As jury deliberations get under way Monday in the civil trial over the fatal shooting of Luis Gutierrez by a Yolo County sheriff’s deputy in 2009, it may all come down to “the knife” – a key piece of evidence that was the 500-pound gorilla in the courtroom.
Two deputies, including the shooter, testified that the 26-year-old Gutierrez was threatening sheriff’s Sgt. Dale Johnson with a folding pocketknife at close range, and lethal force was all that was left for them to defend themselves.
But one witness testified in Sacramento federal court that Gutierrez definitely did not have a knife. Another said she also saw no knife, but her attention was not focused on Gutierrez’s hands.
A knife like the one described by Johnson and the shooter, Deputy Hernan Oviedo, was found at the scene and collected by Woodland police.
The theory of attorneys who represent Gutierrez’s parents, Irma and Jose Gutierrez, in a civil rights and wrongful-death lawsuit against the county, Johnson, Oviedo, and a third deputy is that the knife admitted as evidence is a “throw down” – a knife that was thrown or dropped at the scene after Gutierrez was killed.
The jury’s verdict likely will swing on whether the plaintiffs’ lawyers have sown enough doubt in jurors’ minds that Gutierrez did not have the knife when the shooting occurred.
If there was no knife when Oviedo fired the fatal shot, either Gutierrez would be alive today or his death would be indefensible.
Even the defense’s police practices expert agreed.
The shooting “would be uncalled for, yes, if he did not have a knife in his hand and was not threatening any of the officers,” Massad Ayoob testified.
There is no [...]