A man on trial for allegedly killing a San Jose police officer more than seven years ago returned to Santa Clara County Superior Court today following a weeklong break.
DeShawn Campbell, 29, is charged with shooting rookie Officer Jeffrey Fontana on Oct. 28, 2001, when Fontana approached his parked vehicle in the city's Almaden Valley neighborhood in the early morning hours. Campbell has testified that his friend Rodney McNary was the one who fired on Fontana, using a gun Campbell had with him for protection after being involved in a fight at a party earlier that night.
He spent nearly two weeks in hiding before police arrested him Nov. 7 in a friend's backyard. Campbell told the courtroom he did not turn himself in because he was afraid, both of police retaliation and of McNary and his gang associates harming him for being a "snitch." Police records show McNary is a member of the 7 Trees Crip gang.
Prosecutor Lane Liroff spent the morning using the accused's own words in his effort to establish Campbell's guilt.
Liroff played recordings of conversations Campbell had with various friends while in jail. In these off-the-cuff discussions, Campbell discusses his case and his reasons for not turning himself in to police. After each snippet, Liroff questioned Campbell about his specific words, also projected on a large screen.
While Campbell speaks softly and slowly in court, his recorded conversations are more forceful. In the first audio bit, Campbell tells a friend how he cursed at the police officers who arrested him, saying "f--- you, I'm not shutting up."
Campbell told Liroff he did not really behave that way, "That's just the way I talk to friends."
Liroff asked, "Do you ordinarily lie to friends?"
Campbell responded, "Sometimes."
In other conversations, Campbell tells a friend he wanted to avoid arrest until after his daughter's second birthday, so he could celebrate with her before turning himself in. He discusses a complaint another arrestee had previously filed against Fontana, expressing hope that could help his case.
Campbell refers to him as "Officer Montana," saying, "He's not supposed to be this good rookie everyone says he is."
Liroff asked why this information would be a factor in Campbell's case, when Fontana's behavior toward Campbell wasn't at issue. Earlier Campbell told the courtroom that Fontana had done no more than approach Campbell's car before he was shot.
"You hadn't decided on this defense of McNary being the one who shot the officer," Liroff said, although Campbell disagreed with this assertion.
In other recordings Campbell discusses potential racial overtones of his case, and plans to keep his story to himself until the very last minutes of his trial so the prosecution would "discombobulate at the last minute."
Nowhere in these discussions with his family and friends, noted Liroff, does Campbell mention McNary, or proclaim his own innocence. After the jury departed for lunch, defense attorney Edward Sousa told Judge Diane Northway that Campbell's quotes are "taken out of context in very lengthy interviews."