Jurors hearing a Carson City murder trial were taken out of the courtroom five times Wednesday as attorneys argued over how much the jury could be told about a dead man's "prior bad acts."
"Your honor, frankly I am starting to lose my patience with some of the antics of defense counsel," said Noel Waters, Carson City district attorney, in response to a defense attorney's attempt to discredit a witness by delving into his reason for being kicked out of high school.
"He's done it six times at least. Sooner or later this jury has to become contaminated with this inadmissible evidence," Waters complained of defense attorney Lawrence Lichter's tactics.
Rocky Boice Jr., 23, is one of 10 people charged in the motel-room beating death of Sammy Resendiz, 25. If convicted he faces life in prison.
The defense has tried to put testimony in front of the jury about Resendiz's alleged violent past.
Questions to police witnesses about Resendiz's reputation, and inferences that Resendiz had a teardrop tattoo under his eye because he's killed someone, were two of the reasons for the judge to ask the jury to wait outside.
Lichter told the court he hopes to show that Boice and nearly a dozen others who went to a Round House Motel room on Aug. 23, 1998, were aware Resendiz and the street gang with which he was affiliated had a proclivity toward violence. That's why they were armed with bats, pipes and chains to confront a man who had hit a female relative, Lichter claims.
Judge Michael Griffin said unless there is evidence or a conviction, the testimony will not be admissible. "We will not be trying people's reputations here," Griffin said.
Several witnesses Wednesday told of events surrounding the fatal beating of Resendiz.
Israel "Muppet" Ralla, 20, testified he had met up with Resendiz at Mills Park where the two were attending the birthday party of a friend's daughter. He said it was only the third time he'd met Resendiz.
After renting a motel room, Ralla and Carlos Lainez, Resendiz, Carolee Simpson and Juan Allegria began drinking.
Shortly after, Jessica Evans, Jodi Wright, Desiree Santa Cruz and her cousin Monique Santa Cruz, arrived and also began drinking.
At some point, Ralla, then 16, said he and Evans got into a fight after he called her a "bitch."
When asked by Waters why he called her that, Ralla said, "That's how I referred to girls."
"Then she mentioned something about an earlier event and that really set me off," Ralla said. "She said something about her cousins getting me or finishing me off."
Ralla said he shoved Evans and she and the other girls left the room, only to return a half hour later.
"She knocked on the door and I looked out the peephole and she looked calm, so I opened the door," he said. "Then when she got close to me, she just hit me."
Ralla said Resendiz and Lainez grabbed him, and the girls grabbed Evans and were pulling the two apart when he reached through the group and hit Evans, who fell down.
"Sammy was saying, 'Just let them leave," he said.
But Desiree Santa Cruz testified there were more people in the room during the fight, and both Evans and her cousin Monique were struck.
"Muppet kept telling Jessica that he was going to kick her ass," Santa Cruz said. "Then we went to leave and when I turned around, I saw Jessica on the floor and we picked her up to leave."
A deputy who responded to the first call of a fight between Evans and Ralla said the girls wouldn't tell him any information about who had hit Evans.
Ninety minutes later, Deputy Rick Encinas said, he responded to a second call at the room after Resendiz was beaten. He said Resendiz was so covered with blood he was unrecognizable when he first saw him being helped from the bathroom by Carolee Simpson.
"His head and face were covered in blood. There was so much blood I couldn't tell where he was bleeding from," he said.
Encinas said the pillow and sheets at the head of the bed closest the door were soaked with blood. He said a gash above Resendiz's right ear was so deep, he could see the victim's skull and fractures in it.
"Carolee said she'd heard a knock on the door and when she opened it, she saw Jessica step back and the next thing she knew eight to 10 Indian males came rushing inside," Encinas said. "They started beating Sammy and Carlos Lainez who were sleeping on the bed."
Testimony resumes today.