MARTINEZ -- The attorney for a 20-year-old Pinole man charged in the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl on the Richmond High School campus told jurors Monday that crime scene evidence was likely compromised by windy weather and wind caused by a helicopter that rushed the victim to a trauma center.
Gordon Brown, representing defendant Marcelles Peter, who was a teenager charged as an adult shortly after the Oct. 24, 2009, attack involving as many as 20 young male perpetrators, suggested that wind could have transferred his client's DNA from a beer can to a broken used condom found in a campus courtyard where the girl was abused for up to 2½ hours. He also suggested that police officers trampling through the crime scene could have compromised evidence.
"I don't think we will ever know all that happened," Brown said in his opening statement, after urging jurors to "keep an open mind."
Peter and 22-year-old Richmond resident Jose Montano are both facing life in prison if convicted at the dual jury trial for their alleged roles in the post-homecoming dance gang rape that shocked the community and nation.
Montano's jury will hear its opening statements Tuesday. Dual juries are rarely paneled in California but are considered necessary when there are inadmissible statements as to one defendant but not the other.
Prosecutor John Cope told Peter's jury Monday that Peter "played an active, sexual role" in the attack in which the 5-foot-2-inch, 100-pound sophomore was slapped, punched, kicked, robbed, urinated on, groped and raped by people and objects. She doesn't remember most of the assault, because she was suffering from head trauma and a near-fatal blood alcohol level of 0.35, he said.
"They were pouring booze in her and on her, and that's after she was drinking it on her own," Cope said.
Among the prosecution witnesses who will testify are two of the accused men's former co-defendants who took plea deals and are now serving 25-year-plus prison sentences: Manuel Ortega, 22, and Ari Morales, 19.
A number of other young men who were there will also take the stand. Cope warned jurors that they won't have too much to say because they were "too drunk, too ashamed or they knew the people involved."
"These young men were as helpful to police as they were to Jane Doe as she was being raped," Cope said. "Not very helpful."
"You are going to have to learn the truth from listening to them lie to you," Cope said.
The juries will also hear from the victim's father, who was standing outside the school looking for her while police sped by on their way to the dark courtyard when the attack occurred. They were summoned by a woman in the neighborhood whose brother-in-law told her he was approached near campus by some young men who told him where he could go have sex with a girl who was "all naked and stuff."
The first witness takes the stand Tuesday afternoon.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.