By Oliver Camarena
WOODLAND, CA – The jury trial for Mark Smith, accused in the assault of a Sacramento man in 2021, began Thursday in Yolo County Superior Court with opening arguments, and police officer and doctor testimony.
The prosecution, represented by Deputy District Attorney Alex Kian, and the defense, represented by Deputy Public Defender Richard Van Zandt, gave their opening statements followed by witness testimony.
Smith is being charged with two counts of assault by force likely to produce great bodily injury; elements of attempted murder; kidnapping; and nine enhancements related to his charges.
DDA Kian detailed the alleged assault that took place in and outside at the curb of a motel in West Sacramento on July 24, 2021.
He described how Smith allegedly knocked the victim out during the assault and was going for “maximum damage” by driving his heel into the face of the victim four times, all of which was caught on video surveillance.
PD Van Zandt countered in his opening statement by arguing that what was seen in the video was a spur of the moment assault that occurred in less than 35 seconds. He further argues that what his client is being charged with is not actually kidnapping and that there was nothing premeditated about this case.
The first witness called was Officer Chris Cobb, a police officer with the West Sacramento Police Dept., who recalled receiving a call about a “very serious” physical altercation.
Once he arrived, the victim had already been transported to the hospital and a suspect was taken into custody. Cobb was the investigating officer on the scene and, once informed, went to investigate the surveillance footage that captured the assault.
Cobb recognized the footage when it was shown in court by DDA Kian and confirmed that the date matched his recollection, though the time on the footage was 12 minutes fast. Cobb was able to identify the two men depicted in the video as the victim of the assault and Smith who was sitting in the courtroom.
DDA Kian asked Cobb about the curb at which the assault took place but Cobb was not able to recall the dimension of the curb.
During cross-examination, PD Van Zandt clarified with Cobb that the “so-called curb” is where the end of the parking lot stops and where the sidewalk begins and is only about three inches tall. Cobb couldn’t testify for certain about the height of the curb but did confirm he was familiar with the motel and went on to describe its parking lot and the parking blocks within it.
Officer Keegan Hironaka was one of the first officers to arrive on scene that day and immediately saw the victim on the ground.
He described the victim as lying on his back with his face bloodied and “abnormally-shaped” with a pool of blood under his head and in his hair. The victim’s breathing was labored and Hironaka presumed that blood was possibly blocking his airway.
Hironaka put the victim into a recovery position to help with the fluid in his airway but the man was unresponsive.
DDA Kian then showed multiple stills from the body camera of Hironaka while he was assisting the victim that showed what he had detailed prior—the bloodied victim on the floor lying in a pool of blood.
The body cam footage was shown next and, in it, you could hear Hironaka requesting information about the suspect as well as the victim’s labored breathing as Hironaka assisted him.
The victim’s wife can also be heard sobbing with police sirens going off in the background.
Hironaka said EMTs then arrived on scene and he assisted them while trying to see if could get any statement from the victim.
DDA Kian concluded his questioning by asking if Hironaka thought the victim had a head injury, if he had seen the surveillance footage depicting the attack, and if the officer saw and inspected the curb where the attack took place. Hironaka responded yes to all the questions and said the curb was three inches tall in his estimation.
PD Van Zandt then asked why Hironaka gave the testimony he did about the victim’s labored breathing. Hironaka responded that it was based on what he saw and heard.
A doctor from UC Davis Medical Center was called next, who was an emergency medicine physician who was working the day the victim came into the emergency room to be treated for his injuries.
Dr. McBeth said she was familiar with the victim because she’s the one who treated and compiled some medical records for them when they came to the emergency room nearly a year ago. She recalled the victim as in distress and bleeding profusely from his extensively swollen face.
The witness, after reviewing the victim’s medical records, testified that the victim had multiple facial fractures, a laceration above his eyebrow, and an orbital hematoma (blood clot) behind his eye, but did not have bleeding in his brain.
The victim, according to the witness, had significant head trauma which prompted them to run scans and consult with several subspecialists in the plastic surgery, neurosurgery, and ENT (ear, nose and throat) departments.
DDA Kian inquired about the reason for the neuro consultation and McBeth told him that it was for the optical condyle damage at the base of the victim’s skull.
The CT scan taken of the victim also showed evidence of aspiration (fluid in the lungs).
DDA Kian then showed a collection of photographs that show some of the injuries that McBeth has described that the victim had while in the emergency room. He also went over some of the medical devices that were used on the victim to stabilize his condition.
The witness said the victim was placed in the medically induced coma to stop him from pulling out the breathing tube. He was in the coma for the entire time that she treated him after intubating, approximately five hours, until he was moved from the emergency room into the hospital.
PD Van Zandt asked during cross-examination what made the doctor testify that the victim was confused, but she couldn’t recall. He also clarified several points about why certain treatments were done before asking about the medically induced coma.
The victim was under the care of McBeth starting at 7:43 PM and ending at 12:09 AM, according to UC Davis’s care timeline records, though the exact time when the victim was placed in a coma was not determined.