COURT WATCH: Yolo Man Remains Behind Bars as Yolo Judge Ponders Bail after Overturned Jury Verdict

By Gabriel Johnson and Rena Abdusalam

WOODLAND, CA – During Justin Gonzalez’s bail hearing Monday here in Yolo County Superior Court, Judge Sam McAdam postponed his decision regarding the accused’s bail appeal until Friday.

In March of this year, visiting Judge Stephen Mock denied the defense’s prior request for reduced bail. However, Judge McAdam authorized another bail reduction hearing this month, noting he was “open to Gonzalez’s status and hearing all arguments.”

In 2017, Gonzalez was found guilty of second-degree murder, receiving a 70-year sentence with no parole, but the sentence was overturned recently after the passage of Senate Bills 1437 and 775, which permitted the elimination of the natural and probable consequences doctrine applied to his case.

At the beginning of the hearing, the prosecution Johnson stated the original trial’s prosecution focused on direct aiding and abetting in the opening argument and natural and probable consequences in the final.

“The problem I have is that your position is that the defendant was convicted of second degree murder and if the prosecution argued both theories, it’s hard to say what the jury convicted on,” said Judge McAdam.

Regardless of Gonzalez’ overturned conviction, Judge McAdam expressed the court has to factor in the weight, work and verdict of the proceeding jury.

Judge McAdam mentioned content concerning the direct aiding and abetting statute, identifying testimony from witness…and a concurring statement from Justice Murray that was forwarded to the Court of Appeals.

“One of the strengths of (the defense) and the defendant’s position here is if the direct aiding and abetting theory of prosecution rests solely or principally on (the witness) testimony—I mean Justice Murray’s obliterated that testimony and then (the defense) highlights other problems with it… are we missing something?” inquired Judge McAdam.

“Is there something more than (the witness) testimony to support the theory of the case that this defendant held the victim down, while the co-defendant stabbed him?” continued Judge McAdam.

However, the prosecution replied that other witnesses can offer assistance to theory and testimony.

“No, I get that. Listen, you know, (the witness) contradicted herself…she showed up to the police station, seeking U Visa accommodations and victim compensation. I mean, if what Justice Murray said is not true, then I agree with you, but if he gave a fair summary of it, then that’s a concern about the weight of the testimony,” stated Judge McAdam.

Judge McAdam added, “I don’t see how any reasonable jury can believe (the witness) testimony if Justice Murray’s summary is accurate and if that were the sole basis for the aiding and abetting theory. That’s why I asked (about] what other evidence should I be focused on.”

In response, the prosecution asked the court to review the original hearing in its entirety and take into consideration the other witnesses.

“I mean, the jurors believed it. All of the evidence that the court is talking about and that Justice Murray talked about was all put out in front of the jury and all argued by defense,” said the prosecution. “And obviously, the jurors took in consideration everything else in the trial as well as that.”

Judge McAdam then interrupted the attorney’s reply by repeating his inquiry about what specific evidence he should be looking at. Judge McAdam also pointed out how specific Justice Murray’s concurring opinion is.

He began to elaborate on Justice Murray’s reasons as to why (the witness) testimony is untrustworthy: surveillance cameras did not catch (the witness) on video despite her statement, she has a previous conviction of welfare fraud, is on diversion for animal neglect, evidence she presented conflicted with other witnesses, and she claimed the Gonzalez pointed the knife at her.

“Focus me on other real evidence that would support a direct aiding and abetting theory other than (the witness),” declared Judge McAdam, noting Gonzalez’ past criminal activities, including the accused’s prior gang charge and multiple violations of parole that breached his gang terms.

After asking the questions he wanted, Judge McAdam stated he is “…not prepared to issue any decision…” on the motion until he “reads the transcript of closing argument, the transcript of Judge Mock’s hearing and confirms the prior record.”

The questions before Judge McAdam are whether there is “sufficient evidence to sustain a guilty verdict” under the theory of direct Aiding and Abetting, in light of questions regarding the reliability of testimony by (the witness)…and “whether there is a likelihood of great bodily harm if the defendant were released.”

Defense counsel then made further arguments that there is not sufficient evidence to support a conviction under the theory of direct aiding and abetting, because (the witness) is a non-credible witness and “is the only witness who testified that Mr. Gonzalez was holding onto the deceased when the stabbing happened.”

Because the forensic evidence doesn’t match that testimony, the defense said, “The reason forensics were important is because there was no blood located on (clothes), which seems counter-intuitive if he would have been holding the person while the person was being stabbed.”

Judge McAdam wasn’t convinced by the argument. He drew a distinction between how he would have treated the argument if there were no previous jury verdict, noting that “if you were coming in the first time and we didn’t have a jury verdict, your case would ring entirely different to me, but we have a jury verdict and direct aiding and abetting was argued, the jury instructions gave that issue to the jury and so I think that’s a problem for you here.”

Judge McAdam is scheduled to issue a decision on whether there is enough evidence to move forward and, if so, whether Gonzalez has a constitutional right to pre-trial bail.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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