September 28, 2006 – 3rd day of the trial
This is the seventh entry in a series of entries on my role in the jury in a double murder case in the county of Contra Costa, California. You can see a more detailed view of the case including links to these posts and other items at this page.
8:47 am – We got started and had a witness that established where J.P. had gotten the car that he drove to the eventual murder scene. She explained she had sold the car for $2000 and received $1000 initially but had reported it stolen after J.P. never came back to give her the other $1000. There was no cross examination.
8:55 am – We are dismissed until 9:30am since the judge has a hearing with a few lawyers on a different case.
So tell me why didn’t they just have this witness come after the hearing and we could have started later today?
9:35 am – Our next witness is Miguel Quoroga (I’m not 100% on the spelling). He knew Joshua Novak in prison and had arranged for the bad checks from our understanding. He also arranged for the drugs to be sent to the house. Miguel is questioned by the jury. His answers seem honest for the most part. They don’t seem rehearsed and at times he seemed to measure what he said as far as implicating other people or not naming them. He definitely didn’t want to use names from other people but he admits to being a hustler and part of the check scam that Karen Novak got involved in.
So they start to go over the details of his relationship with Joshua Novak. He admits that he had a “financial arrangement” with Joshua Novak where bogus checks would be given to Karen Novak and that she would cash, take part of the money and then the rest of the money would go to Miguel through “his people”. He admitted that the first check was no good and that he had to make good with Joshua. I was surprised they didn’t go into why he had to make good and what would happen if he didn’t. Anyways, Miguel said he knew people that would front some meth for him and so he arranged to have a 3 pound brick of meth delivered to Karen’s house.
The DA questions him on the street value of the meth. It’s about $10,000 per pound in brick form and depending on the abilities of the dealer anywhere from $20,000-$30,000 in smaller amounts sold “retail” Karen was to sell this either herself or through other people to get her money back and in addition then pay for the meth.
Miguel confirms that at some point he was told that Karen got cold feet and that the meth needed to be picked up. He said that when he didn’t hear from JP that he started calling around and couldn’t get a hold of Karen. He also couldn’t get a hold of JP but did get in touch with someone else who told him JP was dead.
The defense attorny tried to get Miguel to admit he was a drug dealer but he declined and said he was just a hustler. He said he hustled lots of things but that yes he was familiar with the drug trade as well. There wasn’t much damage done here by the defense attorny to impinge on anything the witness had said during the DA’s direct examination.
The DA redirected (confirm in notes) and asked if the witness was getting any favors whatsoever from testifying (i.e. reduced probation, recommendations, etc.). He said no.
My overall thoughts on this witness was that he seemed fairly honest, as hustlers go. He didn’t have a direct link to the crime other than the fact that he established where the drugs came from and that there was a check scam that had the checks originate with him. He also established that the drugs were to be picked up.
The next witness was Joshua Novak – He is the wife of Karen Novak, who owns the house. I expected this to be a rather interesting witness and I was right.
The witness is currently incarcerated and was brought in wearing his prison uniform. This tells us why we had different bailiffs in the courtroom today. They were all men today. I was actually expecting someone larger (the witness that is). I’m not sure why, but he definitely didn’t look pleasant. It was just his demeanor I suppose.
The DA started to question him about his past and when he lived at the house in Concord. He spoke very clearly and loudly. This is different from Miguel since he talked softly and with a much thicker accent. The direct examination got combative very quickly with Joshua immediately admitting that he lied on the stand during the previous trial where he implicated Dominique in many things. Basically, we are finding out that there was a previous trial of Leron where Dominique was implicated in a number of ways. Joshua is telling us that he did this to help Leron and that he was pressured to but that now he’s “telling the truth” and that he had never spoken to Dominique about anything. Both he and Karen have tried to paint the picture that Dominique was a pleasant and respectable young man.
He did admit that he arranged the check scam to help pay Karen back for money he had lost in her stock market account. He said he felt responsible to her because they were still married at this point.
The defense cross examines him and is trying to further his statements that everything was Leron and that Dominique was never privy to any plans nor did he tell Karen that Dominique could help move the drugs.
Here’s an interesting thing I noticed during his testimony. He always said “pretty much” to the DA instead of “yes” when he confirmed something but to the defense attorney he said “exactly” or “definitely” when he wanted to confirm. Do I know what this means yet? No, not really, but it makes me wonder if this is one of his “tells” when it comes to truthfulness or not.
This witness can not be considered reliable in my book. Very little of what he said can be considered true other than what has been corroborated by other witnesses. He basically helped to confirm what led to the drugs being delivered to the house.
Next witness: Senior Criminalist – This witness provided additional details about the car itself and the position of the bodies in the car. He also establishment that a pillow from Karen Novak’s house was used as a baffle for the gunshots that killed JP and CL. The pillow that was found on the bodies, with bullet holes through it, and covered in blood on the underside matches a pillow from Karen’s house. He just aid they were similar. This is just further establishment of where the crime took place. He also confirmed that the gun was fired very closely to the pillow in question.
At this point we’re shuttled out of the courtroom for some hearings and a break. Then we wait. And we wait some more. Finally, at around 3:30pm we’re brought in the courtroom again and then told that things are ahead of schedule and we’re free to go for the weekend. We’re also told the prosecution plans to rest his case on Tuesday evening. I’m surprised by that because that means just two more days of testimony and we haven’t heard from any sheriff’s deputies yet. In addition, during his opening statement the DA said that Dominique himself had confessed to much of the crime so we’re still waiting for that. It should be a very interesting two days next week.
Tomorrow – The eighth day of jury duty and the fourth day of the trial