STOCKTON - Peter Lyle Fisher may have killed Lodi teen Carlos Ramirez on Dec. 2, but he didn't murder him, Fisher's attorney said.
Fisher, 19, was so drunk and drug-ridden when he slashed Ramirez to death that he lacked the mental capacity to have committed murder, attorney John Schick said during closing arguments in Fisher's murder case Friday.
Instead, Schick said, Fisher should be convicted only of manslaughter.
Fisher, who lives in Thornton, and Damian Alcantara, an 18-year-old Lodi resident, are charged with first-degree murder in the death of Ramirez, 16, at about 9:30 p.m. Dec. 2 in a vacant lot at the corner of Cherokee Lane and Elm Street.
Alcantara isn't guilty of murder either because, plain and simple, he wasn't there, Alcantara's attorney, Gregory Davenport, said.
In his closing argument, Schick acknowledged that Fisher slashed Ramirez to death, but both attorneys allege Fisher was so drunk and high on drugs that he lacked the mental capacity to have the intent to kill - the legal requirement for first- or second-degree murder.
Davenport said Fisher drank a large amount of gin before the killing and that Fisher has been known to take heroin, cocaine, PCP, codeine and prescription drugs. Fisher has also sniffed gasoline and glue, Davenport said.
"Fisher was near blackout drunk," Davenport said. "How can you premeditate?"
Schick also provided as a defense that Fisher's intoxicated state may have caused him to believe - either correctly or incorrectly - that Ramirez had threatened to kill or injure him. Therefore, a manslaughter conviction is warranted rather than murder, Schick said.
Deputy District Attorney Thomas Testa disagreed.
"This is not a justifiable homicide," Testa said in the completion of his closing argument Friday.
At the very least, if the murder was not intentional, the knife Fisher carried and the stun gun Alcantara possessed must be considered dangerous enough weapons that someone could have been killed, Testa said.
Testa said Fisher slashed Ramirez to death and that Alcantara is equally guilty because he struck Ramirez at least six times with a stun gun and committed an assault when someone with him killed a person.
Schick didn't get the opportunity to complete his closing argument Friday. Court will resume at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in Department 22 at San Joaquin County Superior Court in Stockton.
Before Schick began his closing argument in Fisher's defense, Davenport presented a two-pronged defense for Alcantara. Davenport said Alcantara was not at the murder scene; instead, he was with his girlfriend and her relatives.
However, if the jury decides that Alcantara was present at the murder scene, Davenport maintains that his client should be acquitted anyway because:
- If there is a finding that Fisher was too drunk and under the influence of drugs to legally commit pre-meditated murder, Alcantara can't be convicted, either.
- Alcantara had no idea ahead of time that Fisher was going to stab Ramirez.
- Ramirez was under the influence of meth that night, which could lead Fisher to think Ramirez was threatening him. Such a ruling by the jury would also take Alcantara off the hook.
Davenport said the prosecution's case against Alcantara is limited to testimony by Fisher and a third suspect, Javier Sanchez Juarez, 18, of Lodi, who he said are unreliable witnesses. Juarez pleaded guilty in May to being an accessory after the fact.
"Where's your proof, Mr. DA?" Davenport said Friday. "The proof is in the snitches, and you have to believe them … or do you? Both snitches had a motive."
All three attorneys explained to jurors the difference between first- and second-degree murder, and Schick discussed what manslaughter means.
First-degree murder means the killing was premeditated and was an act of malice, Testa said. In Alcantara's case, he could be convicted of first-degree murder because he assaulted Ramirez with a stun gun, which means he "aided and abetted" Fisher in the stabbing, Testa said.
"Stabbing is significantly different from stunning," Davenport said.
Testa defined second-degree murder as evidence that is insufficient to prove deliberation and premeditation. Second-degree murderers could have intended to injure someone who ended up dying, Testa said.
Schick defined manslaughter as an act without malice, but an intentional act with disregard for human life.
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