District Attorney Sally Moreno’s Letter to the Madera County Mountain Residents Addresses the Recent Release of Robert Long, Accused of Stabbing in Oakhurst
Recently, I have been receiving questions regarding why Robert Long, the suspect in a stabbing that occurred in Oakhurst a week or so ago is out of custody. To explain, I need to tell you a little bit about how the DA functions. If you already understand, I’m sorry for the repetition.
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It is law enforcement in Madera County, generally the Sheriff’s Office in Oakhurst, that initiates criminal investigations. They respond to calls or initiate investigations when they see something they think bears investigating. When they arrive at a location, the investigation begins. Sheriff’s deputies make sure everyone is safe, then start asking questions to flesh out what happened. Questions are asked of victims, suspects, and witnesses. Sometimes the statements are recorded. Often before talking to suspects, suspects are read their Miranda rights. From the answers, deputies try to determine what really happened. They write reports memorializing the statements. These same deputies, often with assistance of other deputies and specialized Sheriff’s Office employees, collect physical evidence. Evidence can include almost anything. Common forms of evidence are weapons suspected to have been used in assaults, video that shows all or part of what happened, and photographs of the conditions and location of the occurrence, for starters.
All of this is forwarded to the Office of the District Attorney. Once received, we read and analyze it. We are looking to see that we have evidence that would support charging a suspect with a crime. We read the statements and evaluate the evidence. When we have conflicting evidence, which is often the case, we try to see if there is a way to prove what really happened. We ask ourselves, is someone lying or mistaken and is there a way for us to prove it. When I say prove it, for DA’s this always means prove it to 12 jurors, unanimously, beyond a reasonable doubt.
As you can see, this is a complex process. The constitution requires us to complete our assessment within 2 court days of a suspect being arrested. And the standard of proof is high. These are the hallmarks of American Justice and balance the rights of citizens accused of crimes against the right of each of us to be safe.
Sheriff Pogue’s staff and mine work very well together. We have a prosecutor who works almost exclusively with Eastern Madera County cases and I am very proud of her in depth knowledge of the people and institutions in Oakhurst and the rest of her area.
Now to Robert Longs circumstances. At the time we had to make the decision, we simply were not able to confidently say we knew exactly what happened and we had the evidence to prove it. We are working closely with the Sheriff’s office to continue to gather evidence which will allow us to be confident that we know what happened and charge what we believe we can prove to the appropriate standard. When we get to that place, we will charge it, and the court case will begin.
Even this long-winded explanation leaves out many of the details about how the Sheriff’s staff and mine work together to keep our community safe. That’s why, as our communities open up I’m planning on coming up to have coffee and conversation with anyone who would like to hear more or ask questions.
I’ll be at the Cool Bean on Wednesday May 19th from 9-1030. No agenda, I just want to hear what you have to say and answer your questions. Watch Facebook and Sierra News Online for more info.