Bail Motion Paints Startling Picture of Innocence in Yolo Murder Case

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Woodland, CA – Justin Gonzalez’s bail hearing was postponed until July 31 after his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Ron Johnson, indicated that we was attempting to get through the central file (c-file) received from CDCR.

Gonzalez was convicted of second-degree murder in 2017 for his part in the killings that took place at Case del Sol in Woodland back in 2016.  Gonzalez has always maintained his innocence, and changes to state law now have given him an opportunity for a new trial which is set for October 2, 2023.

That’s nearly a year after the court of appeal issued an opinion “reversing Mr. Gonzalez’s convictions in their entirety and remanded to allow the People to retry Mr. Gonzalez for if they so choose.”

Ron Johnson has until Thursday to file his motion with the court.

In March the court denied the bail motion, but allowed the issue to be revisited after Gonzalez’s c-file was received.

In his motion, Johnson notes, “Gonzalez’s previous conviction for second degree murder flows from the actions of his co-defendant, the actual killer in this case. With the elimination of the natural and probable consequence theory of liability, the only theory left for the People to pursue under the circumstances would be as a direct aider and abettor to the killing with knowledge of the perpetrator’s intent and a shared intent to accomplish the killing.”

He added, “The difference in the first jury’s verdicts alone cast doubt on liability, as a direct aider and abettor shares the killer’s intent and Mr. Gonzalez was only convicted of second-degree murder as compared to Mr. Velazquez, who was convicted of first-degree murder.”

While there was security footage of the scene near the murder, there is no direct footage showing the stabbing and, thus, “eyewitness testimony was relied on to prove who was involved directly in the homicide.”

That evidence, as Johnson argues, lies on a single witness who testified at the first trial that Gonzalez held the victim while he was stabbed by co-defendant Velasquez.

However, Johnson notes, that testimony is contradicted by “the video of actions leading up to the stabbing which showed Mr. Velasquez running toward the area where the stabbing occurred on his own a full fourteen seconds before Mr. Gonzalez is seen at the same point and at a significant distance behind him.”

Johnson further notes “the lack of any forensic evidence such as blood or DNA found on Mr. Gonzalez’s clothing collected at the time of arrest, which would be expected had he indeed held onto the deceased in a bear hug at the time he was stabbed as Raquel P testified.”

Trial court Judge Dan Maguire noted the lack of overall credibility of Ruby Aradoz as a witness to the murder.

Johnson in his argument added that “she was so drunk that she was blacked out much of the key time and that her testimony was in exchange for a dismissal of her charges as she was a co-defendant through most of the trial.”

Johnson continued, saying “there are a number of indications from the evidence that Mr. Gonzalez was actually attempting to curtail Mr. Velazquez’s aggressiveness against another witness just prior to the homicide, including the surveillance tape and prosecution witnesses who testified that it appeared Mr. Gonzalez was trying to calm Mr. Velazquez.”

Johnson adds: “Based on discovery received to date, the People’s case has not grown any more compelling. Indeed, witnesses that did not testify at the first trial have been interviewed by defense, the statements of which have been provided to the People, that cast additional doubt on the People’s theory.”

The motion also notes that, following his conviction, Justin Gonzalez “expressed a desire to staff to leave the gang and was subsequently placed in administrative segregation by the sheriff based on his request.”

Since his confinement, he has been placed in either the “sensitive needs yard” (SNY) or the Administrative Segregation Units (ASU) “due to the ongoing safety and enemy concerns also stemming from his prior gang dropout.”

Further, not only has Gonzalez retained his SNY status, but his “classicfication score has dropped.”

Johnson notes, “Upon release, Mr. Gonzalez will move in with his fiancé in Vacaville and work at her family business. Mr. Gonzalez will not return to Woodland, CA, and has severed all ties to gangs there.”

The central issue in determining “whether a defendant is entitled to bail is determining if the defendant has been charged with a capital crime.”

Johnson notes, “Mr. Gonzalez had been denied bail from the outset as he was charged with Murder and a Special Circumstance, a capital crime. At trial, though, Mr. Gonzalez was acquitted of the charge of First-Degree Murder, and convicted of the lesser included Second-Degree Murder, a non-capital offense. Mr. Gonzalez’s conviction was reversed and remanded on appeal for the People to choose whether to retry under a valid theory of liability.”

He further argues, “All defendants, unless charged with a capital offense, or those punishable by death, have a right to the setting of bail.”

Johnson concludes: “Because Mr. Gonzalez is not charged with a capital offense and does not meet the criteria for the preventative detention exception to bail as a matter of right, the court should set bail in a reasonable amount calculated to ensure his return to court for trial.”

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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