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Jury hung in Job Corps facility stabbing case

October 25, 2013|By Jill Cowan

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge declared a mistrial Friday in the case of a Job Corps student accused of stabbing his advisor to death, after a jury deliberated for nearly four days.

The jury deadlocked over whether Freddy Leyva, 24, had committed murder or voluntary manslaughter in the March 2012 slaying of Dwayne Alexander, a respected and well-liked former entertainment industry executive.

Prosecutors had argued that Leyva was racist and homophobic, and brutally stabbed a man he disliked. Leyva's attorney had argued that his client believed he suffered sexual abuse by Alexander, and as a result, he feared his advisor would rape him.

While 10 jurors believed the crime was murder, two were swayed by the defense's argument that Leyva had instead committed manslaughter.

One juror, who did not want to be identified, described the deliberation process as "really intense."

"I'm still kind of shaky," she said.

She said that a particular sticking point seemed to be the disconnect "between what [Leyva] believed happened and what actually happened," with regards to his alleged sexual abuse.

Members of Leyva's family, who were in court Friday declined to speak with a reporter, though his mother, smiling, said she was "happy."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Britton said that "based on the evidence, my office believes it's a first-degree murder case." He said his office will seek to retry Leyva.

Britton said Leyva had told his roommate that he disliked African Americans and people he believed were gay, which he believed Alexander was.

On the afternoon of March 14 last year, Leyva sneaked a drywall knife into Alexander's office at the Hollywood Job Corps dorm where Leyva lived and slashed the 6-foot-3 program advisor 29 times--five of them fatally, prosecutors said.

When police arrived on scene, they found three fellow students holding Leyva down, as Alexander bled on the office floor, according to reports from the time. Alexander, 49, had been sitting at his desk when he was attacked, Britton said.

As Leyva went through the booking process, Britton said the defendant told an officer that the blood on his hands made him aroused.

“I’m a man now,” the officer testified hearing Leyva say.

Leyva's attorney, Tomas Requejo, said he didn't dispute that his client stabbed Alexander. But he told jurors they should find Leyva guilty of voluntary manslaughter, not murder, because Alexander made unwanted sexual advances on his client.

In stabbing Alexander, Requejo said, Leyva had acted in “imperfect self-defense,” meaning he honestly, but unreasonably believed that he was in danger of great injury or death, and needed to defend himself.

“It was him or me,” Leyva told a detective investigating the stabbing, according to Requejo. When the detective asked if Leyva truly believed Alexander intended to hurt him, Requejo said, Leyva responded, “He’s been hurting me.”

Requejo criticized the detective for never following up on that claim.

Leyva and his brother testified that they had been molested as children, which Requejo said made Leyva's fear that Alexander would rape him reasonable, even if that logic was limited to Leyva's mind.

“Was he really fearful?” Requejo said. “If you take into consideration his history, it makes sense.”

During closing arguments Monday, Britton dismissed the defense's position, calling it “as ridiculous as it is offensive.”

Alexander's mother, Everlean Wilson of Tulsa, Okla., agreed, saying it was clear to her that the defense didn't "have a leg to stand on." Nonetheless, she said, Leyva's testimony about her son was "real difficult" to sit through. 

The case is due back in court Nov. 15.


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Twitter: @jillcowan

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