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Ventura County

Wrong Man on Trial for Murder, Lawyer Argues

Sides sum up in the slaying of a Ventura clerk. Prosecutor insists the defendant and his cousin were the masked gunmen.

November 13, 2002|Tracy Wilson | Times Staff Writer

A Ventura County prosecutor urged a jury Tuesday to convict a five-time felon of first-degree murder for allegedly storming a neighborhood market last year and fatally shooting a clerk during a botched robbery.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Don Glynn told jurors in his closing argument that defendant Richard Geise and his now-deceased cousin, Alfonso Delgado, were the masked robbers who killed Alejandro Alvarez and wounded two others during a holdup at Ventura's Central Market.

But Geise's attorney said prosecutors have the wrong man and asked jurors to acquit his 33-year-old client.

"If ever there was a case of reasonable doubt, this is it," Robert Schwartz argued.

Schwartz cited testimony from two defense witnesses who identified another man as the possible killer. They told the jury that Sam Patterson, a friend of Delgado's who died of a drug overdose weeks after the shooting, admitted being involved in the April 6, 2001, slaying.

One witness testified that Patterson drunkenly told her: "You know that thing at the market? I did it."

Schwartz further argued that a west Ventura resident, who reportedly saw the gunmen outside his house moments before the robbery, could not identify Geise in court. And Geise's estranged wife provided an alibi for the midday shooting.

"How can the prosecution attack this evidence?" Schwartz asked in his summation. "You must find the defendant innocent of this crime."

Glynn found a number of ways to attack the defense case, however. He portrayed Geise's wife as a liar who concocted a "preposterous" story about taking her nephews to an amusement park, then racing back to Ventura to meet her estranged spouse so he could spend time with their toddler son.

As for the so-called confession, Glynn noted that the defense witness who allegedly heard Patterson's drunken confession also testified that Patterson later retracted the remark. The prosecutor theorized that Patterson may have been involved as an accomplice in the botched robbery, which could explain a separate statement to his father about possibly going to prison for murder.

"These guys were all tight," Glynn said. "So it would not be surprising to any of us to think Sam, in some fashion, was involved in this."

But Glynn stood firm in his belief that it was Geise -- not Patterson -- who stormed the market. And he urged jurors to look hard at the physical evidence.

Less than 18 hours after the shooting, detectives found a .40-caliber pistol hidden in the ceiling of a Ventura hotel room where Geise was living. Ballistic tests confirmed it matched a shell casing recovered inside the market. Similar ammunition was found in Geise's jacket pocket.

"Mr. Geise was in possession of one of the guns used in that robbery," Glynn argued. "That gun was up in the ceiling, matched by the criminalist, and that is circumstantial evidence that he is one of the people who committed the robbery."

Geise, a former Ojai resident convicted several times of drug offenses, is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, attempted robbery, commercial burglary, conspiracy, a firearms offense, drug possession for sale and subornation of perjury.

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