Attorneys defending 15-year-old Ricardo Juarez – the juvenile charged with fatally stabbing Luis Angel Linares in the Saks Fifth Avenue parking lot in early 2007 – called an “acting” witness to the stand on Tuesday to take part in a reading of year-old testimony from a boy nicknamed “Stomper”, another juvenile involved in the incident, whom the defense alleges is actually the one responsible for Linares’s death.
The reenactment of Stomper’s cross-examination during Juarez’s August 2007 preliminary hearing used a transcript of that testimony to introduce to the jury information otherwise blocked by Stomper’s refusal to testify at trial. Earlier, Stomper had been sworn in as a witness but invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid incriminating himself. Before the reading began, Judge Brian Hill instructed the jury to take it in as if they were watching the actual witness being questioned on the stand, under oath.
Stomper, played by a colleague of the defense, responded to questions from co-defense counsel Jennifer Archer and prosecutor Hilary Dozer – both of whom starred as themselves and read their own lines from the transcript. The recreation of Stomper’s words substantially contradicted recent testimony from his peers and law enforcement officers about his actual role in the March 14, 2007, gang brawl that left Linares dead.
The several-hours-long reenactment contradicted both accounts given recently by witnesses – sometimes even seemed to contradict itself – about Stomper’s actions right after the State Street fight, including information about a knife found with Stomper’s DNA on it, which he said he had picked up near the scene of the crime and thrown into a trash can.
His answers to questions as to who had the knife before he picked it up differed greatly when asked by different attorneys. He told Archer he had seen a knife on the ground, picked it up, and threw it away. When asked how it had got there, said he didn’t know. But later, when Dozer posed a similar question, referencing information in a police report of a conversation between Stomper and police officers, that “as the fight continued, your friend dropped a knife on the ground, and you picked it up,” Stomper admitted having said this to a police officer.
Other contradictions to witness testimony were about his actions at the Boys and Girls Club, to which he fled shortly after police arrived at the crime scene. When Dozer asked Stomper about testimony in a police report from one of his friends some days after the stabbing that said Stomper had arrived at the youth center and immediately told the friend, “I just stabbed the fool,” and said to another friend, “I think I just killed someone,” Stomper said he didn’t know what Dozer was talking about.
When asked about prior witnesses’ testimony to police that he had punched a hole in the wall out of frustration when Boys and Girls Club counselors informed him a boy had died in the fight, Stomper also denied having done so – and when questioned by Dozer about why police officers had observed injuries to his fists, he replied he had gotten them a few days prior, from “punching some wood.”
The information in Stomper’s lines was particularly important to the defense’s case – though the hearing in question was more than a year ago – Tuesday was the first time the jury had heard the testimony. In addition, Stomper’s testimony during the preliminary hearing had been made with the understanding that nothing he said could get him in trouble, as he had been granted a legal protection known as “use immunity” by the District Attorney’s Office, a stipulation that protected him from incriminating himself with his testimony.
On Monday, Hill issued a gag order, forbidding attorneys from speaking to media about the case. Hill cited his observation of attorney comments in the press that he thought inappropriate considering the juncture of the case. He indicated to the jury Wednesday that he expects testimony to wrap up early next week, and the case will be in their hands sometime mid week. The trial began August 6, and was originally anticipated to continue to the end of October.