2018 Staffing
Support Staff23
Student Workers6
Victim Advocate1

The Superior Court and Central Pretrial/Case Disposition Division is responsible for prosecuting some of the most challenging cases in the District Attorney’s Office, including assaults, burglaries, robberies, felony DUIs, and murders.

It is one of the busiest divisions in the office handling all felonies not assigned to a branch or single prosecutor for the duration of the case. The Superior Court Division is responsible for 45 percent of all felony cases and 30 percent of homicide cases prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office.

In addition, the Superior Court Division handles pre and post-conviction mental health cases for those defendants alleged to be incompetent to stand trial and those found to be a danger to the community as a result of mental illness.

The unique combination of senior trial attorneys and junior deputies in the division helps junior deputies develop the skills and knowledge necessary to become highly skilled felony trial attorneys.

The division consists of six teams: Pretrial, Case Disposition, Trials, Major Violators, DUI Homicide, Crimes Against Police Officers (CAPO), and Cold Case Homicide.


These prosecutors handle a large number of serious cases. They arraign defendants charged in felony complaints, then prepare and conduct preliminary examinations in front of a judge to prove the charges based upon a probable cause standard. In doing so, the preliminary hearing Deputy DAs are liaisons between the DA’s Office, law enforcement and the victims and witnesses of the crime.

The pretrial deputies also handle suppression motions, bail reviews, and miscellaneous court calendars. Occasionally, they conduct misdemeanor trials, which occur when felony charges are reduced to misdemeanors at the preliminary hearing.

Superior-CourtCase Disposition

The team works to assess felony cases in an attempt to reach fair and equitable resolutions of the cases at the earliest possible opportunity. The team encourages the immediate sentencing of defendants, where appropriate, significantly reducing costs to San Diego County and taxpayers.


The team is responsible for prosecuting cases that are bound over by the pretrial team and also serious trials that are assigned vertically from the time the case was presented by law enforcement. Those cases involve murder, attempted murder, arson and other complex felony cases.

Cases of note include:

People v. Joseph Robert Burks

The defendant was living with the victim, his mother and well-loved teacher at Otay Ranch High School, when he used a stun gun on his mom and stabbed her to death. The victim was stabbed at least 20 times in the head, neck and throat. The defendant watched his mother die, cleaned up and made up a story that the victim attacked him and he had to defend himself. The defendant was convicted of first-degree murder in June 2018 and was sentenced to 25 years to life plus one year. Deputy DA Makenzie Harvey prosecuted this case.

People v. Jose Ricardo Garibay

The defendant set a victim on fire after dousing him with high-performance racing fuel outside of a Rite Aid in the Oak Park neighborhood. The victim was not expected to survive since 90 percent of his body was burned and he spent a year in the hospital. A year after the burn case, while awaiting trial, the defendant attempted to kill a fellow inmate at the downtown San Diego jail. The defendant was convicted by a jury in May 2018 of two counts of attempted murder and one count of aggravated mayhem. The defendant was sentenced in June 2018 to four life terms with the possibility of parole plus three years in state prison. Deputy DA Amy Maund prosecuted this case.

Major Violators

The unit prosecutes criminals with extensive felony backgrounds, serial robbers and other defendants charged with numerous serious felonies that face extraordinarily long prison sentences. In 2018, the prosecutors assigned to the unit closed 35 cases involving 46 defendants whose combined crimes included one homicide, 102 robberies and attempted robberies, 58 residential burglaries, 10 kidnappings, 6 vehicle thefts, one attempted burglary and many other crimes.

Cases of note include:

People v. Stephen Gomez, Aaron Rico V, Aaron Rico III, Robin Shawver, Thomas Smtih, Victor Harvey, and Jordan Wilson

The “Open Door Bandits” case was a home invasion robbery series consisting of 10 incidents where suspects wearing masks and armed with guns snuck into the victims’ homes through unlocked doors in the middle of the night. The suspects tied up the victims, held them at gunpoint, ransacked their homes, and stole their most valued possessions. In one incident, suspects sexually assaulted a woman while she was tied up and blindfolded, and then forced her to take a shower to erase the evidence. In another incident, a 2-year-old child was tied up. Many victims were forced to lay on the ground, and some were punched or kicked while they were bound. Seven suspects were arrested for this series with varying levels of involvement. Five of them pleaded guilty. In 2018, the two remaining defendants, believed to be the leaders of the group and the primary participants during each of the home invasion robberies and assaults, went to trial. Thomas Smith was convicted by the jury of 30 counts and attending allegations as charged. He also admitted two strike priors. Aaron Rico III was convicted by the jury of 27 counts and attending allegations as charged. Following the trial in downtown San Diego, both defendants Smith and Rico III made motions for new trials. After extensive litigation, these motions were denied. Thomas Smith was sentenced to 135 years in prison and Aaron Rico III was sentenced to 60 years to life in prison. Deputy DA Jalyn Wang prosecuted this case.

People v. Joseph Ramos

From May through October 2016, Joseph Ramos, a four-striker, committed a series of residential burglaries, hot prowls and assaults with a firearm in San Diego and Riverside County. When law enforcement attempted to arrest him, a pursuit gave way and the Ramos carjacked/kidnapped a father and child at gunpoint. With quick thinking, the victim stopped the car as police units followed. Ramos exited the car, ran and pointed the loaded gun at a Sheriff’s deputy. Ramos was shot and arrested. After trial in Vista, the defendant was convicted by a jury of 34 counts and faces a multiple life prison sentence. Deputy DA Lucy Yturralde prosecuted this case.

People v. Ira Stringer

On December 23, 2015, a St. Augustine high school student was conducting baseball practice with his coach at Hickman Field. The two were confronted by the defendant, Ira Stringer, who pulled a silver revolver and ordered them both into their car and told to drive off. During the carjacking, Stringer sat in the back seat with the gun leveled on the victims. Eventually, there was a struggle over the gun, the gun fired twice, and the car crashed in a ditch. Both victims escaped. Stringer then carjacked a 79-year-old woman and forced her to drive but she escaped by jumping out of her car. Three days later, Stringer robbed a gas station in Lemon Grove with a shotgun. After jury trial, the defendant was convicted and sentenced to life without parole, plus 50 years to life, plus 57 years in prison. Deputy DA James Koerber prosecuted this case.

DUI Homicide Unit

The DUI Homicide unit began in October of 2014 with a grant from the Office of Traffic Safety. This unit handles all of the homicides that occur in the county where someone is driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This unit also prosecutes some of the most serious injury DUI cases. The goal of the unit is to be actively involved at the investigations stage of the case in order to better prosecute the offenders. This requires the Deputy District Attorneys and the Investigator to be available to law enforcement at all times and to respond to the scene of the collisions.

Noteworthy cases include:

People v. Jason Riley King

After spending the night drinking with his fellow marines on May 16, 2015, the 21-year-old defendant drove home from In Cahoots bar. As he drove his Ford F-250 the wrong way on SR-163, he crashed into a Toyota Prius occupied by five UCSD medical students. The driver and the passenger seated behind the driver were killed instantly. The other occupants suffered major injuries that included broken bones and a traumatic brain injury. The defendant’s blood-alcohol content was .14 percent. He was charged with murder but a jury found the defendant guilty of gross vehicular manslaughter at a trial and was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Deputy DA Cally Bright prosecuted this case.

People v. Esteysi Sanchez

On June 27, 2016, the defendant partied at a hotel and spent the night drinking. The defendant’s companion did not want her to drive home thinking she was impaired but she did anyway. Along the way she drove onto a sidewalk and struck the victim so hard that his body became lodged in the windshield of her car and his leg was severed and landed on the trunk. He was killed instantly. The defendant walked away from her car when she parked in her neighborhood, leaving the victim impaled in her windshield. Her blood-alcohol level was .17 percent. She was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison after a jury convicted her of second-degree murder. Deputy DA Robert Bruce prosecuted this case.

People v. Steven Quintero

A Lyft driver and his passengers were hit by a drunk driver when they pulled over on the side of the freeway after one of the passengers became ill. Defendant Steven Quintero, who had a prior DUI from 2015, killed the Lyft driver and injured his passengers. Quintero was convicted of driving under the influence causing injury to the decedent and his three passengers. The defendant was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Deputy DA Cally Bright prosecuted this case.

Cold Case Homicide

The Cold Case Homicide unit resolves unsolved homicides. The division has worked cooperatively with local law enforcement to systematically inventory all cases of unsolved homicides and missing persons in San Diego County.

Significant cases include:

Victim Jodine Serrin

In February 2007, Jodine Serrin was brutally murdered in her home unbeknownst to her parents who were also at home. In February 2018, investigators with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office and Carlsbad Police Department used the services of a DNA-tech company to narrow down leads. In November 2018, the Carlsbad Police Department announced that they found their suspect linked to the case via DNA matching technology and genealogical experts. The killer was a transient who committed suicide in 2011. The victim’s parents never stopped searching for their daughter’s killer and law enforcement continued to investigate. The Cold Case team assisted the outside law enforcement agency.

Crimes Against Police Officers

The Crimes Against Police Officers unit handles felony cases in which defendants have committed crimes against police officers and helps handle the special issues that arise in these types of cases. Members of this unit respond to the scene of the most serious of these cases as they happen. These crimes include violent resistance to officers, officers who are assaulted with firearms and other weapons, and other crimes against officers who are trying to perform their daily duties. The cases are handled vertically in order to help protect and serve those officers that put themselves in the line of fire every day.

Significant cases include:

People v. Frederick Jefferson

In February 2018, the defendant punched a San Diego police officer in the face after being ordered to stop walking in the middle of the street near a rally at Chicano Park. The defendant was defiant when officers gave him the simple command to walk on the sidewalk. The defendant reacted suddenly and violently to this request. The defendant started swinging at one of the officers and then hit the officer in the face two to three times. The officer suffered a fractured nose and cheekbone. Five other officers struggled with the defendant before being taken to the ground and handcuffed. The jury rejected the defendant’s claim of self-defense. The defendant was sentenced to seven years in prison. Deputy DA Mike Reilly prosecuted this case.