By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Homicide defendant Robert Macias took the stand in court Monday, denying any involvement in the shooting death of a 19-year-old city man a little more than a year ago.
After brief questioning by defense attorney James Klipstine Jr., District Attorney Matt Chandler grilled the defendant regarding his account of events the night Wilfred Salas Jr., 19, was shot while driving on Merriwether Street.
Macias, 31, who is charged with first-degree murder, testified while he did know Salas, he was asleep at a friend’s home when the shooting occurred.
Earlier, defense witness Leila Harpold and her daughters testified Macias was sleeping at their home the morning in question.
“He was frustrated but he was more drunk than anything. He was passed out, you could hear him snoring,” said Harpold, a longtime friend of Macias and his wife Angelina.
Prosecution witness Daniel Garcia testified last week he was with Macias when the defendant shot and killed Salas.
Chandler also questioned Macias about taped phone conversations he had from jail with Garcia, his wife, Angelina Macias, and others.
In each instance, Chandler read excerpts from transcripts, proving, he said, Macias was trying to influence statements to police, get his story straight with other witnesses, or get others to dispose of evidence for him from his jail cell.
Macias said he did not remember the conversations.
“I don’t remember the first part of the telephone call, how I’m I going to remember the rest?” he said at one point.
Macias said other witnesses had lied on the stand and said Garcia was the shooter, not him.
“Since I’ve been sitting over there, I’ve seen plenty of people get on the stand and lie,” Macias said.
“Mr. Macias, it’s going to be your testimony one way or the other that you didn’t shoot Wilfred Salas?” Chandler asked.
“The person who did that has already been on the stand,” Macias said, muttering Daniel Garcia’s name.
The defense rested its case after Macias’ testimony.
The prosecution told the judge it plans to call one more rebuttal witness this morning before final arguments begin.
Before Klipstine presented a defense, he asked Judge Joe Parker to direct verdict of acquittal outside the presence of the jury.
After listening to statements from both sides, Parker ruled the trial should continue.
“I take note of what Mr. Klipstine has said,” Parker said. “In this instance unfortunately all the witnesses gave some room for a desire to have more credibility.”
• “I don’t know if you’ve ever done drugs but I was doing a lot of drugs — I don’t remember nothing — I’m telling you I don’t remember the conversation.” Jessica Gutierrez, testifying regarding telephone calls she had with Macias from the jail.
Gutierrez testified she had been having a “hidden” relationship with Macias for six months prior to the shooting.
She said the night of the shooting she saw Macias’ SUV park across the street from her house around 2 a.m. at the home of Leila Harpold. He stayed there all night, Gutierrez said.
• “He said they were trying to pin Wilfred Salas’ murder on him. He said ‘that Wilfred had it coming,’” James Pacheco testified to overhearing Macias at the Curry County Adult Detention Center while they were both housed in the jail annex.
Pacheco said since agreeing to testify he has been threatened.
“They told me there was some money on me,” he said explaining it was like a bounty on him.
• Klipstine pressed David Loera, a detective with the District Attorney’s office, who testified some witnesses claimed to see a man running from the scene of the crash after Salas was shot but after interviewing people, investigators didn’t find any proof of another person in Salas’ car.
• Jennifer Lopez, 15, and Jasmine Harpold, 16, Leila Harpold’s daughters gave almost identical testimony that Robert and Angelina Macias came back from the bar and Robert argued playfully with Jasmine that he was going to sleep in her room. He then passed out on Jasmine’s bed and snored loudly through the night, the girls told the jury.
• “You consider Robert Macias to be like a father figure,” 9th Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler asked Jasmine?
“Yes, my ‘Nino’ — like a father,” she replied.
• “Come in ready to work,” Judge Joe Parker told jurors as he explained they will begin deliberations after closing arguments Tuesday.
What the jurors didn’t hear:
• “An admitted perjurer is not adequate evidence to support the State’s claim — that’s testimony that can not be relied on in and of itself.
There is insufficient evidence at this time to allow this matter to go before a jury,” Klipstine told the judge, asking him to direct a verdict of acquittal outside the presence of the jury before lunch recess.
“We believe we have presented a circumstantial case that can go to a conviction of murder. There is overwhelming evidence that there were two shooters. The defendants own cousin admits he was with the two just minutes before the shooting,” Chandler told the judge in response.
— CNJ Staff Writer Sharna Johnson