A defense attorney on Wednesday questioned a witness in a 2009 double homicide about a carload of Norteño gang members he saw shortly after the fatal shooting in a north Modesto neighborhood.
William Harris has testified that he was with Christopher Diaz, 20, of Modesto and Mark Ochoa, 19, of Ceres shortly after midnight Aug. 31, 2009. Diaz and Ochoa were shot and killed, while Harris escaped from a group of gunmen and hid in a nearby home's yard until he was rescued by his mother.
Harris had just come out from hiding to get into his mother's car when the second group of men pulled up in a car on Warwick Lane.
He said he recognized the car and quickly discovered the men inside were Norteño gang members, friends of Diaz's brother. This group of men was not around when the shots were fired, according to Harris.
"They pulled up and parked, because they seen me in distress," Harris said on the witness stand Wednesday morning during cross-examination by defense attorney Stephen Foley.
He said he doesn't know the men by name but recognized them. The men in the car asked Harris what happened.
"I said, 'They shot them. They shot Chris and Mark,' " Harris testified.
Harris left with his mother. He said the group of men drove away, heading east on Floyd.
About the same time, police have said the four shooting suspects were in a dark-colored pickup, firing at pursuing officers who had spotted the vehicle in northeast Modesto about two miles from the shooting. The officers did not return fire.
Police spotted the pickup shortly after and, after a seven-hour manhunt, eventually captured the four men inside.
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. They also have been charged with attempted murder of a police officer and participating in a criminal street gang.
Harris has testified that he, Diaz and Ochoa were confronted in front of Diaz's home by Arguello and Valle, along with two masked gunmen. He said only Arguello was not armed.
Valle fired the first shot at Ochoa's chest, Harris has testified, and he used the distraction to escape uninjured and hide.
On Wednesday afternoon, the jury listened to an audio recording of the defense attorneys questioning Harris at the Stanislaus County district attorney's office. The jurors, Harris, the judge and the attorneys followed along in court by reading a transcript of the interview.
The interview was conducted in late May as the prosecution prepared to call Harris to the witness stand.
Defense attorney Frank Carson introduced the recorded interview into the trial. Carson has argued in court that Harris refused to answer some of his questions to give the prosecution an advantage, because Harris' intent is convicting the defendants.
"Your guys are getting 25-to-life, they're f-----," Harris told Carson in the interview.
Carson responded, "Why will you talk to the f------ cops, but you won't talk to me?"
The heated exchange between Carson and Harris continued. Carson asked Harris why he ran away instead of helping his buddies. Harris called Carson a bad lawyer for not writing down his answers and asking the same questions again.
"I'm ready for trial, bro," Harris said to the attorneys. "I got nothing to tell you guys."
Carson tried to persuade Harris to answer all the defense questions, saying he should be fair and equally cooperative with the prosecution and the defense.
"I don't care about fairness. Mother------- tried to kill me," Harris said about his attackers.
Harris' cross-examination testimony will continue today in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394.