The Ramirez (Kick in the Head) Murder Trial began Monday 4/27/09, and continues today. The Republican/Herald is running a LIVE Blog. They have a reporter in the courtroom who is sending summarized updates which I am posting to this blog.
At the end of Wednesday, 4/29, Day 3 of the trial, the Prosecution rested. Today, the Defense begins their case. The strongest testimonies for the Prosecution were from the jocks: Ben Lawson and Colin Walsh who were participants in the events. From their testimony we heard:
1. There were four active participants in the fight with Ramirez: Scully (charged as a juvenile), Piekarsky, Donchak and Walsh. All had been drinking heavily prior to the park incident.
2. All of these fight participants were large, muscular football players with Piekarsky being the biggest, able to bench press well over 200 pounds. Walsh said he was "not afraid" of Ramirez because he was smaller than them and the big jocks outnumbered him.
3. Scully initiated the argument with the young couple and was the first to use racial remarks.
4. No one claimed to know who threw the first punch.
5. Ramirez only spoke Spanish both in response to them and when using his cell phone. The football players did not say they understood Spanish.
6. All agree several people were fighting with Ramirez at once. Punches. Several kicks. Ramirez fell to the ground. The teens continued to scream racial slurs and Ramirez got up and they said he hit Scully. Then Donchak and Scully were both fighting Ramirez when Walsh punched (Walsh says he looked him in the eye and it was not a sucker punch) Ramirez and knocked him to the ground hitting his head on the macadam. All agreed Ramirez was on the ground passed out.
7. While on the ground passed out, several people were kicking or kicking at Ramirez. Then a final kick to the head was delivered and Ramirez lay foaming at the mouth. Walsh said that kick came from Piekarsky. He said he was standing right next to him when it happened. Scully said it was not him. He said he missed his kick.
8. Walsh's most compelling response was when cross examined by Piekarsky's attorney Fanelli: so you have to impress a federal prosecutor to get a sentence reduction? Walsh: "I don't have to impress anyone. I'm willing to take the nine years."
So there we have it. The Jocks were drunk. They instigated the fight with Ramirez. They outnumbered and outweighed him. Then they kicked him in the head when passed out.
The Defense strategy: Confuse the Jury. Minimize the testimony of Walsh. Provide DOUBT that the final kick came from Piekarsky. Paint Ramirez as an evil illegal immigrant with gang ties and sexual relationship with a minor. They also suggest that since he got up the 1st time, it was his fault for restarting the fight even though all agree the screams and racist taunts were still coming from the jocks.
The most disturbing part of the testimony so far was the fact that the police officer involved was Piekarsky's mother's boyfriend. He drove Piekarsky back to the park. It appears he told Piekarsky to get the boys together to, as Piekarsky's mother said, "Get their story straight." Piekarsky did get the boys together the next day to weave the lies for their story. (Lies: they were not drunk; they did not start it; they did not use racial slurs; there were no kicks; gangs and guns were involved and that is why they fought.)
(Defense: atty. Jeff Markosky & Atty. Fred Fanelli )
11:22 ET The Defense Just Rested its case!! Did not provide witnesses with any type of defensive reasons for the crime. Will post closing argument when they give them!
Thursday, 4/30: (all times Eastern)
8:38: Piekarsky and Donchak have arrived at the courthouse.
9:08: Defense begins their case today.
9:09: Fanelli calls Officer Robert Senape, of the Mahanoy, West Mahanoy, and North Union township departments. Senape: I interviewed Arielle Garcia on-scene, and she identified Scully as the kicker and the "he's not dead" comments to Walsh.
9:24: On cross-exam by Goodman, Senape says he saw the Garcias being interviewed at Shen. Police station, doesn't recall seeing the teens.
9:28: Fanelli calls officer Michele Ashman, of the Frackville police. Ashman: on-scene, I saw Officer Hayes interview Arielle Garcia, and she identified Scully as the kicker. Ashman: I found a gun in an alley near the scene. I was told it was a BB gun. Ashman: my written report did not mention Garcia naming Scully as kicker.
9:47: Fanelli calls Diego Tovar Alvarez, friend of Ramirez. Tovar: Ramirez called and told me about the fight. Tovar: "I went down in my basement, got a BB gun and went to where he was at." Tovar: Ramirez was down and the kids were running. I went to them and asked what happened. Tovar: the BB gun was concealed under my shirt. I never pointed it at them.
10:04: Fanelli's examination is very choppy because of frequent objections and conferences with Judge Baldwin.
10:08: Tovar: I threw the BB gun into the bushes. The gun has been entered as evidence. Both Ashman and Tovar identified it. Tovar: I didn't ask the boys to call anyone. One of them did call the police, who arrived shortly.
10:16: Baldwin has to take care of something upstairs, and has announced an unspecified morning recess.
10:23: Tovar's testimony was limited to his involvement with Ramirez and the teens--no word on his interaction with police later on. Tovar was hustled out of the courthouse by sheriff's deputies immediately after his testimony. From the newsroom: we're told Tovar had a warrant for his arrest apparently unrelated to this incident. We'll update with more details when available. No record of arrest connected to this incident.
10:59: Fanelli calls chief county detective Anthony Carroll. Carroll: I interviewed Scully on July 13, and interviewed Arielle Garcia later that day. Carroll: I don't recall Garcia naming Scully as kicker. She mentioned white sneakers, but "wasn't positive." Carroll: I hadn't asked Scully about footwear. No thought given to showing footwear to Garcia for identification. Carroll: in a July 25 interview, Scully said he kicked and missed at Ramirez.
11:15: Ramirez's phone entered into evidence. Carroll says he examined the calls. Carroll: from 11:30 to 11:35 pm Ramirez made 5 calls: to Tovar (twice), Victor Garcia, Dillman, and someone named Zimudio. Carroll: I never had the BB gun tested but "I think it was broken." Fanelli had asked why Scully was charged in juvenile court.
11:21: Under Goodman's cross-exam, Carroll says Donchak and Scully have similar charges--at the time, Donchak was 18 and Scully 17.
Defense rests their case.
11:25: The crowd is shocked at the abrupt rest of the defense's case. Fanelli called four witnesses today. Markosky called none. Neither defendant took the stand. In his opening statement, Fanelli had alluded to a medical expert for the defense, but none was ever called. It's very quiet--no one wandering the floor, the courtroom emptied out, and nothing of note going on outside. Live Blog commenter Brian provided link about Alvarez' court docket sheet. Has nothing to do with the case but is interesting reading. from the newsroom: Diego Tovar Alvarez, who testified today was brought to the courthouse from the Schuylkill County prison and returned there after testifying. He has been in prison in lieu of $100,000 bail for charges stemming from incidents last summer unrelated to the July 12 Ramirez beating case. On July 31, Alvarez was arrested and charged with burglary, criminal tresspass, theft by unlawful taking and resisting arrest. He was committed to prison in lieu of $50,000 bail. On Aug. 1, he was also charged with stalking, harrassment, defiant tresspass and loitering and prowling at night. For those charges bail was also set at $50,000. Earlier information from a distict magistrate's office was incomplete.
12:42: Reporter: Caught Baldwin in the stairwell--he said we'll reconvene at 12:45 to dismiss, then reconvene Friday at 9 a.m. The proceedings have concluded for the day. Closing arguments, jury instructions and deliberations begin at 9 a.m. Friday.
I will be posting Closing Arguments as they are reported on the LIVE Blog tomorrow.