The lawyers agreed on little else during opening statements during the trial's first day. Holbrook is facing a murder charge for killing Ricky Ziesmer, 48, of Fremont. Holbrook, a Livermore software engineer, also is charged with a special clause alleging use of a deadly weapon in the March 9, 2011, stabbing.

Owens showed graphic autopsy photos to the 12-person jury, saying Holbrook was angry that he was beaten in a fist fight with Ziesmer and stabbed him with a double-edged knife in retaliation. "The defendant was not going to let Ricky leave," Owens said. "This was revenge for losing a fight."

Ziesmer suffered knife wounds to his lung, wrist, rib cage and heart, and died while undergoing emergency surgery, Owens said.

In Rien's opening statement, he told the jury of seven women and five men that his client acted in self-defense and feared for his life because Ziesmer had beaten Holbrook to the ground then charged him again. Rien showed a photo of Holbrook's bloody cheek and noted that Ziesmer was convicted in 2005 of possession of methamphetamine for sale.

"This is a guy who doesn't have teeth; drugs and fighting will do that," Rien said. "This is a bad apple. This is your worst nightmare."

During court proceedings, presided over by Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy in Hayward, Holbrook wore glasses, a silver button-down shirt and charcoal-gray slacks and was expressionless as he sat next to his lawyer.


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Roschell Morgan, Ziesmer's girlfriend, told the court the fight started about 1:30 p.m. on March 9, 2011, when Ziesmer was driving her 2002 Chevy Cavalier along First Street in Livermore.

When Ziesmer flicked the car's left-turn signal and veered left into the next lane, the couple heard repeated honking. Moments later, a large pickup truck driven by Holbrook pulled alongside. Holbrook swore and made an obscene gesture while accusing Ziesmer of cutting him off, Morgan said.

At first, Ziesmer laughed it off, but the argument continued whenever the two vehicles idled next to each other at red lights, she said. Ziesmer suggested they pull over "to handle this," and they parked in a lot on First Street.

Ziesmer told her he was just going to tell off Holbrook, but he "stormed toward him," she said. "He was a man with a purpose."

After more words, Ziesmer punched Holbrook, knocked him to the ground and sent his glasses flying, Rien said. Holbrook got up and tried to use his cellphone to photograph Ziesmer, but Ziesmer saw him and came back to the defendant. Holbrook then grabbed a knife from his pickup. When Ziesmer came at him again, Holbrook stabbed him, Rien said.

Afterwards, Holbrook told the couple not to leave because Ziesmer had committed a crime, and Holbrook slashed the Cavalier's back tire, Rien said.

Instead, Ziesmer drove off to get medical aid. He drove to ValleyCare Medical offices in Livermore and was transferred to Castro Valley, where he died at 5:27 p.m.

The trial continues Thursday at the Hayward Hall of Justice. Holbrook is being held on $3 million bail at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.