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Key Castro witness discredited

Posted: March 20, 2008 12:37 a.m.
Updated: May 21, 2008 5:03 a.m.
SAN FERNANDO - Prosecutors in the Castro murder trial unsuccessfully attempted to re-establish a key witness on Wednesday after he was discredited during cross-examination on Tuesday morning.

Antonio "Tony" Garcia, struggled under cross-examination Tuesday as the defense attorney pointed out inconsistencies between what he told deputies in 2006 compared to his testimony during the trial.

Deputy District Attorney Paula Gonzales attempted to rehabilitate Garcia's testimony on Wednesday morning by introducing prior consistent statements he made in matters not related to what he was asked by defense attorney Peter Korn during Tuesday's cross-examination.

When a witness on the stand has been discredited by an attorney, the other attorney may try to fix that witnesses testimony through rehabilitation. Attorneys often rely upon prior testimony in attempting to re-establish a witnesses credibility.

Judge Burt Pines ruled that, under California Evidence Code 791, Gonzales could only rehabilitate Garcia by introducing prior consistent statements on issues directly related to Korn's cross-examination. Gonzales was unable to comply with Pine's ruling.

On March 22, 2006, Ramon Castro was found dead in his pickup truck under a Highway 14 overpass on Sierra Highway. Esperanza Castro had called deputies to report a burglary at her home. She is now on trial for his murder. Garcia, a neighbor, told detectives that he saw Esperanza Castro carry her husband's body to the truck.

Garcia told law enforcement officials in numerous interviews that, on March 22, 2006, he witnessed at least two people, one of whom was Esperanza Castro, carrying a large object in a dark plastic bag that was placed in Ramon Castro's truck. The large object apparently was the body of Ramon Castro.

While Gonzales was not able to rehabilitate Garcia's testimony, she moved forward with her next witness, who interviewed Castro's neighbor three times after the Ramon Castro was slain.

Sgt. Robert Harris, a homicide investigator with the Sheriff's Homicide Division, testified about the interviews he had with Garcia on March 23 and 24, 2006, noting that Garcia positively identified Esperanza Castro as one of the culprits in the killing of her husband.

Later in the afternoon, the prosecution played the recorded interviews between Harris and Garcia for the jury.

The trial is set to continue today. However, court will not be in session on Friday, as one of the jurors had a death in their family and will be attending the funeral that day. Next week, trial will not be in session on March 26 and 28.


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