Crime

Man who allegedly attacked nanny tries to fire his attorney and represent himself

Arrest in kidnap, sexual assault of woman in northeast Fresno

Police Chief Jerry Dyer and District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, center, at a news conference announcing the arrest of Joseph Ward, 35, in the kidnap of a woman and a child in northeast Fresno in June.
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Police Chief Jerry Dyer and District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, center, at a news conference announcing the arrest of Joseph Ward, 35, in the kidnap of a woman and a child in northeast Fresno in June.

Joseph Ward, the man accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a northeast Fresno nanny, tried to convince a judge Friday that he is better off representing himself against a possible life sentence.

Ward is on trial for the alleged attack of a 25-year-old nanny who was working in the Woodward Park neighborhood on June 22, 2018. Ward is charged with 12 felonies, including sexual assault, robbery and kidnapping. He faces life in prison if found guilty on all charges.

Friday morning, before the jury entered the courtroom, Ward began arguing with his defense attorney Amanda Moran over his defense. Earlier in the week, he tried unsuccessfully to replace her. Ward told Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan he had evidence that would clear him of the crime, but it wasn’t being presented.

Kapetan, who has been relatively patient with Ward’s outbursts, denied his request to represent himself. She said switching attorneys at this stage of the trial was ill-timed and would delay the proceedings.. She added that Moran is fulfilling her role as his defense counsel.

Ward would not relent. He asked the judge if he could dismiss the trial-by-jury process and have her decide his fate. Kapetan reminded him to think carefully about his request.

“A trial by jury is an extremely important constitutional right and should not be taken lightly,” said an exasperated Kapetan. “I am not going to entertain any more discussion from you Mr. Ward, you have counsel.”

Kapetan has already warned Ward she will kick him out of the courtroom if he’s disruptive. The 35-year-old Ward got in trouble on Tuesday after yelling to his ex-girlfriend Karla Rodas during her testimony, telling Rodas he loved her. Rodas, a former stripper, was the one who told police Ward may be involved in the kidnapping and sexual attack.

Defendant gets medical treatment

Despite Kapetan’s concerns about delaying the trial, testimony was halted Friday afternoon. Ward did not return to the courtroom after the lunch break. He told deputies that he did not feel well and was taken to get medical treatment, Kapetan said.

The trial resumes on Monday with Moran continuing to drive home the theory that police may have the wrong man.

The nanny testified earlier in the trial that she has no doubt it was Ward who assaulted her. But Moran said police didn’t find any physical evidence at the home connecting Ward to the crime.

One of the most damaging pieces of evidence, introduced by prosecutor Rick Thomas, is a surveillance video captured from a neighbor’s camera the day of the crime. The video shows the nanny on her morning walk, pushing a stroller with the child she cares for. About a minute later, a man resembling Ward is seen walking in the same direction.

Defense argues it was someone else

But Moran said Ward wasn’t the only suspect. Two other men were investigated before detectives zeroed in on Ward.

To cast more doubt in the jury’s mind, Moran had Glen Alvarez testify that he saw someone else in that video: a friend he’s known since high school, and it wasn’t Ward.

“I was 99.9% sure it was him (his old friend),” Alvarez said.

The man Alvarez identified was one of the two suspects police questioned during their investigation. The man, who looks very similar to Ward, was supposed to testify Friday but declined to answer any questions, exercising his Fifth Amendment right not to testify in court.

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