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Penn Defense Witnesses Attempt to Undermine Prosecution Case

April 25, 1986|JANNY SCOTT | Times Staff Writer

He said 80% or 90% positive would be a more appropriate record.

During cross-examination, Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Carpenter suggested that Wheeler's testimony was motivated by a desire to damage the department, out of anger over the terms of his disability retirement, and a dispute over the department's handling of the 1984 McDonald's massacre in San Ysidro. Wheeler was the first officer to arrive at the scene of the massacre, and he says the experience contributed to his psychiatric problems.

"Isn't it true that you hate everything about the San Diego Police Department?" Carpenter asked. " . . . Isn't it true that you will do anything and say anything to hurt the San Diego Police Department?"

Wheeler denied the charge.

Also testifying Thursday was a surprise witness, Carolyn Cherry, a Navy employee who said she discussed the shooting with Pina-Ruiz in April, 1985, when Pina-Ruiz came to Cherry's office to be assigned government quarters. Pina-Ruiz's husband is in the Navy.

"I asked, 'Couldn't you have ducked or run or tried to get away?' " Cherry recalled. "She said she couldn't see anything, it all happened so fast."

Earlier this month, Pina-Ruiz testified at length about the incident. Describing Penn's handling of the gun before he shot Jacobs, she said: "He moved it several times upward . . . to the left side of the neck. . . . I saw the trigger going back. My eyes went right to the hammer. . . . I saw it go off, and I saw blood splatter back."

Reading newspaper accounts of those statements, Cherry testified Thursday, "I was completely shocked. . . . When she spoke to me, her exact words were that it all happened so fast and she was unable to see anything."

One other witness who testified to an encounter with Jacobs was Edward Serdi, who said he was riding his motorcycle to work in 1982 when Jacobs and another officer pulled him over after he shouted at them for cutting across his path at a turn.

Serdi said Jacobs called him "you little punk," shoved him against an embankment, pulled out his night stick, and said, "Look up at me . . . and tell me what you said so I can kick your ass up and down the street."

Serdi later filed a complaint against Jacobs, which was not sustained. Carpenter noted on cross-examination that an investigating officer's written account of Serdi's statement at the time does not include any reference to the night stick or the embankment.

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