Defense rests in Riley trial

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

The defense rested Wednesday afternoon without calling a witness in the murder trial of William Riley. The decision followed a seven-hour parade of forensic experts and law enforcement officers put on the stand by the prosecution.

Testimony Wednesday placed the DNA of the victim, Roshawn Pitts, on Riley’s shirt, mapped the path of the bullets to a shooter approaching the car, placed the defendant’s footprints in the area where the gun believed to be used in the shooting was found, and matched ballistics from the gun in evidence to bullets found at the scene.

The jury will begin deliberations today following closing arguments. Riley is accused of killing Pitts in June 2004.

Based on a crime scene reconstruction, Clovis Police Department Detective Keith Farkas concluded Pitts was shot as he climbed over the driver’s seat. He said Pitts, who was a passenger in a vehicle parked outside Riley’s apartment, ran around the front of the car and got back in the passenger seat.

Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Ross Zumwalt testified Tuesday Pitts was shot from 2 to 4 inches away. The close-range shots could have come from inside the car, he said, but did not pass through the car or the windows before striking Pitts.

Farkas stated four of five bullets fired from the gun were located at the scene by investigators:

• One was embedded in the metal below the passenger window, causing the glass to shatter he believed;

• One was found outside the car in the driveway; this one, he said, likely passed through the victim’s shoulder and the steering column before coming to rest on the pavement;

• One lay on the driver’s side floorboard, the one he believes went through Pitts’ shirt sleeve and into his upper torso;

• One was found on the driver’s seat, possibly the shot that went into Pitts’ right buttock and through his thigh.

Marks on the hood indicated the missing bullet was shot from the front of the car, skidded along the hood, struck the windshield, went over the roof and into the street.

Farkas also testified there were no viable fingerprints found on the weapon.

Alison Quereau, a firearms and ballistics expert with the state crime lab, compared ballistics from the recovered bullets with a gun police found behind a daycare center blocks from the scene, and said she was “100 percent sure” they matched.

The lengthy, technical testimony seemed to wear on the jury.

During cross-examination by defense attorney Luis Juarez, several jurors sighed and shifted in their seats as he quizzed Clovis police officer Kirk Roberts on the terminology used to describe bullets. One female juror rolled her eyes, flopped back in her seat and covered her eyes, massaging her brow with her thumb.

Riley faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.