HAYWARD -- The jury in the road-rage killing trial of Livermore software engineer Cort Holbrook will begin deliberating Wednesday after a turbulent day of closing statements.
Each side spent its time in court Tuesday painting a different picture of the defendant.
"He went after Ricky and stabbed Ricky out of retaliation," deputy district attorney Brian Owens told the court about the March 2011 killing in Livermore. "That's what happened here. And that's murder."
Holbrook's attorney, Timothy Rien, worked to negate nearly all of the "indisputable facts" set forth by Owens, most notably the idea that Holbrook's story wavered from confession to testimony.
Holbrook, who has told the court he stabbed Ricky Ziesmer during a March 9, 2011,
parking lot fight in Livermore, has said it was self-defense, that he stabbed the Fremont man after Ziesmer had knocked him to the ground then returned to charge him again.
One slide in Owens' presentation to the jury read, "If you decide that a witness deliberately lied about anything ... you should consider not believing anything the witness says." And, according to Owens, Holbrook was "all over the map" on his story, from the nature of his injuries to the manner in which he stabbed Ziesmer, 48.
Rien said this was a false representation, reiterating that not only was Holbrook dazed from multiple blows to the head and 10 times more blind than the average person after Ziesmer knocked
"It wasn't a perfect story because it wasn't a perfect moment," Rien said of Holbrook's alleged inconsistencies in testimony. "It was a perfect storm."
But Owens would not relent on the suggestion that the defendant described by his lawyer as "high-techie, nerdy" was "a lot more dangerous than he looks at first glance."
"His mind operates on a very dangerous level," Owens said. "The fact that he's a marksman with guns? Sends chills down your spine."
But according to character testimonies from four of Holbrook's acquaintances, from bosses to neighbors, Holbrook had always been "nonviolent and peaceful." And Rien reminded the jury of Holbrook's existence as the everyman, in which he worked in Silicon Valley as a software engineer and raised twin boys into upstanding young men with his wife of 20 years, Tamara.
"Cort Holbrook that day was anybody. Cort Holbrook that day was everybody," Rien said. "This is what I characterize as the nightmare of unintended consequences. No one is going to look at a bad driver the same way again."
Rien also brought back to light the arrest of the prosecution's "star witness" on the stand in early trial proceedings, suggesting that Roschelle Morgan's drug arrest was indicative of why her testimony could not be trusted and why she left the scene for hours before confronting police.
"They were both intoxicated," Rien said of Morgan and Ziesmer. "She's buzzing and on three probations. No wonder she didn't go straight to the hospital."
According to Rien, Morgan failed to even identify Holbrook in a photo lineup, her perception distorted despite her claims that she had not used methamphetamine in almost a week.
Forensic toxicologist Jeffery Zehnder previously testified that the 0.02 blood-alcohol content found in Ziesmer's body after he died was likely much higher during the incident, before significant blood loss and blood transfusions. He approximated Ziesmer's blood-alcohol content during the incident at about 0.12, and testimony by forensic pathologist John Iocco said that Ziesmer's "huge," discolored liver was indicative of long-term alcohol abuse.
Despite Owens' presumption that Rien would "paint Ricky Ziesmer as a dirtbag," Rien told jurors that while Ziesmer was likely under the influence and "confident in his own bravado, as liquored up as he may be," that had only to do with his position as an aggressor and did not suggest that he deserved what happened to him.
"I'm not saying, nor would I ever say, Ricky Ziesmer's life was worth losing," Rien said. "I'm only saying Cort Holbrook's life is worth saving."