Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Court Watch Tuesday July 26th (Connie Champagne)

Yesterday Cazares' lawyer Serra and his co-counsel Mr. Cazwell concluded their defense with 3 witnesses --Cazares' boss at the construction business, a soccer coach, and his girlfriend Lisa's father. When the father was cross-examined by Lamiero, the witness revealed that even if he had heard Cazares call his daughter a "stupid bitch" and that he threatened to smack her, she may have deserved it--that his daughter can be difficult. This was shocking to many of us present. Cazares admitted on the stand previously that he "might have" spoken to his girlfriend this way.

This morning the courtroom was filled with people--lots of courthouse folks, community, Gwen's family--and for the first time in quite a while--media. Defendant Jose Merel took the stand, and his lawyer Mr. DuBois began his direct examination. Merel did not testify in the first trial, and it seemed like everyone wanted to hear from him. We had heard so much about him--from Nabors, Brown, his brothers and then co-defendant Cazares--we wondered whose version of events would be corraborated, what he would or would not admit to, what he was feeling, if anything.

It must not have been good news for Cazares. Merel's timetable and version of events stayed closer to Nabors' and others' testimony. Although Merel denied striking Gwen with the can, he did admit to threatening her with the can and then striking her with the frying pan. He said did not think the injury was life-threatening.

He stated that he had feelings for Gwen, that he enjoyed being around her, that no matter what, she did not deserve to be killed.

Although the testimony seemed detached to me, it was fairly believable. My friend Cecilia remarked to me that we have to bear in mind that these people are facing years, possibly life , in prison. The truth must lie somewhere in the middle.

As Nabors and others testified, Merel admitted to being "crushed" and in tears--that he was confused and distraught that he could be "attracted to a man." He said he was having serious questions about his sexuality. He admitted he was "ignorant."

Merel stated that after they had beaten Gwen, he thought they intended to "drop her off on the corner" in old Newark where they ususally picked her up. He stated that as Magidson was tying her up with the rope, Magidson said no, that they needed to take her out "further."

Eventually Merel said that he went into his room, crying. According to the testimony , when he came out, Cazares told him they had to get going. Merel stated that he did not know Gwen was dead.

Court resumes tomorrow at 9 AM.


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