Guilty? Innocent? Reporter Lexi Rohrer Tells All – And Wins Big For It

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Written by Lexi Rohrer and Camden Smithtro

 

 

MONTEREY- Following a gripping trial on Monday night at the Monterey County Courthouse, CCU student Jamie Hayes was acquitted of murdering Lee Valdez, a campus security guard. “To have control over one’s life is a right, but having control over the lives’ of others–that is a responsibility,” insisted Hayes’ attorney Noah Thanos.  “But as we have seen in today’s trial, Lee Valdez lost this control.”

Hayes was accused of murder 22 months ago after striking Lee Valdez over the head with a baseball bat in an attempt to save her track teammate and friend, Casey Barns. In her witness statement, Hayes testified that she saw Valdez choking Barns with his baton and heard Barns calling out for help. Immediately after the incident, both Hayes and Barns were handcuffed by Valdez’s partner, Sam Spencer, and brought into police custody.

The prosecution argued that Hayes had intentions other than Barnes’ safety, but could not provide sufficient evidence to back up their claims. Although Hayes was involved in an organization named CCU Against Police Brutality, the defense pointed out that this was a nonviolent organization. Hayes also testified that the organization’s sole intent was to “help our generation find a voice in a strictly peaceful manner.”

Another member of the track team and participant in CCU Against Police Brutality, Alex Rosales, commented on Valdez’s unpredictable violent streak. Rosales told of repeated aggressive interactions between Valdez and track team members, particularly Casey Barns. In one such instance, Rosales spoke of a fight at the track team house that Valdez had been called to break up, and commented on his unnecessary abuse of Barns after the fight had already ended.

When Barns emotionally retold her account of Valdez’s attempt to kill her in May, she emphasized his needless violence and instantaneous assumption of her guilt. As soon as Valdez saw her, he immediately assumed she was committing auto burglaries in the area and tackled her. “If not for Jamie’s quick thinking and bravery,”  testified Barns,  “I wouldn’t have survived Valdez’s attack.”

Slowly pacing in front of the stand, defense attorney Arielle Isack asked several witnesses to describe the nature of Hayes personality, and received answers such as loyal, kind, and gentle. “Hayes’ characteristics, valedictorian status and clean record with the law suggest no intent of murder,” stated Isack.

Before the trial, the defense asked the judge to disallow a statement from Hayes after 16 hours of intense, coercive police questioning. Deeming the statement involuntary because of harsh interrogation tactics, Judge Thomas Wills prohibited the evidence from being later used in the trial.

When questioned after the trial as to which witness’s testimony most affected his decision, Judge Wills commented “Jamie Hayes’ emotional depiction of the event definitely had a significant effect on my decision.”

Lexi Rohrer, a junior at Pacific Grove High, competed alongside the Pacific Grove High School Mock Trial Team on the first weekend of February, 2016, in the Monterey County Mock Trial Competition. Her article, reprinted above, won her 2nd place overall for the county. The Pacific Grove Mock Trial team, whose defense played against Carmel in the final round, came in 2nd by 2 points, marking the second year of Carmel victory. Lexi Rohrer will continue to states with the Carmel Mock Trial Team, and has been commissioned to write for the Lyceum’s Model UN Conference in the fall of 2016.