Jurors will decide whether a San Miguel man will spend the rest of his life in prison following a two-week trial in which the alleged attempted murder victim — who was shot in the neck with a .22-caliber rifle — refused to testify.
Closing arguments were presented Wednesday in the trial of Jim Pinedo, who was already facing domestic violence charges for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, Dancene Cordova, when he allegedly shot her in October 2017 for what the prosecutor says was not doing enough to persuade the District Attorney’s Office to drop the case.
But Cordova — who waived confidentiality in court and gave The Tribune permission to use her name — says that Pinedo didn’t shoot her, contradicting earlier statements reportedly made to investigators after she awoke from a 10-day medically induced coma.
Cordova told The Tribune that Pinedo threatened to leave her after he caught her injecting methamphetamine. Distraught, Cordova said she picked up Pinedo’s rifle and threatened to shoot herself. The two struggled over the weapon and it “went off,” she said.
Pinedo drove Cordova to Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton, where he dropped her off and fled, his attorney argues, because a restraining order barring contact between the two was active at the time.
Cordova has stood by Pinedo throughout the proceedings and was held in contempt of court outside the presence of the jury for refusing to testify in the case.
Pinedo, 38, has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, assault with a firearm, assault with a deadly weapon, inflicting corporal injury on a spouse, threatening a witness, attempting to dissuade a witness and false imprisonment, as well as a misdemeanor charge of battery.
He faces up to life in prison if convicted of all charges and various sentencing enhancements.
He previously pleaded no contest to related felony charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm and inflicting corporal injury on a spouse, as well as disobeying a restraining order and making criminal threats.
The trial began Oct. 31 and, because Cordova refuses to cooperate with the prosecution, has focused on statements she previously made to investigators and on social media, as well as recorded phone conversations between Pinedo and others from County Jail.
The prosecution is also relying heavily on expert testimony from a San Jose marriage and family therapist who explained to jurors the “cycle of violence” related to intimate partner abuse, as well as why it’s not unusual for domestic violence victims to return to and defend their abusers.
The defense called just two witnesses within 15 minutes before resting Tuesday.
‘Predisposed to violence’
Though Cordova had been barred from attending the trial during testimony, she was in court Wednesday to watch closing arguments, sitting directly behind Pinedo and next to his mother.
In her argument, Deputy District Attorney Megan Baltierra told jurors there’s no doubt that Cordova loves Pinedo, who takes advantage of that love to continually threaten and batter her.
“Ms. Cordova has been living a life that’s hard to understand, a life in which the defendant controls her,” Baltierra said, adding that Cordova is currently living with Pinedo’s mother. “She’ll do anything to protect him.”
Baltierra painted a picture of an enraged Pinedo, angry about the original domestic violence case against him, confronting Cordova in a hang-out shed on Pinedo’s rural San Miguel property, firing a “warning shot” out of a window — “so he knew it worked,” Baltierra said. He then shot Cordova point-blank as she sat on a couch, Baltierra said.
“There’s no reason to point a loaded firearm at another human being other than to kill them,” Baltierra said.
Baltierra showed jurors posts Cordova made on Facebook after the shooting, in which Cordova wrote, “I’m stupid but love can’t be turned off with a switch,” and “I’m in love with the person who shot me.”
The prosecutor also asked jurors to consider Pinedo’s no contest plea to the related domestic violence charge, which she said shows he’s “predisposed to violence.”
“He commits domestic violence,” Baltierra said. “What’s more indicative of a person’s actions than what they did in the past?”
‘A screwed up relationship’
Pinedo’s attorney, Trace Milan, argued in his closing statement that the District Attorney’s Office based its case on circumstantial evidence “from people you wouldn’t allow to house-sit your cat” and testimony from an out-of-town therapist with no knowledge of the case.
“What we have here is a well-documented explanation of what could be possibly be true, but that’s not even close to what the law requires (to find Pinedo guilty beyond a reasonable doubt),” Milan said. “The only direct evidence they showed you was that (Cordova) was shot and that she bled.”
He said that the investigation and resulting case amounted to a government intrusion on the lives of both people, with their private communications, criminal histories and drug issues being aired in public.
“They’ll get your emails, they’ll get your private texts. (The DA’s Office) will get a warrant to get inside your mouth (to swab for DNA), even if you don’t want anything to do with it,” Milan said, referring to Cordova.
Milan also said that when the shooting occurred, Cordova was “at a low point in her life,” using methamphetamine daily, and that she, a felon who was on probation, lied to investigators out of fear of further legal trouble.
“When trouble comes knocking on the door of felons ... it’s not unusual for them to say something that may not be true,” he said.
Lastly, Milan noted that Cordova was not financially or otherwise dependent on Pinedo, and told jurors that there was no evidence of the “cycle of violence” as described by the prosecution’s therapist witness. Richard Ferry previously testified that the cycle includes three stages: a tension-building phase, an acute violence phase and a period of contrition or remorse.
Milan noted that the two were together for 18 months before Pinedo was first arrested for an alleged domestic violence incident, and that the prosecution never produced any evidence showing any remorseful statements from Pinedo.
“There are no facts to support this prisoner-captive relationship,” Milan said. “This was a screwed up relationship.”
Deliberations resume Thursday.