A Mendota man who contends he killed another man in self-defense will stand trial on a murder charge, a judge ruled Tuesday in Fresno County Superior Court.
Judge Jonathan Skiles made his ruling after watching a store surveillance video that captured Darcy Harper, 56, stabbing Antonio Valencia, 59, outside the Mendota Market the evening of Sept. 11.
Attorney Scott Baly, who is defending Harper, contends Valencia instigated the fight and Harper stabbed Valencia once to stop the attack.
Harper, who is diabetic and needs dialysis daily, is being held in the Fresno County Jail. He came to court in a wheelchair and cried when the grainy black and white store video was played on a big screen in the courtroom.
In the video, Harper drives up to the store at 7:53 p.m. He is sitting in the driver's seat when Valencia confronts him. The video shows another man, not identified, at the passenger side of Harper's car.
Valencia first opens the car door and knocks a cigarette out Harper's hand. The two men talk for a few seconds before Valencia punches Harper in the head.
Harper then gets out of his car and fights with Valencia. A few seconds later, the video shows him stabbing Valencia with one quick blow to his abdomen.
Valencia continued to fight with Harper after he was stabbed, the video showed. When he finally walked away, a big blood spot could be seen on the front of his shirt. He was later airlifted to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, where he died a few days later.
In court Tuesday, Baly contended his client feared that Valencia was trying to damage a tube that is hooked to Harper's body for daily dialysis. If the tube is damaged, it could be life threatening to Harper, Baly said.
But Skiles, referring to the video, said Harper didn't appear worried about his medical condition when he stabbed Valencia.
Skiles agreed that Valencia punched Harper while Harper sat in his car. But the judge said it appeared to him that Harper took an "aggressive posture" and stabbed Valencia as Valencia was backing up.
After the fight, Harper "doesn't appear flustered," the judge said.
A motive for the killing was not disclosed, but Skiles also ordered Harper to stand trial on a felony charge of possession of methamphetamines. The drugs were found by police in Harper's home after the killing.
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