A defense attorney on Monday questioned a key witness for the prosecution about different versions of what happened the night two men were fatally shot at close range in what authorities say was a gang-related attack in north Modesto.
Christopher Diaz, 20, of Modesto and Mark Ochoa, 19, of Ceres were killed shortly after midnight Aug. 31, 2009. A forensic pathologist has testified that it's possible Ochoa was shot while on his knees, and it's clear Diaz was shot in the back.
Modestans Eric Arguello, 21, and Victor Zapien, 24, and Ceres residents David Ferrel, 32, and Kelly Valle, 28, are on trial, accused of murder and attempted murder.
William Harris has testified that he was with Diaz and Ochoa that night when they were confronted by three armed men and a fourth suspect who taunted them as they were held at gunpoint. He has testified that Arguello and Valle confronted them with two masked men; only Arguello was not armed.
About three hours after the shooting, Modesto police Detective Jon Evers questioned Harris for several hours into the morning while officers searched for suspects. Eventually, police arrested Arguello, Zapien, Ferrel and Valle after a seven-hour manhunt.
Frank Carson, Valle's defense attorney, asked Harris why he repeatedly told Evers there were five suspects a few hours after the shooting. At the time, police had captured four suspects and investigators were worried that a fifth suspect was on the loose.
Harris testified that he eventually told Evers there were only four suspects, which ended the manhunt in northeast Modesto.
Diaz and Ochoa were killed outside Diaz's home in the 2600 block of Maxine Drive, north of Floyd Avenue and west of Coffee Road. Hours before the shooting, Harris left Diaz's home to change clothes at his home and buy some marijuana at a nearby Starbucks parking lot.
Carson asked Harris why he didn't tell Evers that he had left to buy marijuana. The defense attorney said in court that Harris only said he left to change clothes.
Harris quizzed on events
Carson's line of questioning was an attempt to create some doubt in Harris' credibility as a witness. He asked him how he could be so sure that Valle fired the first shot at Ochoa's chest if there were a masked man holding a gun to his head and ordering him to get on his knees.
Carson asked Harris if he complied with the gunman's orders and got on his knees.
Harris answered, "Hell no, I ain't getting on my knees and die like a b----."
The defense attorney also asked Harris why he told Evers his eyes were focused on the guns in the confrontation, but later gave the prosecution a detailed account of what happened to Diaz and Ochoa before the first shot was fired.
Harris said he did not "recall" telling Evers that, an answer he repeatedly gave during cross-examination Monday. He has testified that he used the distraction from the first shot fired to push off the masked man and run to safety around the corner.
He said he did not see Diaz get shot or who fired the multiple shots he heard as he ran away and hid in a nearby yard. Harris testified that he saw a "spark" as he was running away that indicated to him that a shot had been fired in his direction. He was not hit.
The trial is off today; Harris' cross-examination is to continue Wednesday.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394.