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  • Gang Homicide Jury Trial

    I was wondering how other agencies did this...In Riverside Superior Court, it is customary for an expert witness to sit next to the prosecutor as the investigative officer in a jury trial. This is done so he / she can render a professional opinion on the case.

    During a homicide, however, I know the homicide detective is the primary case agent and that he / she has a wealth of knowledge of the collective facts and circumstances of the case. My question is: If a judge grants a "motion to exclude" other witnesses from the courtroom, who sits as the investigative officer, the SME or the homicide detective?

    This is new ground to me as I have never been a SME in a homicide trial...
    The Thousandth Man

  • #2
    When an officer assists the prosecutor and sits at the prosecution table that officer is sitting in as the prosecution investigator. The investigator can be exempt from a motion to exclude witnesses upon motion by the prosecutor with approval by the judge. Who this investigator is depends on the case but is typically the detective who has the most information about the entire investigation. Typically expert witnesses do not act as the case investigator unless they are wearing more than one hat.

    Good luck in trial. 186.22 is a great tool.
    If you see me running try to keep up!

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    • #3
      I've been the "I/O" (Investigating Officer) on many cases including homicides, but I'm not familiar with the phrase "SME". Could you clue me in?

      Thanks and good luck at trial.
      "I'm not fluent in the language of violence, but I know enough to get around in places where it's spoken."

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      • #4
        SME is short for Subject Matter Expert...As far as gangs go, our department usually has two to four experts at each station. Whenever I've testified at either a prelim or jury trial, I have always sat as the IO; I don't know if the fact that a case is a homicide changes things though...
        The Thousandth Man

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        • #5
          Rog! I wasn't familiar with that jargon. One of my last cases was a gang homicide and the Deputy District Attorney used a retired LASD gang expert (I believe his name was Valdimar) as a witness. I I/O'd the case and the expert was excluded until called to the stand. That's usually the case, unless the I/O also testifies as an expert in the trial and (as posted) he/she won't usually be excluded.
          "I'm not fluent in the language of violence, but I know enough to get around in places where it's spoken."

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          • #6
            Richard Valdemar is a retired LASO sergeant who is one of the nation's foremost experts on Hispanic street / prison gangs. I've taken his classes in the past and found him to be a wealth of knowledge.

            I'm betting the homicide detective will sit as the IO in my case also.

            Have you ever had a case with Ken Bell or Tony Moreno?
            The Thousandth Man

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            • #7
              No, other the one case with Ret. Sgt. Valdemar (who was known by the DDA), I've never had occasion to use an LASD (gang) expert in any of my cases. We've used LASD experts in other areas (ie: firearms examiners, criminalists, etc...), but neither of those two names are familiar to me.
              "I'm not fluent in the language of violence, but I know enough to get around in places where it's spoken."

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              • #8
                A bit of the main topic: Tony Moreno is the real "Pacman" from the movie Colors. LAPD gang detective. The movie character wasn't based off of him but the director did ride with him prior to filming the movie, the gangsters called him Pacman cause he drove a big yellow plymouth fury (same car used in the movie) while working CRASH. Met him twice, nice guy. He knows close to everything there is to know about LA gangs.

                For the OP, as the previous posters stated, the case I/O is usually the lead on the case and experts are excluded unless the expert is also the most knowledgeable on the case.
                Originally Posted by VegasMetro
                maybe it’s me but I think a six pack and midget porn makes for good times?????

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                • #9
                  I wonder if Moreno will be at CGIA again this year...Thanks for the feedback guys; the reason I'm throwing this out there is because this homicide trial is the detective's first also (he worked gangs before becoming a homicide dick).
                  The Thousandth Man

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                  • #10
                    When you're assigned to investigate homicides, there's always going to be that "first" case as the I/O. When you get to trial (hopefully) the first case is just like any other you'll be facing in the years ahead. If you lose it, there's no "do overs." You'll never get a chance to correct mistakes that were made and have a retrial. Unlike the depictions on TV, most homicide "rookies" already had years of experience in other investigative details. Participating in the court process as the I/O (to the deputy district attorney handling these cases) shouldn't be something new.

                    When I transfered into Robbery/Homicide, I'd had six years prior experience as a vehicle theft investigator. Although the vast majority of my cases were "just" property crimes, the complexity of them was usually much greater than the more serious crimes I would investigate in my new role. I sharpened my investigative abilities as a patrol officer, honed them in Vehicle Theft and got them razor sharp (I hope) working homicides!

                    I'm sure you ex-gang investigator/current homicide detective will do just fine.
                    "I'm not fluent in the language of violence, but I know enough to get around in places where it's spoken."

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                    • #11
                      The prosecution can have the homicide investigator as the IO and the gang expert as well. The defense doesn't like it and usually has a fit, but the gang expert has the absolute right to listen to all the testimony because he/she can rely on witness testimony to form the opinion on the case. Alot of additional evidence always comes out during witness/victim testimony that isn't included in police reports. Judges in Riverside County are pretty good at allowing this. I just sat through a 2 week prelim on a multiple defendant gang case where 3 gang experts were used. All three of us (my co-workers) sat through all 2 weeks of testimony. The reason we all had to testify was because the case was too complex for just one of us. There were 11 defendants, several who committed a murder, othres an arson, stabbing, carjacking, witness intimidation ect...over a period of about 1 month. So we divided up the defendants. Yes,,there were 11 defense attorneys..fun.
                      Well...Bye

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                      • #12
                        Eleven defense attorneys!!!! ROTFLMAO! How many court reporters! They must have been going crazy.
                        "I'm not fluent in the language of violence, but I know enough to get around in places where it's spoken."

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                        • #13
                          Was that the w***oo Banning caper? Thanks for the feedback. Gotta jam, I'm off to CGIA to learn some new skills and to "network..."
                          The Thousandth Man

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                          • #14
                            On the last gang homicide I testified at, one of our gang detectives sat with the DA since he is our gang expert.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by pulicords View Post
                              Eleven defense attorneys!!!! ROTFLMAO! How many court reporters! They must have been going crazy.

                              They rotated two court reporters throughout..and they were going nuts too..lol The good thing was we got to know several of the defense attorneys by just BSing throughout the 2 weeks. It was a pretty slam dunk case, so they were actually pretty cool about it.
                              Well...Bye

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