinion.
Judge Reeves ruled that allowing the officer to sit throughout the trial would not be prejudicial in any way and that Bakeman’s request would not be granted.
The defense also presented a motion to exclude gang evidence from the case, citing that, while there are witnesses to the violent altercation that took place inside of the jail and video surveillance of the violence, there is not a certain conclusion on what the motive of the violence was.
In response to this request, DDA Hogan claimed because the violent act had been done in front of other members of the Norteño gang, the act was meant to indicate to others that they would be removed from affiliation in a similar manner if they behaved in a way that the gang did not agree with.
DDA Hogan said he planned to present this motive as an essential aspect in determining the outcome of the case and hoped to present the motive and outcome of removing the victim from the gang in this specific way to the jury.
The opposing counsel argued that there is no way to establish motive in the case if through the opinion of the expert witness, being that the officer will sit in court throughout the trial.
Stating that bringing in evidence of motive as DDA Hogan is attempting to, defense counsel said it was “incredibly prejudicial evidence that has very, very, very little probative value.”
Judge Reeves came to the conclusion, in agreement with DDA Hogan, that gang evidence can be presented to the jury, but because the evidence that Hogan is seeking to present is not specific enough to meet the burden of proof of motive, it will be excluded from this trial.
Judge Reeves argued that the inclusion of this gang evidence would not provide enough of a probative value to outweigh the prejudicial impact it would have on the jury.
The trial is set to begin later this week, following the establishment of the jury.