Murder Trial Continues - Alleged Triggerman on Stand Today

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Despite objections by a prosecutor this morning, a defense toxicology expert testified in the murder trial of three defendants - Brian Bilal Starks, Terrance Deshun Morrow and Corey Larmar Johnson.

Toxicologist John Treuting is still on the stand testifying about the possible effects of methamphetamine on a person.

He told jurors that the murder victim, Michael Wade, had a toxic level of methamphetamine in his blood system.

Starks the defendant accused of pulling the trigger and killing Wade is expected to take the stand this afternoon. Starks is saying that he acted in self-defense.

Outside the jurors' presence today and before the trial began, prosecutor Maeve Fox had objected to Treuting taking the stand, saying that the reason Treuting was being put on the stand was to confuse the jury.

But Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles Campbell ruled that he would allow jurors to hear Treuting's testimony, saying that Fox can put on a rebuttal witness later to counter any issues she may have with what Treuting tells jurors.

Campbell, however, rejected motions by defense attorneys to dismiss conspiracy and robbery charges against the three defendants who argued that the evidence was very thin that this was a robbery and the men had conspired to commit it.

The three defendants are on trial in Courtroom 35 for the murder of Wade.

Fox claims that Wade and Kenneth Pecaro were trying to purchase 6.6 pounds of cocaine for $55,500 from Starks. She maintains that Starks was a low-level drug dealer who never had that much cocaine and lured Pecaro and Wade to the 1400 block of South E Street in Oxnard to rob them.

Fox said Starks recruited Morrow and Johnson to help him rob Wade, Pecaro and another drug-dealer Darrell Babagay.

Morrow pulled out a gun and pointed at Pecaro's face, and they were involved in a struggle for the gun. Wade bolted and was shot in the back twice by Starks, according to court testimony. Pecaro was wounded in the hand.

Starks will testify that he fired in self-defense at Wade because Wade came at him with a razor knife. Morrow and Johnson claim they were recruited to provide security during Starks's drug deal with Wade and Babagay, who testimony indicated are high-level drug dealers and gambling buddies.

Pecaro was Starks' prison cellmate and was putting the drug deal together. Morrow will claim that Pecaro startled him as he entered the residence in Oxnard, and he pulled out a gun at Pecaro.

Citing the law during her objection to Treuting's testimony, Fox said an expert's purpose is to help jurors understand a "subject matter" that is not understood by them.

Defense lawyers argued that Treuting was there to tell jurors what the possible effects would be on a person who has a high-level of methamphetamine in his blood.

Testimony in the trial indicated that Michael Wade had 256 nanograms of methamphetamine per milliliters of blood in his system. The therapeutic level for legitimate medicinal purposes such as narcolepsy and hungry suppression is between 20-80 nanograms per milliliters.

Fox told the judge that she is concerned that Treuting is going to say that Wade could be portrayed as psychotic, aggressive or violent. Defense lawyers countered by saying that the expert isn't going to pin down Wade's thought process or draw a conclusion about what Wade was experiencing while on methamphetamine

Defense lawyers told the judge that the measurement of methamphetamine in the blood is the same as blood-alcohol levels in that it effects the central nervous system, conceding that neither methamphetamine nor alcohol in the blood can't be used to assign what it will do in a person who is under the influence.

This is because people have different tolerance levels to drugs and how they act mentally or physically while under the influence can't be predicted without observing them including Wade, according to Treuting's testimony.

"I was not there. I did not observe him," Treuting told jurors. "It varies from individual to individual."

However, Treuting repeated on the stand that methamphetamine is effects the central nervous system.


 

 

The Court Reporter
Raul Hernandez has spent years writing stories about the drama that unfolds in the courtroom. Here he answers common questions, share some insights on the judicial system and passes along some of the little things that make the Ventura County courts an interesting place to be. You can contact him at rhernandez@vcstar.com.