Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bryan Barnes & Javier Bolden Prelim Day 4, USC Chinese Grad Students Murders, Ming Qu & Ying Wu

UPDATED 10/4 6:15 PM 
UPDATED 10/4: clarity, accuracy
UPDATED 6:15 PM: additional notes, spelling, clarity
Thursday October 3rd, 2013
In the opening scene of David Simon’s groundbreaking series The Wire, Baltimore homicide Detective James McNulty is sitting on a stoop with a young black man, talking about the murdered boy lying in the street, and how he got his nickname, “Snot Boogie.”  After asking the boy about how Snot Boogie ended up dead, the young man tells McNulty, “I ain’t goin’ to no court.” 

In another scene early on in the first episode, a witness changes their testimony on the stand. A woman who originally identified a defendant in a murder, no longer identifies him as the shooter.  The other witness who does identify the shooter, eventually ends up murdered himself.

Although Simon’s series is fiction, The Wire has often been praised for its stark accuracy in portraying the drug scene, gang related violence, the consequences drugs have in our communities, and the struggles law enforcement agencies face in bringing criminals to trial.

Yesterday, I saw a similar scene play out in court. Prosecution witness Timothy Hall took the stand and testified about why he didn’t come to court under subpoena on September 25th, 2013, the initial date for the preliminary hearing to start. Hall, who had been shot eight times and survived, told the court that he didn’t come to court that day because his father didn’t want him to be involved in the court case. His father didn’t want him to testify.  He was subsequently picked up by police and thrown in jail for violating a subpoena.

When Hall did take the stand (after being offered immunity by the prosecution) Hall had selective memory loss regarding what he told detectives about the events surrounding when he got shot, as well as what he said and did in helping detectives identify who shot him. Even when presented with an audio recording of what he told detectives, Hall insisted on the stand that he had no memory of what he said.

It’s one of the basic problems detectives and prosecutors face in obtaining convictions in gun related violence: getting witnesses to testify under oath as to what they know about a murder they may have witnessed, or even about how they ended up shot themselves. Witnesses are afraid to take the stand. There are several reasons why people don’t want to testify. They could be afraid of retaliation by other people for testifying, or, they don’t want to be labeled as a ‘snitch.’ There is also the possibility of the basic fear of the court process itself. Bryan Barnes’ former girlfriend testified that she was scared, and claimed that detectives threatened to charge her with second degree murder in the deaths of of Ming Qu and Ying Wu, the two USC Chinese graduate students who were murdered on April 11th, 2012.

Los Angeles County has the largest court system and proseutor’s office in the nation. Take any day of the week in any one of Los Angeles County’s forty plus court locations, there’s probably a murder case that is being tried or has a hearing.

The other sad reality is that very few gang or gun related murders get the media coverage that this case has received. You might see a single story once a defendant has been convicted, but rarely will you see daily coverage of a gang related trial.

Every death matters, but often times the mainstream media will only cover a case when the individuals killed are considered ‘innocent victims’ that sadly ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

A single witness took the stand this morning. 

ABC (a pseudonum) testified about the shooting she witnessed on December 3rd, 2011 outside a party in Los Angeles. The witness was very certain that the individuals she saw shooting at Anthony Hall were Bryan Barnes and Javier Bolden.

Charles Darden
In the afternoon session. Charles Darden took the stand and testified that on February 12th, 2012, he saw Javier Bolden shoot his cousin Deionce Davance outside a club just north of the intersection of Western and 51st Street. After the initial gunshot, Darden and Davance and other friends started running south on Western towards 51st Street. As they were running, Darden testified he heard his cousin say, “I think I’ve been shot.” Darden, who was ahead of his cousin, looked back to see Davance holding his stomach and limping.

Darden stated that he heard a second gunshot and saw his cousin fall to the ground. He  did not see who shot Davance the second time at the corner of Western at 51st. .

There were a few statements that Darden made to police that he could not remember. He told Judge Marcus that he wasn’t trying to be evasive, he just wouldn’t testify to something that he didn’t remember. Darden added that since the incident he had been shot himself and his memory has been fuzzy since.

Judge Marcus ruled that Darden was not a Green witness and his recorded statements to police could not be used to impeach him.

Zanea Flowers
At 4:00 PM, Zanea Flowers took the stand at testified for about 15 minutes. She started to cry when she was shown a photo of her friend she thought of like a brother, Deionce Davance. Flowers testified that a fight broke out inside the club between Davance and Javier Bolden. Fists flew between them.  The fighting moved out into the street. She heard the first gunshot and started running away from the club on Western toward 51st Street  She and her friend “Tee Tee,” were ahead of Darden and Davance. She was shot in the right calf. She eventually fell when her leg gave out. She did not see who shot her.

Flowers testified that she has seen Davance in the hospital and later in a rehabilitation center several times since the shooting. She testified about the scars on his head from the surgeries he’s had. Devance cannot speak.

Her testimony will continue Friday afternoon at 1:30 PM.

UPDATE 10/4/13 6:15 PM
I just want to add that there has been no testimony to date that links these two defendants to a street gang, or alleged gang violence. The defendants have not been charged with any crime alleging gang violence. There has been testimony at the preliminary hearing that the defendants were associated with a "party crew" called No Respect Inc.  There's been no testimony that states this group is a street gang.

To charge an individual with a crime that has street gang affiliation requires very strict criteria. To qualify, it's my understanding that the crime must be under the direction of, in association with and for the benefit of a street gang.

I felt it was important to make that distinction so there is no misunderstanding.

To be continued.....