A Fresno man is on trial again for a crime he says he didn't do -- a drive-by shooting that nearly killed a 10-year-old girl three years ago.
Shalander Givens, 39, is accused of wounding Antonio Skinner and his daughter, who was shot in the head. The bullets missed Skinner's 5-year-old son.
He is charged in Fresno County Superior Court with three counts of attempted murder, possession of a firearm by a felon and discharging a firearm at an occupied car. If convicted, Givens faces life in prison.
In Givens' first trial in March, jurors couldn't decide whether he was the shooter. Prosecutors decided to try him again in front of a new jury.
In opening statements Tuesday, both sides agreed Skinner and his children were in a black Chevrolet HHR and had stopped at a stop sign at Plumas Street and Eden Avenue in southwest Fresno around 8 p.m. on June 25, 2010.
An SUV then drove past and someone inside fired at the Skinner's vehicle with an assault rifle or a machine gun, prosecutor Ron Wells said.
Police later found 27 shell casings at the scene, he said.
Police initially believed Skinner's daughter was going to die; a bullet had lodged in her brain. Police Chief Jerry Dyer urged gang members "to put their guns down."
The girl survived and is doing well, Wells told the jury Tuesday.
Her father, who was wounded in the thigh, couldn't describe the shooter to police because he was busy using his body to shield his children from gunfire, Wells said. Although the neighborhood was filled with people, Wells said only Sylvia Chavez came forward to help police.
Chavez lived near the Plumas/Eden intersection. When she heard gunfire, she looked out a window and saw the SUV driving by, Wells said. She then got a good look at the shooter's face, he said.
Chavez first picked Givens out of a police photo lineup, Well said. She then picked a photograph of a man who looked like Givens. But in the end, she said her first choice was the shooter, Wells said.
Wells told the jury the shooting of the Skinner family was a case of mistaken identity and Givens had motive to arm himself with an assault rifle or machine gun.
Around Father's Day 2010, Givens and his brother had fought with southwest Fresno gang members Donnie Maiden and Jerel Stanfield. The gang members drove a black Chevrolet HHR -- the same type of vehicle that Skinner drove, Wells said.
When Givens saw a black HHR stopped at the Plumas/Eden intersection, he opened fire. But instead of shooting Stanfield and Maiden, Givens made Skinner and his children targets of "a firestorm of bullets," Wells said.
Wells said text messages on Givens' cell phone link him to the shooting. Although Givens told police he was not in the area when the shooting happened, Wells said the cell phone signal from that time put him at the crime scene.
Givens' lawyer, Jane Boulger, however, said her client had no reason to shoot Skinner, Stanfield or Maiden. She described the previous fistfight between Givens and the two gang members as a mere dispute over a woman -- not enough to warrant a drive-by.
Boulger told the jury that Stanfield was in another courtroom Tuesday, accused of killing a gang rival. She said Maiden was arrested in November 2011, accused of capital murder in Arkansas.
Although the prosecution described Skinner as a family man, Boulger said Skinner was a dope dealer. She also said Skinner had been shot at least three other times in the past, including at a bar where he was wounded in the leg.
Police never recover the gun or ammunition used in the shooting of the Skinner family, Boulger said. Though Givens' cell phone shows he was in southwest Fresno, Boulger said he had gotten a haircut and had visited relatives that day.
Boulger also said Givens has a distinct birthmark on his face, but Chavez never mentioned a birthmark to police.
Givens has a criminal past, but Boulger said that doesn't make him the shooter. "He may not be an angel, but he's not a killer," Boulger said. "He didn't do it."
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