After six days of court testimony and legal jousting, the first piece of physical evidence against robbery suspect and former Harvard student Jose Luis Razo was presented Friday: a floppy black baseball cap with the words Mr. Joe and La Habra written under the bill.
Costa Mesa Police Officer Frank Rudisill testified during the North Orange County Municipal Court hearing Friday that he found the cap just outside a McDonald's restaurant on North Harbor Boulevard where he was investigating an armed robbery last June.
Razo, 20, of La Habra, who also goes by the name Joe, is charged with committing 13 armed robberies, including the one at the McDonald's, in Orange and Los Angeles counties over a two-year period. In press and police interviews last summer, the former Servite High School football and academic standout, who would have been a junior at Harvard University this fall, said he committed the robberies to get money for his family and friends and to help pay some of his school expenses. Razo has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
None of the victims so far have identified Razo as the masked bandit who held people at gunpoint and demanded money from their safes and cash registers. Linking Razo to the robberies, so far, are only his own statements and, now, the black cap.
Friday, Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher J. Evans and Deputy Public Defender James S. Egar, as they have for much of the past three days of the hearing, argued at length before Judge Arthur D. Guy Jr. about whether Razo's statements to the police were made voluntarily and are admissible as evidence.
Razo, who had been an armed-robbery suspect for about a year, called police last July 6 and told them he had information about a murder in Santa Ana. Soon after, two La Habra detectives brought him to the station and Razo told them he had committed several holdups and agreed to talk about them "on the record," said La Habra Police Detective Michael Moore. Egar, through a lengthy cross-examination of Moore, has tried to establish that Razo's interrogation was illegal by arguing that he was, in effect, taken into custody and questioned without being informed of his constitutional rights.
Evans contends that Moore was not required to read Razo his rights because he was not being detained at the time.
"Isn't it true, in essence, from the time he said to you, 'I'm here to help you--I've committed robberies in the past,' that you weren't going to let him go?" Egar asked Moore Friday.
The tall, lanky Evans, as he has each time Egar has tried to elicit testimony about Moore's intentions when he began interviewing Razo, rose from his chair and objected.
"The subjective mind of the officer . . . can never be relevant," Evans said. "It's (the issue of custody) an objective test, not a subjective test."
Guy, as he has on each of the several occasions that the two lawyers have argued over the same legal turf, sustained the prosecution's argument and disallowed Egar's line of questioning.
Outside the courtroom, Egar said he still hopes to have Razo's statements to police thrown out on constitutional grounds and, with them, most of the prosecution's case.
"I think I'm on solid ground," Egar said. "The judge hasn't made up his mind yet."
The hearing is scheduled to continue Monday.