Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sides make final arguments in Hagins -- jury deliberations begin on Tuesday

Attorneys delivered their closing arguments Friday in the Yuba County Superior Court matter of People v. Marcus Charles Hagins, in which a 19-year-old Elverta man is accused of attempted armed rape, burglary and related violations in a May 15, 2009 intrusion into a Plumas Lake home.

Hagins was prosecuted for allegedly sneaking into the Dark Horse Way home of a girl he knew at 4 a.m. and, surprising her in her sleep.

Disguised in a "hoodie" and mask, he allegedly gagged and trussed the girl up with duct tape and tried to insert a ball gag into her mouth – all actions and tools associated with “BDSM.” He also allegedly threatened her with a knife.

Informed sources describe “BDSM” as a type of role playing between individuals who derive feelings of pain and power and create sexual tension, pleasure, and release from the experience.

The attack was almost immediately interrupted by the girl’s mother who heard the commotion and knocked on the girl’s bedroom door to announce her presence.

The intruder fled the house at 4:10 a.m. as the mother phoned 9-1-1 for help.

Hagins was soon singled out as a suspect. Yuba County sheriff’s detectives questioned him the same day, while local agency and state Department of Justice technicians scoured the Dark Horse Way residence and grounds for clues.

Hagins was subsequently arrested and charged with five criminal counts, including armed rape, burglary in the first degree, assault with a deadly weapon, threat to terrorize and false imprisonment.

If convicted of all charges, or even just the first two (and most serious charges) Hagins could be sentenced to life in prison.

The trial opened May 19 before a jury of nine-women and three men and Judge Kathleen Rose O’Connor.

Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Dupré-Tokos laid the prosecution's case over some five days of testimony.

Perhaps the most incriminating evidence presented against Hagins were the fact that crime scene investigators found his fingerprints on the victim’s bedroom door.

Also bad news for the young defendant were some 8,000 suspicious “hits” that Marysville Police Department Detective Kevin Conde (a specialist in Internet crime) reported finding on Hagins’ personal laptop. They primarily came from commercially available pornographic bondage web sites.

Also found were photographs of girls Hagins knew, photos which had been altered to depict them bound and wearing ball gags. Sample pictures were shown to the jury.

Duprés-Tokos also played a staged pornographic video found on the laptop. It showed a hooded man sneaking into a sleeping girl’s bedroom, gagging her, blindfolding her and binding her in a scene remarkably similar to what allegedly transpired in the Plumas Lake attack.

In her 45-minute closing argument, Duprés-Tokos also noted to the jury that what the attacker in the video said and did was “strikingly similar” to what took place in Plumas Lake.

Duprés-Tokos said she believed the porn video and other bits of evidence showed Hagins not only committed the charged crime, but planned it well in advance.

She reminded the jury that Hagins and the victim had gone shopping at the Roseville Galleria with the victim some seven months before. During excursion, the girl had asked Hagins to hold her purse while she tried on clothes.

When she got home she discovered the key to her mother’s home missing from her key ring.

Other incriminating acts and facts included: Hagins denying ever being in the house where his fingerprints were found; his alleged resistance while being fingerprinted; and the fact that the white car he drove was similar to a car spotted near the victim’s home at the time of the attack.

Dupré-Tokos closed by insisting to the jurors that, based on the evidence, the only verdict they could reasonably deliver was guilty.

Sacramento attorney Michael G. Bowman had declined to give an opening statement or present a defense. He elected instead to rely entirely on a strong closing argument to persuade the jury to not convict Hagins of the list of heavy charges the prosecution had leveled against him.

Bowman sought to convince the impassive jury that Hagins had been over-charged with offenses that had been gratuitously larded with uncalled for “special enhancements” and unnecessarily padded with tacked-on lesser charges.

Bowman did not deny the crimes were serious and that they had occurred. He praised the mother and the victim for their clear-headed conduct during the brief 10 minutes in which their lives were turned upside down.

Rather, he focused on whether the crimes had been appropriately charged, if the evidence actually supported claims that his client had committed them.

Bowman quickly dispensed with the three lesser charges, setting them aside. He preferred to limit his arguments to the two leading charges, which called for the longest sentences. Moreover, it was getting late in the day and the jury and everyone in the gallery were getting tired.

The alleged knife disappeared from the prosecution's case only to re-emerge as a pair of scissors and then vanish entirely from the discussion.

The vague “tall and skinny” description the victim had given of her attacker matched Hagins, the prosecution insisted. But it also matched scores of other young men in the area, Bowman noted.

During the long gap in time between when the key went missing from the victim's key ring and allegedly re-appeared to facilitate the intruder's entry into the victim's home, as the prosecution implied, it could have come into the possession of others.

Most importantly, Bowman sought to make the jury understand the significant difference in law between “general” and “specific” intent.

Did the attacker break into the house with the express intention of raping the victim? Someone who did that was a “dangerous person,” Bowman said.

But during the scant 10 minutes the attacker was in the victim's room he did not grope the victim, or insert his penis, Bowman noted.

Burglary charge was charged, but nothing was taken.

In essence, while the prosecution was free to charge whatever it wanted to, but "you get to decide what is appropriate,” Bowman told the jury.

He recounted for the jurors how juries came to be, with the Irish having a hand in their creation after England had acquired Ireland. It seems the Irish folk did not want to merely rubber stamp charges brought by the king.

The Irish wanted a more active role in what was a just verdict, Bowman said.

"We're [the defense attorney and the jury] in here to protect the accused,” he summarized.

Bowman’s closing argument also took about 45 minutes. He closed with a parable about an Indian chief taunted by an upstart brave who wanted the chief’s job.

The young brave held a dove in his hands held behind his back. He challenged the chief to guess whether the dove was alive or dead.

Whichever way the chief answered, the brave could act to make him wrong. So the wise chief simply told the upstart brave: “The answer is in your hands.”

That point made, Bowman added, the individual jurors had to be sure of their answer, because in a matter as serious as the defendant’s life, they did not want to wake up in the wee small hours of the night some time soon, wondering if they had made the right choice.

The hour was late. Judge O’Connor sent the jurors home with orders to return Tuesday morning. They were then to choose a foreperson and begin deliberations.

Later, outside the courtroom, Bowman was asked: had the prosecution ever considered negotiating a lesser plea, a frequent option in serious cases.

“No,” he said.

Tom Nadeau


Blogger James said...

Who is this Bowman guy? What a lawyer...His client is clearly NOT guilty.

May 29, 2010 at 5:38 PM  
Blogger Tom Nadeau said...

Bowman is actually a very good lawyer. I've covered him in Sacramento county trials in the past. He can be quite a persuasive speaker. The hard part for a defense lawyer is he (or she) only has what the client's problem gives them to work with. Then, too, there are always the parts the prosecution learned about, but somehow failed to share with the defense. ("...Now, where did those exculpatory test results go? Hmmmm...Lost 'em, I guess.")

May 30, 2010 at 11:44 AM  

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