Closing arguments conclude in robbery-murder trial

Defense attorney Michael Bowman told jurors, “You’ve got your pound of flesh here.” Bowman didn’t mention Jermaine Antonio Barnes by name, but just about everybody else in the trial did.

Directly or by implication, police and prosecutors, as well as the key people’s witnesses and one of the defendants, identified Barnes as the man who shot and killed Fernando Vichez during a June 15, 2010, street robbery in the Arden Arcade area.

Barnes, 25, sat and smiled and shook his head in denial while the lawyers for his three co-defendants said in their closing arguments Tuesday that they either acted under his duress or didn’t know or participate in what he was about to do. He denied in his trial testimony that he shot Vichez.

With the arguments concluded, a Sacramento Superior Court jury is expected to begin deliberations Thursday in the robbery-murder trial of Barnes and his one-time girlfriend, Fitima Goodman, 39, his nephew, LaQuwon Warr, 21, and Alexander Marquis Lewis, 21, a close friend of Goodman’s son who was a key witness in the case.

Bowman, who represented Warr, in a sense spoke for the three defendants not named Jermaine Barnes when he told the jury, “You can get justice in this case. But the net’s too wide.”

Barnes is accused of shooting Vichez, 50, an immigrant from El Salvador who became a services technician for the AmeriGas propane company, at 1:42 in the morning while the victim was walking home down Howe Avenue a few blocks south of Marconi Avenue.

Authorities identified Goodman as the driver of the vehicle they used in the robbery and Warr and Lewis as two accomplices who helped Barnes brace Vichez on the street.

Goodman’s attorney, Jeffrey Fletcher, denied his client knew anything about the robbery when she drove Barnes and the others to where they found Vichez on Howe Avenue.

“She had no control to do anything,” Fletcher told the jury.

Warr, Lewis and a one-time defendant turned prosecution witness, Chelsea Washington, first encountered the victim the night of the killing and panhandled him for $5 after he came out of the Casino Royal card club on Auburn Boulevard.

Goodman’s son Zevante, like Washington, pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery in exchange for a six-year prison sentence and his testimony at trial. In key testimony, Zevante Goodman, who was in his mother’s truck with the others when they came across Vichez on Howe, told the jury his mother didn’t respond when he asked her after the robbery if she knew it was going to happen.

Her silence amounted to an adoptive admission, according to the prosecution.

Fletcher argued his client didn’t admit to anything, that her decision to not say anything in a conversation between mother and son was just that – silence.

“She pretty much ended the discussion,” Fletcher said, after her son asked her the question. “She didn’t want to discuss a lot of things concerning her relationship with Mr. Barnes.”

The lawyer drew an admonishment from the judge when he included Zevante Goodman’s plea bargain in his closing argument on behalf of the 19-year-old witness’ mother.

Fletcher had inferred that Zevante took the deal even though there were no facts to establish his guilt on the robbery count. Now, Fletcher told the jury, Zevante might wind up homeless or in line for the prison life, when at one time he was entertaining offers to play college football at Lewis & Clark College or Northern Arizona University.

“You’re off to college,” Fletcher said. “They wanted you, schools in Oregon and Arizona. He was about there. Then it all happened.”

Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Hightower objected, and Judge Raoul M. Thorbourne told Fletcher, “Mr. Goodman is not on trial here. Mr. Goodman had counsel the whole case. Move on, Mr. Fletcher.”

Fletcher began the day apologizing to the jury for his remarks the day before when he suggested that the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office “fooled” or “manipulated” Zevante Goodman into pleading guilty.

“The suggestion somehow was that the young man was wronged by the system,” Thorbourne, out of the presence of the jury, said, in recounting Fletcher’s argument from Monday. The judge told Fletcher that in bringing up prospects of homelessness or a life in the prison culture for Zevante Goodman as a result of his plea bargain, the attorney on Tuesday came “dangerously close to defying my order” from Monday that he refrain from such commentary.

In his rebuttal Tuesday, Hightower said there was evidence that Zevante Goodman participated in the robbery, by getting out of his mother’s truck after she drove the other four to where Barnes, Warr and Lewis actually confronted and came in contact with Vichez.

Hightower told the jury the prospects of prison and homelessness for Zevante Goodman are not relevant to whether his mother is guilty.

“Please set that aside,” the prosecutor told the jury in his rebuttal. “They have a place in your humanity, no doubt. When this is over you can let all of that emotion out, and that’s fine.”

Bowman and Jon Lippsmeyer, the defense attorney who is representing Lewis, both argued that the testimony of Zevante Goodman and Chelsea Washington can’t be trusted because of the deals they received. The two witnesses both said that Warr and Lewis actively participated in the robbery.

Their testimony “is bought and paid for,” Bowman said.

“What else connects Mr. Warr to the crime?” he continued. “Nothing.”

The lawyer didn’t deny his client was present at the robbery, but “being there is not enough.” He cited Lewis’ trial testimony that Warr didn’t step into the fray until Vichez fought back during the robbery and began “beating up” Barnes.

Lippsmeyer, citing his client’s testimony at trial, confirmed that Lewis did take part in the robbery, but only because he was forced into action by Barnes, who was armed with a handgun.

“He was scared out of his wits,” Lippsmeyer said of Lewis.