Friday, April 27, 2012

IN THE COURTROOM

By Denise Yoakum, Deputy District Attorney


Defendant: Ernesto Aguirre
On Dec. 27, 2011, I began pre-trial motions in the trial of People v. Ernesto Aguirre in Department 19 of the San Bernardino Superior Court. Aguirre, a West Side Verdugo gang member was charged with murdering Daniel Martin Martinez on July 3, 2010, with a firearm. Daniel was in the parking lot of a local pharmacy in San Bernardino around 11:30 a.m. when witnesses saw him exit a Black Jeep Cherokee and walk towards his green Saturn.
Once he opened the door to his car and sat down, the defendant arrived in a stolen black Honda Civic. The defendant exited from the passenger side of the car and was approximately 1-2 feet away from Daniel when he began shooting him.
Daniel died after being shot five times.
The defendant got back into the passenger side of the black Honda Civic, and as it drove away, a person exited the black Jeep Cherokee and started shooting at the Black Honda Civic.
Police did not have evidence to arrest the driver of the black Honda Civic or the person in the black Jeep Cherokee. In fact, we did not have enough evidence to show this was even a gang-related murder. We had nothing to offer the jury as to motive for this murder.
Several witnesses saw the actual shooting, but none could identify the defendant. Many of the witnesses only saw the side of the defendant’s face or were too far away to make out any facial features. They each looked at a photo line- up and couldn’t say if the shooter’s photo was in the line- up.

PICTURED ABOVE: Crime Scene
One young girl, who, fearing for her life, asked to remain anonymous, saw the defendant in the passenger side of the black Honda Civic minutes before the shooting. Jane Doe # 1 (as she would be known throughout the trial) only saw his face from the nose down. After hearing gun shots, she again saw the black Honda Civic with the same passenger; this time she saw the front of his face and noticed two bullet holes in the passenger side door of the car.
Prior to her taking the stand, she and her family had been threatened and advised to leave the state by anonymous callers. At first, she did not want to testify or even come to court, but she courageously took the witness stand and identified the defendant. Without the honesty and courage shown by Jane Doe, Aguirre would have gotten away with murder.
Another witness, who saw the black Honda Civic parked on a residential street, testified that he saw two males exit the car and run. He said on the witness stand that he was in fear for his family’s life because the defense had his address and phone number.
The defense attorney on cross examination put up on the overhead a consent form that this witness signed. It contained the witnesses’ current address and phone number. The court room was full of the defendant’s family sitting in the audience. This witness testified he was upset that the defense had shown everyone in the court room his address and phone number.
Another witness, the defendant’s cousin, had told police that the defendant showed up at her house without a car around noon. She said he was sweating and asked her for a ride out of the area. Police recovered the black Honda Civic a couple of blocks away from her house.
The cousin testified on direct she didn’t remember or recall anything she had told the police. When the defense cross examined her, she had a great memory. As she cried during her testimony, I asked her if she was scared. She said no, but only after being coached by her mother who was seated in the back of courtroom.
Even though the cousin did not testify truthfully at trial, her first statements to the police were recorded. The cousin at the end of the interview said, “I know I'm doing the right thing.”
One week before trial, a West Side Verdugo gang member had contacted Det. Martinez from the San Bernardino Police Department and told him that he had information regarding Aguirre. It just so happened that the witness had also been convicted as a third striker—by me. The witness told Det. Martinez his mother had died, and no one from his gang attended the funeral. He was upset and decided he wanted to cut all ties from the gang.
According to the witness, Aguirre asked him to speak with “Lazy” (president of West Side Verdugo) about silencing his cousin, who was a key witness.
“Without my cousin, the DA has no case, so you tell Lazy what’s up with that,” said Aguirre. “You know, can he take care of that?”
As a result of his testimony, this witness also said that he now has a “green light” on him, which means that any Southern California gang member who comes into contact with him has permission to kill him because of his cooperation with law enforcement.
The jury deliberated for four days without any questions. Finally at the end of the fourth day, on Feb. 9, I received a call that the jury had a verdict.
They convicted the defendant of first degree murder and the use of a firearm.
Unfortunately, this case exemplifies why people do not want to help the police or come to court and testify. They are afraid of retaliation against themselves and their families. During this trial, almost every witness asked to be called Jane or John Doe and needed to be escorted to court.
But the truth is, without witnesses coming forward we could not hold criminals accountable for their crimes.

CHIEF'S CORNER

Chief Deputy District Attorney Gary Roth of the Desert Adult Division Speaks Out.
You wouldn't know it by driving through on your way to Las Vegas, but there is a lot of crime occurring within the 19,000 square miles that comprise San Bernardino County’s High Desert. Our burgeoning population is now over 470,000 residents. Last year, the District Attorney’s Desert Adult Division filed 16,000 criminal cases (5,000 felonies and 11,000 misdemeanors).


Gary Roth is Chief Deputy District Attorney of the Desert Adult Division. His area covers 19,000 square miles in the San Bernardino County High Desert.
This represents 27% of the criminal cases filed in the entire county. Our dedicated, hardworking Desert Division staff consists of 39 prosecutors, 8 investigators, 4 investigative technicians, 5 victim advocates, and 28 office assistants. We have three branch offices in the Desert Division: Victorville, Barstow, and Joshua Tree.
The Division stretches north from the Cajon Pass to the Nevada border and Inyo County line, west to the Los Angeles and Kern County lines, and east to the Arizona border.
What happens to the criminals we prosecute? Those that commit minor crimes are put on the “rehabilitation track” with probation, restitution, counseling, alcohol rehabilitation, anger management programs, and anywhere from "credit for time served" to 365 days in county jail. The serious offenders are sent to state prison to do hard time.
Last year, 1,800 hardened criminals who committed serious crimes in the Desert Division were sentenced to over 7,200 years in state prison. You would think that would have put a dent in crime in the High Desert, but it hasn't. We are on our way to having similar crime statistics for this year. Our cases are as serious as they come. For example, Desert Major Crimes Unit prosecutor Rob Brown recently completed his 20th murder trial, one that involved the execution murder by six Sinaloa Drug Cartel members of two rival drug dealers.
Despite our relatively remote location, our Desert prosecutors are on the forefront of the criminal justice system, and provide leadership countywide and statewide. For example, last year Barstow Deputy District Attorney Lana Dallas was the first prosecutor countywide to successfully utilize Penal Code section 1347, which allows a child molest victim to testify at trial by two-way closed circuit TV, to avoid trauma to the victim.
Barstow Deputy District Attorney Sean Daugherty is helping update the California District Attorneys Association statewide manual on prosecutor ethics. Victorville Supervising Deputy District Attorney Britt Imes is on Attorney General Kamala Harris’ advisory committee on criminal street gang issues, and previously assisted with drafting statewide legislation that helps prosecutors crack down on gang members who possess firearms.
Victim’s rights and restitution to victims are on the top of our priority list. Our Desert Victim Advocates assist thousands of crime victims each year, and help obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars in victim restitution.
Public service is the watchword of the District Attorney’s Office and the Desert Division also participates in many community outreach programs. For example, each year over twenty of our prosecutors help coach, judge, and administer the Desert component of the county’s high school mock trial program, instilling civic values and respect for our legal system in hundreds of high school students.
Our prosecutors and victim advocates give presentations at desert domestic violence shelters, Child Protective Services, and at “career days” at local elementary, middle and high schools. Victorville prosecutor Kathleen DiDonato is on the board of the High Desert Bar Association. Our prosecutors help keep the Desert community informed about our criminal justice system by speaking at service clubs (Rotary, Kiwanis, etc.) and community college criminal justice classes.
Prosecuting criminals, protecting victim’s rights, public service, and improving the quality of life for all the residents in the High Desert is what Desert Justice is all about!

JUSTICE FOR IGNACIA: AN INTERVIEW WITH DDA MARGARET BEVAN


On Feb. 14, 1993, Juan Manuel Navarro shot and killed Ignacia Manriquez in the parking lot of Loma Linda University Medical Center. The murder took place in front of the couple’s 4-year-old son.
After 17 years on the run, Navarro was captured and ultimately sentenced to 30 years to life for the murder.
The following interview with Deputy District Attorney Margaret Bevan was conducted in conjunction with the release of a 10-min. video highlighting the brutal Valentine’s Day murder.
Q. Why was this case so important to you?
MB: This case was very important to me because of the nature of the incident.  How dare someone think that they can take the life of another person and for no other reason than they feel they were disrespected in some way.  How dare someone think that they have the right to take the life of the mother of their children because the victim did not want to be with you anymore.  You can’t make someone love you and want to be with you. 
To make things worse, in this case the defendant fled the country and began living his life as though the death of Ignacia did not mean anything.  Then to marry and have another child and leave your other children to fend for themselves.  To me there is nothing more egotistical and deplorable. 
Q. Were you satisfied with the verdict?
MB: Yes, the verdict was justice for Ignacia and her family.  The family had to wait almost two decades to have the murderer of Ignacia brought to trial.  In those few moments when the jury indicated to the Court that they had reached a verdict, in those few moments as they walked into the courtroom, sat down and the Jury Foreman handed their verdict to the Judge, in those few moments that the Judge reviewed the verdict and until the Court Clerk read the verdict aloud, my mind was racing, my heart was pounding. I was replaying the trial in my head.  I turned to Ignacia’s family and my heart stopped.   
All I could do was pray that I had done my job and provided the jury with the evidence they needed to convict the defendant of 1st degree murder.  When the Jury’s verdict was read, my eyes teared up.  We had obtained a just verdict.  I could not bring Ignacia back to her family, but I had it my power to convince the jury that the Defendant was guilty of this horrific crime and that he needed to held accountable for his crimes.  The gratification from the victim’s family meant more than you can imagine.  I went home that night, and overwhelming warmth came to me, as if Ignacia herself was hugging me. 
Q. What does it mean to be a part of the District Attorney’s Office?
MB: On a personal note, the fulfillment I receive from doing something good for someone else is worth every sleepless night, every late night working on motions and research and time away from my family and friends.  I am honored and proud to be part of DA’s office, whose resolve is to bring justice.








DA CHARGES APPLE VALLEY MAN WITH WORKERS' COMP FRAUD

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.  – An Apple Valley man was arrested for allegedly committing four counts of workers’ compensation fraud and one count of perjury.

Investigators with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, Workers’ Compensation Fraud Prosecution Unit, started investigating Francisco Ramirez, 28, in Aug. 2011, after receiving allegations of possible insurance fraud.

Ramirez allegedly sustained an industrial injury on March 18, 2009, when he claimed to have injured his back while lifting a heavy object at work. Ramirez was ultimately provided benefits from the Company’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance.  During the investigation, officials uncovered evidence supporting the allegations of fraud.

On April 12, 2012, investigators arrested Ramirez without incident after he agreed to meet with Investigators in Ontario while on his way home from work. Ramirez was booked at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga on suspicion of workers’ compensation insurance fraud and perjury.

If convicted on all counts, Ramirez faces 9 years of prison time to be served in county prison. The case is being prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Scott Byrd.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.  – The San Bernardino County District Attorney announced the launch of a new website today.
The overall design and user experience is a significant departure from the previous site. Not only will users have access to current news, but the site will also provide a “Frequently Asked Questions” section and quick access to various services by way of an “Action Center” located on the home page.
“Today with the help of the web and our social media platforms, we are able to better connect with the public,” said District Attorney Mike Ramos. “This new website has been optimized so that users and potential users can easily access relevant information and services, and if necessary, use it to contact us directly.”
The site domain will remain the same: www.sbcounty.gov/da.

DA MIKE RAMOS FILES LAWSUIT FOR GANG INJUNCTION ON CUCA KINGS



SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – On Friday, January 20, 2012, San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos announced the filing of a lawsuit seeking a gang injunction in the City of Rancho Cucamonga against the criminal street gang “Cucamonga Kings.” This injunction, with the cooperation of San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, will restrict any gang activity, and will subject members to arrest if they engage in conduct within the Safety Zone (see attached map).
Sheriff Rod Hoops stated: “Residents in the City of Rancho Cucamonga deserve to live and raise their families in a safe and crime free environment. I believe the gang injunction sends a strong message that criminal activity will not be tolerated.”
The Cucamonga Kings is a violent Hispanic criminal street gang that presently consists of approximately 200 members ranging in age from early teens through late fifties and older. The gang and its members treat the Safety Zone, and especially Old Town Park located therein, as their exclusive gang “turf,” or territory and have done so for decades.
The injunction seeks to reduce all gang-related activity and will prohibit congregation and loitering in the Safety Zone. Members will be prohibited from intimidating witnesses, blocking public passageways, possessing, selling or using controlled substances, displaying the gang’s name, signs, or symbols, and possessing or remaining in the presence of, any firearm, imitation firearm, ammunition or illegal weapon. In addition to Old Town Park, Cucamonga Elementary School and Rancho Cucamonga Middle School are also main areas subject to protection in the Safety Zone.
“For decades, the people of Rancho Cucamonga and the surrounding communities have had to sit back and suffer numerous crimes at the hands of these local terrorists. Not on my watch,” said San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos. “We look forward to working with the Sheriff’s Department in ending this gang’s criminal activity and making it possible for the members of this community to live their lives free of fear and violence.”
To go behind the scenes of the Rancho Cucamonga Gang Injunction, view the video below:

DA RELEASE SHORT VIDEO ON VALENTINE'S DAY MURDER



SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.  – The San Bernardino County District Attorney announced the launch of a 10-min. video today in an effort to draw attention to the 1993 Valentine’s Day murder of Ignacia Manriquez.
Nearly two decades ago, Juan Manuel Navarro shot and killed Manriquez in the parking lot of Loma Linda University Medical Center. The murder took place in front of the couple’s 4-year-old son.
After 17 years on the run, Navarro was captured and ultimately sentenced to 30 years to life for the murder.
“I could not bring Ignacia back to her family, but I had it in my power to convince the jury that the Defendant was guilty of this horrific crime and that he needed to be held accountable for his crimes,” said Deputy District Attorney Margaret Bevan who prosecuted the case.


SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY DA RECOGNIZES VICTIMS’ RIGHTS WEEK



SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – April 22 marks the beginning of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, a time to focus on victims of crime and celebrate our nation’s progress in serving them. This year’s theme—“Extending the Vision: Reaching Every Victim”—celebrates the vision behind that progress and the ideal of serving all victims of crime. 

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week will begin in Washington, DC, at the Department of Justice’s annual Attorney General’s National Crime Victims’ Service Awards Ceremony, April 20, to honor outstanding individuals and programs that serve victims of crime. The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office will observe National Crime Victims’ Week with special events and programs from April 22-April 28. 

“Fighting for victims is our passion every day of the year, but this week is an important time to raise awareness in support of victims’ rights to show them that we care about their losses and that we realize their pain is something that lasts an eternity,” said District Attorney Michael A. Ramos. “It also reminds us all in the district attorney’s office why we seek justice for victims of crime.” 

District Attorney Ramos will be attending the Victims’ Rights Rally in Sacramento on Tuesday, April 24, and the annual march to the Capitol in recognition of victims’ rights followed by the victims’ rights ceremony at the State Capitol. Ramos is also scheduled to attend a candlelight vigil later that evening hosted by the San Bernardino Police Department at 7:00 p.m. 

Additionally, Families & Friends of Murder Victims will be hosting the 13th Annual Candlelight Remembrance to promote victims’ rights and honor crime victims and those who advocate on their behalf. The Memorial will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 26, 2012, at the Rancho Cucamonga Civic Center. Ramos will be the opening guest speaker at the event. 

Victim Memorial Display Boards will be on exhibit at the Fontana and Victorville District Attorney Offices during Victims’ Rights Week. For more information about National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, please contact the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Bureau of Victim Services at (909) 382-3669.