Defense lawyers launched an all-out assault on the prosecution's witnesses Wednesday as closing arguments came to an end in the trial over an attempted 2006 pot robbery in Land Park that turned fatal.
The attorneys for defendants Alex Brown Jr., Terry Larell Alexander and David Jacob Carrera castigated the witnesses as liars and drug dealers, and also as people who either couldn't identify the defendants or were mistaken in linking them to the Jan. 3, 2006, shooting death of 18-year-old James Ramirez.
Brown's attorney, C. Emmett Mahle, apologized to the jury for promising in his opening statement last month that the defense team would bring the truth out of the witnesses.
"I was a miserable failure," Mahle said. "We didn't keep them honest."
Deputy District Attorney Sean Laird shot back in his rebuttal that there was plenty of evidence to corroborate the witnesses' testimony.
Mostly, he relied on cellphone records that backed up the witnesses by tracking the movements of the defendants the night of the killing, in a fashion that fit the testimony. Same with a dope-dealer robbery a week earlier in which the defendants also are accused, Laird said.
In addition, even though some of the witnesses were tainted with past records of drug activity and one with perjury Laird said their versions of events told independently to police tended to corroborate each other.
"It's been too long," Laird told the jury when he was finished, about a trial that featured 47 witnesses since opening statements March 21. "It's time for justice to be done."
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael A. Savage scheduled final instructions for today before he sends the jury out to deliberate.
Brown, 34, Carrera, 33, and Alexander, 26, are facing 21 counts in the case.
Prosecutors say they went to Ramirez's house to rob the teenager who made money selling pot in the neighborhood. They are accused of murder in his fatal shooting, along with beating, robbing and kidnapping two other reputed pot dealers the same night. They're also charged in a robbery a week earlier in which they allegedly forced victims to engage in sex acts with each other that one defendant photographed.
Mahle said the case against Brown, the alleged gunman, fell short because of the lack of credible witnesses.
Mostly, Mahle targeted witness Sophia Garduno, who was Carrera's girlfriend the night of the killing. She testified she saw Brown walk up to Ramirez's front door with a gun in his hand. She also said she was present when Brown told the rest of the crew later about the shooting.
Brown said he "had to do it," Garduno testified, because Ramirez reached for the defendant's pistol when he stuck it in the victim's chest.
"Don't allow her to play you," Mahle told the jury.
Carrera's lawyer, Olaf Hedberg, targeted a woman who was one of the sexual assault victims in the earlier robbery. Hedberg said she had previously been convicted of perjury in Placer County and remained heavily involved in drug dealing even though she was paid $17,000 in witness protection fees in Sacramento while she helped out in the Land Park trial.
"How many levels of scam is that?" Hedberg said.
James Warden, representing Alexander, also criticized the credibility of the woman, who identified his client in the Dec. 27, 2005, robbery by the street name of "Chicago."
Warden said there were no cellphone records that showed Alexander's phone pinging off towers around the time of the December robbery in Oak Park.
Laird, however, said prosecutors had other evidence from Alexander's phone from that night pictures of the victims while they were being forced to engage in sex acts with each other.