Both sides agreed Monday in opening statements of Davin Rodriguez’s murder trial that he stabbed an unarmed man to death in Fresno’s Tower District in October 2014.
What is in dispute is whether Rodriguez, 25, killed 36-year-old Jerald Lee Riley in self-defense.
Rodriguez is charged in Fresno County Superior Court with murder. If convicted, he faces a minimum of 15 years to life in prison.
The killing happened on Olive Avenue near Roosevelt Avenue in the evening of Oct. 5, 2014.
The killing happened on Olive Avenue in Fresno’s Tower District in the evening of Oct. 5, 2014.
Prosecutor Noelle Pebet told jurors that Riley was at a restaurant in the Tower District when he decided to visit a friend who lived nearby. As Riley walked west on Olive Avenue, he encountered Rodriguez. The pair then began to fight on Olive Avenue near Echo Avenue.
A motorist saw the fight and at first thought the two were playing in the street, Pebet said. When the motorist realized it was a street fight, he turned around to get a closer look, the prosecutor said.
At one point, Pebet said the motorist heard the victim say: “Oh, you’re going to pull a knife on me.”
The fight moved to Olive and Roosevelt, where Rodriguez hovered over Riley, who was on the ground. “He was punching and hitting him,” Pebet said.
Rodriguez then pulled out a knife and stabbed Riley multiple times before running away, Pebet said.
A resident on Roosevelt Avenue saw Rodriguez run by with his arm wrapped in a shirt. Blood drops outside the neighbor’s home were later tested and determined to belong to Rodriguez, Pebet said.
Rodriguez ran to his home on Ferger Avenue. When detectives contacted him a few days later, he told police “he had nothing to do with what happened,” Pebet told the jury.
Fresno County Jail records say Rodriguez has been in custody since Dec. 3, 2014.
Defense attorney: Davin Rodriguez pulled a knife from his pocket and defended himself against the taller Jerald Lee Riley.
Defense attorney Richard Esquivel told the jury that he doesn’t dispute much of what Pebet said.
But he said Rodriguez was jogging that night when he noticed Riley behind him. “He became nervous, so he stopped, confronted him, and asked why he was following him,” Esquivel said.
Rodriguez told Riley to leave him alone, Esquivel told the jury. That’s when the victim rushed toward Rodriguez and attacked him, the lawyer said.
Esquivel said Rodriguez pulled a knife from his pocket and defended himself against the taller Riley. Rodriguez, who is 5-foot-6 and 210 pounds, tried to run away, but Riley chased him down the street and continued to fight with Rodriguez, the lawyer said.
At one point, Riley cursed Rodriguez, Esquivel said. And while he stabbed Riley, Rodriguez cut his own fingers, Esquivel said.
Just how much taller Riley was than Rodriguez was not specified in court records or the opening statements.
Testimony in the trial in Judge John’s Vogt’s courtroom should take a week. When all the evidence is heard, Esquivel contended, it will show that Rodriguez was defending himself.