Results tagged “Rameen Minoui” from The Court Reporter

The Courthouse Christmas Spirit

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The Christmas spirit was lively Thursday morning at the Hall of Justice.

A group of inmates inside a detention cell in the courtroom were chatty as they wait for the public to be let into the courtroom and Judge Kevin McGee to begin the proceedings.

The inmates joke about justice north of the LA city limits.

"Come here on vacation," a male voice says loudly.

"Leave here on probation," a female inmate - a few people down from him - chimes and completes the familiar chant.

A few chuckles surface from inside the cell.

On the opposite side the of the courtroom, the bailiff, Deputy Ramirez, is directing the people traffic. Deputy Ramirez greets people as though they were walking into his new car showroom with a lot of "yes, sir," "No, ma'm" or "Good Morning" as they approached his desk to ask questions.

Deputy Ramirez always seems to be in good mood, always professional and always polite. 

His smile helps to ease some courthouse fears and concerns. Sometimes, he plays music - Vivaldi, Oldies, County and Western - in the afternoon.

He said he started playing the music because it helped drowned out attorney-client conversations between inmates in custody who are standing close to the metal while talking to their lawyers on the other side.

People on the front row can often hear these private conversations.

The music, especially Vivaldi,  also seems to put the whole court in a mellow mood. 

I admire Deputy Ramirez's patience and professionalism, and that in his heart, the Christmas spirit seems to be 24/7, 365 days a year.

He is also a scoutmaster, and proudly told me that his son is one merit badge from being an Eagle scout. The boy has 42 merit badges and only needed 21 but the one he needs is the emergency preparedness badge. It is a required merit badge to be an Eagle Scout, the highest level in scouting.

Before the public is allowed into the courtroom, I bumped into a lawyer with a white bag.

She gives me one of the wrapped, small banana bread gifts she has inside the bag.

"Don't think I am trying to bribe the media," she jokes.

I smile, "I won't. Thank you."

She walks over, reaches inside her bag and also gives Deputy Ramirez one of her banana-bread gifts. 

The door is open to the public and dozens and dozens of people file into the courtroom.

It is not a packed courtroom today. So it will not be as busy in the large courtroom as other days.

Most people are there to know their fate or to support loved ones, friends and family.

I am there waiting for Gina Drake to be arraigned for murder.

Like clockwork, Deputy Ramirez recites the courtroom rules: no talking, no cell phones, no sunglasses, not talking, no trying to communicate with the inmates, period or a person will be asked to leave.

Judge McGee enters the courtroom and sits on the bench. There are many files ready to go.

Lawyers, the court reporters, court clerks, additional deputies and an interpreter are all in place.

The judge is flanked by two poinsettias sitting at the lower level wooden counter. There are three more poinsettias in the courtroom.

The judge, who is one of the courthouse workhorses, begins hearing one case after another 

One young defendant learns his fate early in the court proceedings.

The judge tells him that the district attorney isn't going to file misdemeanor criminal charges against him.

"Yessss," he says in a low voice as he leaves the courtroom with a smile that looks like it was lifted from Vegas jackpot winner.

I'm sitting on the front row and I'm  thinking: Meeeerry Christmas, dude, as I watch him leave.

Ms. Drake pleads not guilty and leaves the court with her attorney.

I get some quotes from Drake's lawyer and the prosecutor Rameen Minoui.

Mr. Minoui and I wrap up our conversation outside the courtroom.  He spots a small amount of cash waded up and lying on the long courthouse floor, which is used by  hundreds of people every day.  Another prosecutor walks past the money, and tells Mr. Minoui that it is not his money.

A woman who had a court case earlier, passes by and hears what is going on. She asks what Minoui plans to do with the money because she has a friend that can really use the money.

Yeah, right, I am thinking, and I just got off the turnip truck.

Mr. Minoui ignores her. She leaves.

He tells me that he is going to give it to a homeless person.

Good idea, especially at this time of the year, I said.

He then has another idea and asks me to give the cash to a homeless person.

Why me? You do it, I replied.

You're going outside the building so  just hand it to someone, he said.


I told him it would be nice to see this person's smile when i hand him the money.

I took the money and decided to add some bucks of my own to the newly found cash.

I go to the newsroom in Camarillo and quickly bang out the Gina Drake arraignment story, update files, work on an annual work performance report that's overdue.

Hours later, I leave work and walk up to a homeless shelter and see a man in his early thirties cross the street, heading toward the shelter.

I walked up to him as he is about to enter the building.

I hand him the cash.

"Here you go. It's from me and Rameen, Merry Christmas," I said.

There is no smile on the bearded man with black glasses, just a soft, very appreciative voice.

"Thank you. You didn't have to do this," he said. "And Merry Christmas to you. Thank you."

"You're welcome," I said and left.


FOOTNOTE: I will be on vacation until Jan. 4, heading to El Paso to visit some relatives.



Closing Arguments in Murder Trial Begin Wednesday Morning

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Closing arguments in the murder trial of Alex Compian begin Wednesday morning in Courtroom 35 at Ventura County Superior Court.

Judge Charles Campbell, who is presiding in the trial, ordered the jury Tuesday to return to court at 9 a.,m. 

The judge will first read the jury instructions, which take about half an hour. Afterwards, attorneys will make closing arguments.

Prosecutor Rameen Minoui finished putting on evidence and testimony Tuesday morning. Compian's lawyer Willard Wiksell told the judge that he didn't have any witnesses to put on the stand.

During opening statements in the trial, Wiksell told jurors that Compian would testify. But the defense changed  its mind and decided to keep him off the stand.

Compian, 24, is on trial for the murder of his neighbor, Mario Cisneros, 50, who was found shot and lying near the side of his home in the 200 block of Alpine Street in Oxnard about 11:20 p.m. on Dec. 24, 2009, according to court testimony.



Defendant's Former Girlfriend Testifies About Christmas Eve Slaying

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The former girlfriend of murder defendant Alex Compian testified today that she received a cell phone call from Compian on Christmas Eve 2009  saying that he had just  "smoked a homie" who had accused him of being a snitch.

Joanna Hernandez testified that she understood the word "smoked" to mean that he had killed someone.

Compian, 24, is on trial for the murder of his neighbor, Mario Cisneros, 50, who was found shot and lying near the side of his home in the 200 block of Alpine Street in Oxnard about 11:20 p.m. on Dec. 24, 2009, according to court testimony.

Hernandez told jurors that she had met Compian on November 2006 when she was 16 years old and he was 18. The two have a son who was born in July 2009, she testified.  Hernandez said she and Compian moved out of her mother's house in Oxnard  a month after the birth of her son.

She testified that they moved into the 200 block of Alpine with Compian's uncle. She said she knew the victim and his wife Connie Cisneros was aware that the couple had children. She said her relationship with Compian was stormy, and she left the Alpine residence in November 2009.

 On Christmas Eve around 5 p.m. , Hernandez said Compian went to see her and his son at  her mother's house in Oxnard to take him shopping for gifts. She said she decided to go with Compian, and they ended up at a fast-food restaurant parking lot, eating and talking about their relationship. Hernandez said she told him that she was ending their relationship.

She testified that Compian told her that she was going to make him do "something stupid"

Late that night as Hernandez, her mother, Compian's son and another child were driving to a relative's house, Hernandez said she spotted a wide-eyed Compian driving fast in Oxnard.  Minutes later, Hernandez got the call from Compian telling that he had shot a "homie."

A short time later, Hernandez said she could hear the sirens of emergency vehicles.

Earlier, Hernandez's mother testified that her daughter was hysterical and was shaking when Compian called and told her that he had shot someone.

Hernandez told jurors about getting more calls from Compian. He told her to delete caller ID information, cell phone recording and tell police that his car was stolen. Also Compian told her to tell police that he had been at a fast-food restaurant with her.

Hernandez said she became fearful of Compian, who wanted to see Hernandez one more time.

"Did he specifically say for the last time?" asked prosecutor Rameen Minoui.

"Yes," she replied.

Under cross examination, Hernandez told about agreeing to cooperate with the Oxnard police investigation, saying officers told her that they could take her son away if she was uncooperative.

Later conversations with Compian were secretly recorded by detectives. Hernandez said Compian said he was on the phone that he innocent and that he didn't do anything.

The trial, which ended late Friday morning,  resumes Monday.  Compian's lawyer Willard Wiksell said his client will testify.


Judge Tosses Out Some Autopsy Photos of Murder Victim

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After jurors had gone home for the day, defense attorney Willard Wiksell told the judge that he was objecting to six autopsy photographs that were going to be used by the prosecutor in the murder trial of Alex Compian, saying that they were "extraordinary gruesome"

Wiksell said the District Attorney's Office has a right to present its case. However, he said these photographs would be "unduly prejudicial" if jurors saw them.

Judge Charles Campbell agreed.

But not before prosecutor Rameen Minoui argued that the district attorney has a right to present its case. Minoui said he wanted to show jurors the path of the bullet and where the killer was standing when the shots were fired to corroborate witnesses' testimony.

He argued that this was most "persuasive evidence" to underscore key points in the prosecution's case. Minoui made his arguments as he stood near the bench and while holding up the large photographs so the judge could look at them.

"This is a heinous crime. The crime of murder by way of gunshot,"   Minoui told the judge.

The victim Mario Cisneros, 50, was found shot and lying near the side of his home in the 200 block of Alpine Street in Oxnard about 11:20 p.m. on Dec. 24, 2009, Oxnard police said.

Wiksell said there is no fact in dispute that the victim was killed, and there is no need to have these photographs to prove this point. He said the photographs are "unduly prejudicial"   

Basically, autopsy photographs are used when they are necessary to give details to the jury about how a person was killed, and just because they are enlarged and in color doesn't mean they'll get tossed out of a trial.

The rule of thumb is whether the photographs are more inflammatory than what is needed to show how a killing happened.

A defendant's conviction can be overturn because he was denied  his constitutional right to a fair trial if a judge allows some very gruesome photographs with no probative value to be admitted as evidence.

Although Minoui was told by the judge that he couldn't use these specific six autopsy photographs, he still can use other autopsy photographs during the trial.

 Outside the courtroom, Wiksell said he didn't know the specific number of autopsy photographs that prosecutors have to use in this trial.

"Plenty ," he said.

Restating his basic argument to Judge Campbell as he walked down the hallway: "There is no question. He got shot. He died."

 Compian maintains that he wasn't the gunman.

The Court Reporter
Raul Hernandez has spent years writing stories about the drama that unfolds in the courtroom. Here he answers common questions, share some insights on the judicial system and passes along some of the little things that make the Ventura County courts an interesting place to be. You can contact him at