Testimony offers details in Modesto man’s shooting death

07/28/2014 6:24 PM

07/28/2014 7:53 PM

Testimony on Monday revealed some of the details in the shooting death of a 30-year-old man whose body was found four years ago along a rural road north of Modesto.

James Foster is accused of murder in the death of Brian Morris, whose body was found June 11, 2010, along Costner Road.

The defendant’s nephew, 32-year-old Gregory Fisher, testified that his uncle told him how Morris was killed. Fisher described in court that his uncle was in a struggle with Morris before shooting the victim in the back of the head.

Fisher said his uncle had his left hand wrapped in a bloody towel and also had blood on his pants. He testified that his uncle told him, “It went bad.” Fisher said he understood that to mean Morris had been shot to death.

Foster’s preliminary hearing began with testimony from Stanislaus County forensic pathologist Sung-Ook Baik, who conducted the autopsy on Morris. He said the bullet entered through the back of Morris’ neck before fracturing a bone and tearing through his jugular vein, killing Morris within 10 or 20 minutes.

The pathologist testified that he found gunpowder around the entrance wound and imprints of the gun’s muzzle on the back of Morris’ neck. Baik said in court that the gun’s muzzle was directly on Morris’ neck as the fatal shot was fired. “There’s no doubt.”

After the pathologist, Fisher was called to the witness stand. Initially, Fisher was arrested and charged with murdering Morris. For 13 months, Fisher was held at the Stanislaus County Jail. He was the only person charged in Morris’ death until he provided information that led authorities to arrest his uncle.

In exchange for his testimony against his uncle, prosecutors dropped the murder charge. Fisher now is charged with being an accessory in Morris’ murder.

During cross-examination, Fisher said Monday that he is a member of a south San Jose Crips street gang and moved to Modesto in the mid-’90s. He also said he doesn’t sell drugs, commit violence or participate in other gang-related crimes. He said he used to sell drugs until the age of 19.

He testified that his uncle went looking for him at his girlfriend’s home, but that Fisher was at his grandmother’s home. Fisher’s girlfriend called him and handed the phone to his uncle.

“He told me that some guy was threatening to kill him,” Fisher said on the witness stand. “He sounded like he was scared.”

During cross-examination, Fisher said his uncle sounded terrified on the phone. “I’ve never heard him speak that way in my life,” Fisher said about his uncle.

Fisher said Foster told his nephew that the man threatening him was waiting for him in the car. Fisher testified that he kept a handgun on a top closet shelf at his girlfriend’s home, hidden under some jeans. He said he told his uncle where to find the gun.

The phone conversation with his uncle ended. A few hours later, Foster arrived at Fisher’s grandmother’s home.

Fisher said a woman, who appeared scared, was sitting in the back seat. He said he had seen her a few times before with his uncle, but he didn’t know her name. His uncle’s left hand, apparently injured, was wrapped in the bloody towel, Fisher testified.

He said his uncle looked scared, too. Fisher said Foster handed him the handgun, which he then put away. Fisher testified that he later sold the gun, but he didn’t know the buyer’s name.

His uncle asked for a change of clothes and told him he would be returning to his San Jose home.

Fisher testified that he knew of other people accusing him of committing the crime, but that his uncle made him some assurances. “He just told me he wouldn’t let me go down for it,” Fisher said in court.

Fisher testified that he initially didn’t tell authorities everything about that night. “I just didn’t tell all the truth ... because I didn’t think it was relevant,” he said.

Fisher also said he is aware that three people have said he confessed to them that he killed Morris, but he said in court that those allegations are false. He testified that he would not make false confessions to bolster his status as a gang member.

He emphatically denied that he shot Morris or was there when the shooting occurred.

Testimony in the preliminary hearing is expected to continue Thursday in Stanislaus Superior Court. At the conclusion, the judge will determine whether there’s enough evidence for Foster to stand trial. The defendant remains in custody at the jail.

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