Friday, May 28, 2010

Hagins prosecution rests; defense silent

The prosecution rested its case Thursday and the defense took the rare move of presenting no evidence in its favor in the strange case of People v. Marcus Charles Hagins, CRF-09-283.

Yuba County Superior Court Judge Kathleen R. O’Connor ordered the jury to return at 1 p.m. today to hear closing arguments by both sides.

The parties huddled for the rest of the rest of the day with O’Connor working out an agreement on what instructions, exactly, the jury will be given for its deliberations.

Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Dupré-Tokos finished her questioning of Detective Kevin Conde, a high tech expert with the Marysville Police Department and consultant with other law enforcement agencies who had reviewed the files saved on Hagins’ personal laptop.

The laptop had been confiscated in the investigation and examined for hours by Conde working out where in the laptop’s several operators had gone and what they had looked at.

Conde testified that it was clear to him that Hagins was far and away the main user of the laptop and that he had downloaded a mountain of bondage pornographer while cruising around the Internet.

The suspect’s pattern of usage indicated he had accessed porno sites on a regular and frequent basis and saved them under a site designated as “Paintball,” Conde testified.

Conde testified that in his analysis of the laptop’s usage he had download some 8,000 images – “graphics,” as Conde called them – both still photos and live action videos from .jpeg, just one of the half dozen or so graphics sites he seemed to have visited pretty much on a daily basis.

Conde said the 8,000 images were only those saved in the .jpeg format. He did not download an uncalculated number other images Hagins had allegedly saved in several other formats including .bmp. .gif and .tif, Conde said.

Tokos then played for the jury and spectators in the gallery one sample bondage porn video, over the repeated objection of defense attorney Michael Bowman.

The video was about 10 minutes long and depicted with sound an intruder wearing a black hood-mask entering the bedroom of a girl sleeping face down on her bed.

The intruder pounced on her, muttering threats and instructions as trussed her up and jammed a gag ball into her mouth.

This was more or less what the victim testified happened to her in the home intrusion/sex attack crime of which Hagins is accused. The only difference in the two tales is that in the porno video, the attacker led his bound-up victim to a nearby wall where he practiced some, er, gestures.

The jury of nine women and three men watched emotionlessly. Hagins sat blankly. Spectators viewed it silently. A few detectives sat in the gallery while the “dirty parts” played and left when they were.

Bowman cross-examined Conde closely, picking his way through the sometimes vague high tech terminology.

Conde testified he had been involved in other investigations involving Internet pornography.

Bowman got him to admit that the pornographic materials found on Hagins’ laptop and used for his prosecution came from “commercial porn sites” readily available to all exploring the Internet.

Asked to rank the materials found on Hagins’ laptop in terms of luridness of that which was available on the Internet, Conde describe it as, “rather tame.”

Bowman also questioned Conde on how anyone visiting one ‘Net site just to look to see what was there might unknowingly have multiple materials downloaded to his or her computer – something online merchants are known to do.

This could indicate that Hagins might not even be aware he was downloading scores of pornographic materials, Bowman suggested.

After some debate, Conde agreed that this was possible.

After some further questions from Tokos and re-cross by Bowman, Tokos told O’Connor her case was finished and she rested.

In a few blunt words, Bowman told O’Connor he would not be calling any witnesses and putting on no case for the defense, a rare action – or non-action – by the defense.

Bowman made no further comments, other than to work out how the parties would get together on the final instructions. Hagins – tall, thin and wearing a dark suit – elected to return to his cell, rather than sit through the complicated legal debate that would occupy the court for the afternoon.

Outside of the courthouse, some knowledgeable court kibbitzers expressed wonderment that Bowman would put on no case. Some averred that it might be a tactic designed to provide the defendant with a possible “IAC” – “Ineffective Advice of Counsel” – motion later, should the verdict go against him.

Such a motion would have to be filed with the court within 60 days and, if granted, could lead to a possible retrial. But IAC motions are seldom approved in California.

That is all speculation, of course, but it’s all court watchers are left to do when the attorneys make strange moves and do not explain what they did and why.

Tom Nadeau


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