Ivan Villegas, Julie McCaffery and Cynthia Hoang-Duong
WOODLAND, CA – This past week in a closing statement for an assault case in Yolo County Superior Court, Deputy Public Defender Jose Gonzalez-Vasquez argued his client was the real victim, but was treated as guilty from the start by officers and the prosecution, ignoring the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
“One of the most fundamental things of our legal system is a presumption of innocence, and you see it in this case just how far removed that ever was,” Gonzalez-Vasquez maintained.
Gonzalez-Vasquez complained his client was interrupted during his testimony by the prosecution, and he “sometimes could not finish his sentences.” He also said the accused was assumed to be guilty by the police at his arrest, and was ignored when he attempted to explain the situation.
This goes directly against the presumption of innocence, in which every person accused of a crime is assumed to be innocent, unless the evidence proves otherwise, the PD told the jury.
Miguel Samuel Rodriguez is charged with assault by force likely to produce great bodily injury, a felony, on Aug. 15, 2022.
During testimony, Rodriguez told the prosecution the “victim” hit him in the back at least four times with a broomstick before he fought back. In response, Rodriguez stated he punched the victim in the face a couple times.
“I hit him [the victim] in his mouth and then his cheek, and then he started bleeding everywhere…it looks like I’m causing so much, right when I hit him in his face I was like I’m not going to hit him anymore… [then] I started riding my bike,” the accused said.
Following the defense’s redirect examination, the deputy district attorney asked if Rodriguez knew what hit him in the back of the head. The accused alleged the victim struck him with what felt like a rock but he did not know.
After a short break, the DDA began her closing argument by reminding the jury of the elements of the assault charge and the elements of the right to self-defense, but ultimately argued it was not self-defense.
She stressed the victim sustained great bodily injuries, going from walking and biking to being confined in a wheelchair, and concluded “at the point that [the victim] is walking backwards away from the defendant…the right to self-defense ends.”
The court then went on another break, after which DPD Gonzalez-Vasquez challenged the credibility of the witnesses, reminding the jury to evaluate their biases and prejudices in seeing an injured older man with a comparably younger man.
He argued witnesses arrived at the scene when the incident was already over and that they had assumed the accused was attacking the victim for no reason.
Concerning the arresting police officer, the defense said “[she] was looking for a suspect, she found a suspect, she detained a suspect, and she treated him like a suspect, and throughout that entire encounter Mr. Rodriguez was treated like a suspect.”
Gonzalez-Vasquez emphasized the victim was intoxicated at the time of the incident—and in fact in violation of his probation for consuming beer—and told the jury that “there’s no way you could find him anywhere as credible as a witness.”
The public defender emphasized the victim attacked the accused in a drunken stupor, arguing, “Mr. Rodriguez was attacked and he was defending himself.”
After the DDA was given a chance for a rebuttal statement, Judge Peter M. Williams instructed the jury to follow the bailiff to the deliberation room where they would vote on the verdict.