Closing arguments today in Gardnerville Ranchos manslaughter case
December 6, 2005
Closing arguments are expected today in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Michael Ward, accused in the death of a 24-year-old Markleeville man last summer during a fatal fight.
Testimony concluded around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday after defense attorney Kevin Walsh called one witness on behalf of his client.
Cardiologist Dr. Donald Spring, of Reno, testified that he didn’t think Ward contributed to Jeffrey John’s death.
He testified that John had a fatty liver and an enlarged heart.
“Is it more likely that the stress developed along with the alcohol and the enlarged liver caused the cardiac arrhythmia, caused the death?” Walsh asked.
“It’s what the decedent brings to the fight that he’s unaware of in terms of his physical condition,” Spring said. “We call it getting worked up. He’s getting ready to fight, getting ready to argue.”
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Prosecutor Dina Salvucci asked if John’s fear that he was going to get beat up or his attempts to defend himself would contribute to the stress level.
Spring confirmed that fear introduces adrenaline into the system.
An investigator who interviewed Ward twice in the hours after John’s death testified Tuesday that the defendant admitted killing the Markleeville man.
“He stated he didn’t mean to kill Mr. John,” said Steven Schultz, a special investigator for the District Attorney’s Office. “He said he was aware some people may have a medical history that might cause them to die with a hit on the head.”
Schultz said Ward, 22, told him he didn’t know how much force he had in his fist.
“Toward the end of the interview he acknowledged that he accepted responsibility for the killing,” Schultz said. “He said he was sorry for what happened, and he said ‘sorry’ wouldn’t cut it.”
According to Schultz, Ward said he should have walked away from the fatal fight June 23.
Ward is charged with battery with a deadly weapon causing substantial bodily harm, battery causing substantial bodily harm and involuntary manslaughter in the death of John, a father of four.
He is accused of cutting John with a knife, hitting and kicking him and killing him during the commission of an unlawful act.
John died of cardiac arrhythmia brought on by an irregular heartbeat.
Ward pleaded not guilty to the charges, claiming he acted in self-defense.
Before his confession to the investigator, Schultz said Ward changed his story several times. At first, he said he was jumped by two to four people who pulled up to the Gardnerville Ranchos residence in a white pickup truck and knocked him out.
According to police reports, a fight broke out around 11:30 p.m. June 23 at a Gardnerville Ranchos duplex on Zinfandel.
The altercation spilled outside, down the block and across the street, where John’s body was found.
Ward has been in Douglas County Jail on $100,000 bail since the fight.