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Justice Denied For Woodruff?

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Riverside

By Mary Shelton


Tempers flared and testimony continued in the capital murder trial involving the death of Riverside Police Department detective Doug Jacobs.

For a brief moment on Jan. 9, it appeared that the judge might declare a mistrial, bringing the month-long proceedings to a halt.

Presiding Judge Christian Thierbach said that he was concerned that testimony given by Riverside County District Attorney's office investigator Martin Silva expressing his opinion regarding defendant Steve Woodruff's guilt may have prejudiced Woodruff's case.

Silva had testified that he had believed that Woodruff was guilty of murder, since the day of the shooting based on the evidence collected by himself and police.

Because Silva had investigated over 700 homicides, Thierbach said that his opinion as the "primary architect" of the investigation might have a lot of credibility with the "lay man" jury.

"I shouldn't have let it happen," Thierbach said, when asked why he did not interrupt the proceedings, "I should have cut it off on my own."

Defense Attorney Mark Blankenship said that he had asked Silva those questions for strategic reasons, to show that Silva was biased against Woodruff and that it had affected his investigation which Blankenship believed was compromised from the start.
"I'm very happy with Silva's testimony," he said.

After asking Woodruff if he was satisfied with his defense and receiving an affirmative reply, Thierbach said the trial would move forward.

Two days of testimony regarding a bullet which had been overlooked by police and prosecutory investigators for over a year culminated in Silva's appearance on the stand. Silva testified that he had told prosecutor Michael Soccio that he had gotten a search warrant to remove a piece of paneling from the side of Woodruff's residence.

Silva and five other people removed the siding last March 14 and discovered that a bullet was lodged inside. When asked why that piece of evidence had not initially been collected, Silva said it had no bearing on the case.

"It doesn't change the course of what happened," he said, "It makes no difference."
In earlier testimony, Detective Ron San Fillippo and Supervising Evidence Technician Carlton Fuller said they each had initially seen a bullet strike on the wall during their investigation, but upon examination, had found no bullet hole.

Both said they processed the crime scene after receiving a briefing on the shooting from Sgt. John De La Rosa.

Later, experts at the Department of Justice determined that the bullet was so badly damaged it could not be identified, Silva said.
Another prosecutory witness testified in hopes of putting to rest the persistent questions that surrounded Sgt. Gary Leach's whereabouts at the time of Jacobs' shooting.

Dispatch Supervisor Kimberly Moyer explained how officers' arrival times are recorded by the computer and said she had compared the computer records with the radio traffic tape to create a timeline of events.

She presented this newer incident report, which stated that the 11-11 call had occurred at approximately 14:25:40 and the 11-99, at 14:27:58 although it had been initially recorded as 14:28:10.

When Moyer listened to the radio traffic tape, she quickly identified Leach's voice saying "copy am onscene" three seconds after the 11-99 call was issued, although dispatch did not record his arrival time until 14:28:48. Earlier, Leach had testified that he had not verbally responded to the 11-99 because he wanted to keep the radio channel clear.

After listening to the same tape several times, he did not identify himself as the officer who had issued that response to the 11-99.

Several law enforcement officers testified about actions they took after the shooting occurred.

Kendall Banks, a member of the department's Metro SWAT team, testified that he was driving near Jurupa and Grand street when he heard the 11-99, officer down, broadcast on his radio.

When he arrived onscene, he saw Leach setting up a tight perimeter and offered his assistance. He and other SWAT team members decided to enter the house after Jacobs had been transferred to the hospital and they had heard there might be a child inside.

When they heard muffled noises, Banks said he and officer Donald Goodner walked into a small bedroom where Goodner retrieved the child.

Then, the officers cleared the backyard, where Banks said he shot a pitbull dog that had attacked a police canine. When asked by Blankenship if he had murdered the dog, Banks answered that he had "neutralized" it.
Blankenship asked him if police would shoot the dog so that its barking would not reveal their location and Banks answered that could be one reason.

Earlier, investigators testified that although they had collected a wadding and shell from the gun Banks used, they never extracted the bullet from the dog's skull as evidence before its disposal.

Banks also testified that he and other SWAT team members had thrown a "sting ball" up the inside staircase to flush out potential suspects, and also shot five "breeching" rounds at a door which connected the two apartments.

Goodner testified that while inside the residence, he had heard intermittent whining and whimpering and went to its source which was inside a bedroom. He stuck his shotgun underneath the bed and saw Woodruff's daughter.

Breanna, whimpering in fear in the corner. When she would not crawl out, he grabbed her arm and pulled her out, Goodner said.

"Don't shoot me, don't shoot me," she said repeatedly, according to Goodner who then left the residence and handed her to Leach.

Detective Keith Kesinger testified that he had been assigned to lead the investigation because it was his turn in the rotation. It was his job to collect the facts and then the DA would decide which charges to file.

"I classify it as a murder, but I understand we're not allowed to use that word," he said.
Soccio played a video tape showing Woodruff being interviewed by Kesinger and Detective Robert Shelton. Kesinger said his intent was to allow Wooruff to give his version of the incident.

On the tape, Woodruff said that he walked outside on the porch to the railing and fired up the staircase twice before running back in the house.

He did not aim his gun or intend to kill anyone, he said. Kesinger told Woodruff that they did not believe that he could have shot Jacobs unless he had aimed his gun and said that he had shot at the officers because he was angry with them.

In his testimony, Kesinger rejected any theory that put Leach onscene before Jacobs' shooting.

"The facts of the case point to the fact that he wasn't there," he said.

The prosecution said that it hopes to rest its case this week.

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