Attorneys argued at length Tuesday over whether police conducted two or three interviews — and whether evidence of a third interview exists — with a former prison guard who's on trial for murder for shooting his estranged wife's lover.
Bakersfield police detectives have repeatedly said 40-year-old Rigoberto Sanchez was only interviewed twice: once in Arizona following his arrest, and a second time at police headquarters.
Sanchez, however, testified last week a third interview took place in a room detectives put him in immediately following the second interview before he was booked into jail the night of June 29, 2017. It was there, and not at trial, Sanchez said, that he first claimed the fatal shooting of 33-year-old Edwin Lima was in self-defense.
Sanchez is charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder, among other charges, in the May 28, 2017, shooting at his estranged wife's apartment in the 6900 block of Valleyview Drive. He killed Lima and shot at but missed his wife.
The two interviews confirmed by police were recorded and played for the jury during the trial, which began mid-August. Police earlier testified the room in which Sanchez was placed after the second interview is not equipped with recording equipment. All he did while in that room, they said, was eat a sandwich.
On Tuesday, however, police Detective Eric Littlefield said he checked with another police employee and learned that the room Sanchez was put in is, like the interview room, kept under video and audio surveillance. He said he only found this out last week.
Asked by Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman about the whereabouts of the recording of whatever happened in that room, Littlefield said it's no longer on file because it was never pulled for the case and the recordings are only kept for a certain amount of time.
Cadman said the jury will now never know what happened in that room and what questions were asked of his client. Prosecutor Gina Pearl, however, was adamant nothing took place and Sanchez was lying to try to avoid spending the rest of his life behind bars.
She said Sanchez has claimed almost everyone who testified in the case has lied except him. He's testified Littlefield, Detective Glen Davis, Sanchez's former supervisor Sgt. Tyler Clayton, his estranged wife and even his stepson have lied on the stand.
But the truth, Pearl has said, is Sanchez opened fire on his estranged wife and Lima at his wife's apartment because he was consumed by jealousy and wanted them dead. Lima was hit 15 times and died at the scene.
Sanchez, his wife and Lima all worked at California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi.
Sanchez claimed in the period leading up to the shooting that Lima called him and threatened his brother, who also worked at the Tehachapi prison. He said he reported the threat to Clayton.
Clayton testified on Tuesday that Sanchez never reported a threat to him. He said any threat made to an officer is taken seriously and there would have been a record made if it had occurred.
Cadman asked Clayton if he could lose his job if he failed to report a threat against an officer. Clayton said that was true.
In describing the shooting, Pearl has said Sanchez approached his wife's apartment armed with a gun and threw a concrete block through the bedroom window to move the blinds so he could see inside. Once he had a good view of his victims, he opened fire, she said.
Sanchez testified he went to the apartment to fight Lima after the other man taunted him over the phone. He said he was leaving when Lima made a vulgar remark about his stepdaughter from a bedroom window.
That's when, Sanchez testified, he threw a cinder block through the window. He said he didn't fire until Lima unholstered his handgun and began pointing it at him. He testified he then fired at his wife after she raised the gun that Lima dropped upon being wounded.
Sanchez fled to Mexico after the shooting. He was arrested weeks later.
The attorneys and Judge Gary T. Friedman will go over jury instructions Wednesday, and closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday.