The state rests its case on Herrera

September 30, 2011 • Local News

The State rested its case against Israel Herrera, Thursday, after receiving the testimony of two expert witnesses. Herrera is charged with felony murder after the Nov. 22, 2010, shooting of Stephen Foster, 25.

Steven P. [auth] Guerra, ballistic expert for the Department of Public Safety testified that the lans and grooves found on the spent shell casing found in the front yard at 1104 W. Walnut Street matched those on the rifle located under the residence. The lans and grooves refer to striation marks that appear on a projectile after it has been shot.

“There were four lans and four groves with a right hand twist on each,” said Guerra.

However, he did qualify his statement saying that many SKS-type rifles have this configuration and only a microscopic test could confirm if the shell casing was associated with the rifle. His microscopic examination was inconclusive; therefore, he was unable to say definitively.
Guerra did say that the magazine found in the backyard did fit in the rifle. He noted that there were 38 live rounds in the rifle. Cosby pointed out that the normal load was 40. Guerra did not attempt to explain the absence of two rounds.

Under redirect, the assistant district attorney asked if there was an explanation why Guerra had not been able to find any defining factors with the projectile located in the van or the shell casing, and Guerra replied, “The projectile struck something that interfered and the rifling was worn out so I could not identify it.

DPS biologist Margo Mikeska provided DNA evidence. She said she checked the bullets, the magazine and the rifle and did find human DNA, but was unable to get a clear enough sample to get any kind of definitive match, but she also noted that she had a positive match with Foster’s DNA on the projectile, which had been located along the floor of the van where Foster was killed.

Defense attorney Jessie Cosby asked if DNA samples for Joanna Peña, Herrera’s girlfriend, or Christina Rodriguez (Herrera) had been submitted. Mikeska said, “No, but I can tell you that the human DNA was male.”

Detectives Albert Aldana and Robert Scribner, case agent, both testified on the initial investigation — Aldana to discuss finding the rifle under the house.

Scribner described his job as case agent, collecting and collating reports and evidence and sending the appropriate evidence to the various agencies.

Cosby questioned Scribner about his decision not to send the handgun located in the trashcan at 202 S. Delaware Ave. to the DPS for forensic examination. Scribner said he did not believe it was directly connected with the case.

“Why then have we gone through this if it does not connect directly to the case?” asked Cosby.

Then Cosby informed the court that he had never received a copy of Scribner’s report which is required by disclosure.

In the afternoon, defense took over to call as its first witness Detective Kim Northcutt. Cosby questioned him about the initial interview he conducted with Rodriquez and asked if she had mentioned anything about a drive-by shooting at Hastings.

“No, she never mentioned anything about shots being fired at Hastings,” said Northcutt.

According to Rodriguez‘s testimony, the two went to Walgreens after Hastings. Northcutt said he collected the surveillance tapes from Walgreens, which revealed that they were in the store around 9:36 p.m.

The next witness was Nana Pacheco, mother of Sophie whom Rodriguez claimed shot at Foster when the couple were at Hastings. Pacheco said Foster showed up at her home on Lost Trail around 9:30 p.m. and began kicking at the door.

Pacheco’s mother, Sophia Gallego, testified that someone came to her house on West 11th Street at 10:10 p.m. some time after the shooting.

On Monday Officer Jeff Gazick, who was first to arrive at the scene of the shooting on Walnut Street, told the court that he received notification from dispatch about the incident around 10 p.m.

However, he also acknowledged prior to this call out, he’d received two reports of threats; one on Lost Trail at 8:42 p.m. and from West 11th Street at 9:46, and he was able to arrive at the Walnut Street location quickly because he was close after taking the second threat’s report.
The people who reported the shooting to the police also took the stand. Mike Jordan told the court: “I heard a loud bang, a crash and another bang.” Jordan believed there to have been two shots fired. He also said he liked guns and the bangs sounded more like fire from handguns than shots from a rifle.

Jordan’s wife Jessica agreed with her spouse. “I heard a gunshot, a crash and a gunshot.

Assistant District Attorney Debra Hutchins asked the couple if they had heard loud sounds, such as banging on the door or an argument, and both said they did not.

Cosby said he should conclude presenting his witnesses on Friday. Israel Herrera is expected to speak on his own behalf.

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