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Ventura County

Murder Case Is Declared a Mistrial

Court: New evidence forces attorney to drop his defense of Richard Geise, accused of killing a Ventura market clerk.

April 23, 2002|DAVID KELLY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A mistrial was declared Monday in the murder case against Richard John Geise, one of two men accused of shooting a clerk during a robbery of Ventura's Central Market last April.

On a day scheduled for closing arguments, defense attorney Willard Wiksell said he had been given new evidence Friday and would no longer be ethically able to represent Geise.

Wiksell, who met with prosecutors and Ventura County Superior Court Judge Roland Purnell for more than three hours behind closed doors Monday, would not elaborate on the nature of the evidence.

"It put me in an impossible situation and I could no longer go forward," he said later. After viewing the evidence, the judge agreed and discharged the jury. A new trial date was set for July 22.

Geise, 32, of Ojai could face the death penalty if convicted of the fatal shooting at the family-owned market.

Police said two men wearing gas masks entered the market on Ventura Avenue about 1 p.m. on April 6 of last year and ordered the clerks to open the safe.

Before the employees could comply, the suspects opened fire, police said. Primitivo Alejandro Alvarez, 35, was killed and brothers Balbir and Mohan Singh were injured.

The other suspected gunman, Alfonso Acosta Delgado Jr., 25, was killed in May by a Ventura police SWAT team marksman after a five-hour standoff outside his grandmother's house.

Geise, who has been on trial for about a week, testified Wednesday that he was two miles from the crime scene with his family at the time of the shooting.

He testified that a few hours after the shooting, his cousin, Alfonso Delgado, and Sam Patterson visited him at a motel on Seaward Avenue in Ventura.

Geise said the men wanted him to help them make false identification cards, which he did. Geise testified that the men then told him they had robbed Central Market earlier in the day.

Both men are now dead--Patterson from a drug overdose.

Prosecutors called Geise a habitual liar who earlier told police he had gone to Magic Mountain with his family the day of the robbery.

Police reported finding drugs and a computer used to make fake identification cards in Geise's motel room when he was arrested. A .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun was found hidden in the ceiling above a closet. Lab tests revealed the gun was one of two weapons fired during the shooting, prosecutors said.

Wiksell said his private investigator had been given the new evidence from an unidentified person. The evidence made it impossible, both legally and ethically, to try the case, he said.

"We were ready to argue the case to the jury. We felt we had a strong defense," he said.

Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Don Glynn, who is prosecuting the case, called Wiksell a fine attorney who was doing the right thing by bowing out.

The court will appoint another attorney for Geise next week and a new jury will be selected in the coming weeks.

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