Self Defense or Gang Shooting? Murder Trial Begins in San Francisco

By Stewart Lucas

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Deputy District Attorney Dane Reinstedt’s opening statement in the murder trial here in San Francisco County Superior Court sought to frame Thomas Ortiz as a gang member getting revenge, but Deputy Public Defender Yali Corea-Levy argued his client only acted in self-defense.

For the first part of his opening statement, DDA Reinstedt relied on surveillance footage that established Ortiz as the shooter, playing the video of the shooting three times in a row for the jury throughout his statement.

Next, DDA Reinstedt argued the victim belonged to a rival gang, and insisted the shooting was a gang-related attack that served as vengeance for the death of someone named Rashawn Williams, who died in a fatal stabbing two years before.

PD Corea-Levy began his opening statement by maintaining “context matters” and then asked, “How did we get here?” while gesturing to the still frame of Ortiz shooting the victim.

Corea-Levy slowed the video down and broke the scene down frame-by-frame. He argued that a bottle struck Ortiz while he and the victim were fighting with just fists.

Only one second passed, said PD Corea-Levy, between when Ortiz was hit by a bottle and when he decided to shoot the victim. PD Corea-Levy showed the aftermath of the shooting. This evidence showed Ortiz running from the scene holding his head as if it was injured.

Next, PD Corea-Levy contested the gang allegations, arguing the jury should not judge Ortiz by his innocent associations. PD Corea-Levy said Ortiz and Rashawn Williams had known each other since birth and were only family friends, not members of the same gang.

PD Corea-Levy ended the opening statement by suggesting this was a special trial because the jurors will put themselves in the accused’s place and decide what they would have done in his situation.

Finally, he revealed that Ortiz would be testifying at the end of the trial.

The trial reconvenes Friday.

About The Author

Stewart is a Second Year Law student at UC Hastings. He is an aspiring trial lawyer with a fierce passion for public interest. He currently plans to get more experience in court, watching the proceedings that reflect the state of the country.

Related posts


Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for