The trial for Ruben Mize, Bryan Medinilla, Raul Diaz and Ricardo Nava continued Monday, June 14, with several officers of the Santa Barbara Police Department testifying.
Detective Kenneth Kushner was the first witness to take the stand, beginning his testimony with information regarding Mize. He said that Mize, while at the station with Kushner, without being questioned or provoked, said “You guys got me on this one” and “I’ll never see my dad again. He’s an ex-con so he can’t come visit me.”
“[His] eyes were bloodshot and it seemed like he was fighting back tears,” Kushner had noted.
The rest of Kushner’s testimony was about the interview he had with Emilio Mora about the incident. He said Mora had described Nava, Mize, and Medinilla in a truck, driven by Carlos Diaz, showing off knives and yelling “Eastside” and “Traviesos” once they arrived at their destination, near San Pascual and Ortega Streets.
Kushner said Mora maintained that his position throughout the incident was a look-out, claiming he was not involved in the murder but solely placed to watch for police or Westsiders. Kushner also said that Mora claimed Mize stabbed the victim two to three times but was unaware as to what Medinilla was doing. Kushner said Mora’s worried demeanor could be attributed to his concern about “ratting” to a police officer, an action obviously contrary to the laws that govern the gang world. Kushner said that during the interview Mora asked if what he had said was considered ratting. Kushner said Mora’s answers changed throughout the interview, progressing from reluctance to talk and giving false information, to giving more honest answers.
“I didn’t see nothing. I was just making it up to cover for people,” Mora allegedly said, maintaining his hands-off participation. “I’m probably going to go to prison and I didn’t do anything.”
Next on the stand was Detective Jaycee Hunter, an officer who interviewed Medinilla on July 20, 2007. Hunter said he asked Medinilla about two incidents; the first, a fight in the early evening on Victoria Street on July 16, 2007, and the second, the homicide later that night. Hunter said that Medinilla told him that he had been with two friends that evening and had stopped by Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, or CADA — where he had been getting help — to get some water. His counselor at CADA, Sofia Murillo, had asked him the next day if he had been involved in the Victoria Street fightt, he told Hunter, but he said no, considering he was at CADA around the same time as the fight. Hunter said that during the interview on July 20, he inquired about a bruise on Medinilla’s left eye; Medinilla said that three men had beat him up two days earlier, July 18, while he was walking down Salinas Street; he did not know who they were or why they attacked him. When asked about the homicide on the night of July 16, Hunter said Medinilla said he was at home all night.
Hunter had also interviewed Lucero Uribe, the former girlfriend of Ruben Mize and the sister of Carlos Diaz. He said Uribe was not forthcoming toward the beginning of the conversation, but he said he reminded her of the seriousness of the issue and how her brother was in custody. He said her demeanor was “confident and positive” when he asked her to choose from photos who had gotten in the truck with her brother, despite being in tears during other parts of the interview. Hunter said that Uribe admitted to arranging for her brother to pick those boys up and intentionally didn’t tell him the purpose of the trip they were about to make. Attorney Sam Eaton addressed the issue of the language used by Hunter and Uribe; Uribe had said the trip was to “to go look for Westsiders” which Hunter said was “synonomous with gangbanging,” though Eaton couldn’t get Hunter to say that Uribe didn’t actually say “gangbanging.”
The next officer to testify was Michael Ullemeyer, a forensic technician with the Santa Barbara Police Department. Prosecutor Hans Almgren simply showed him a series of photos, some taken by Ullemeyer himself, some depicting a car jack, and others, the wounds on a body. After questions from the defense, he conluded that there was no way to determine the jack was involved in the crime, since no hair, blood or any sort of DNA sample could be seen or gathered from the car jack, and since he was not given any other blood samples, knives or weapons to examine.
Detective Gary Siegel was the final person to testify Monday. Siegel, as lead investigator, has been present throughout the trial and went on the stand earlier. Monday, Siegel gave the court an intensive look into the gang world and what some of the rules are that regulate it, considering his years of training and experience with gang crime and culture. Siegel said that, according to an interview he conducted, Robert Martinez told him that Mize and Medinilla knocked at his bedroom window the night of the incident, and Martinez decided to drive them to get “rid of some knives.” Martinez told Siegel that they went to Goleta Beach, where Mize and Medinilla exited the car and he turned it around. He told Siegel that he didn’t remember Mora being there, and at some point during the interview mentioned how he didn’t always remember everything due to his drug use. Siegel said that Martinez also told him that he “jumped”—meaning initiation by beating—Medinilla into the gang a couple days later.