Campbell Cracks Under Cross

Under cross-examination, DeShawn Campbell appeared  to waver on several statements he made earlier in his trial for allegedly  shooting a San Jose police officer more than seven years ago.
Campbell, 29, is charged with shooting Officer Jeffrey Fontana on  Oct. 28, 2001, during a traffic stop in the city's Almaden Valley  neighborhood. In his testimony Wednesday and today, he said a friend, Rodney  McNary, fired the gun Campbell borrowed from his father for protection after  a fight broke out at a party.
Prosecutors say Campbell shot the officer to avoid going to jail  for two outstanding warrants for his arrest.

The bulk of prosecutor Lane Liroff's questions addressed specific  points in previous testimony, both Campbell's and that of other witnesses. By  returning to these details, he seemed to deflate some of Campbell's  statements about the events of that night and the days he spent in hiding  before being apprehended by police Nov. 7.

As he began his cross-examination, Liroff returned to an emotional  letter Campbell wrote to his family while he was in hiding after the  shooting.

The letter included statements like "I know that I did some off da  -1/8sic-3/8 hook s---t and there is no going back to fix it."

In the letter, Campbell made multiple references to being in  trouble. Campbell said previously that he did not immediately turn himself in  out of fear of retaliation from police officers, McNary, or members of the  gang McNary allegedly belonged to.

The letter, Liroff pointed out, was only for family, not to be  seen by any of the groups Campbell said he feared would hurt him.

"In this letter you wanted them to know you were innocent," he  said. "Why didn't you just say you didn't kill the cop?"

Campbell said he did not know.

"I don't know how to write that good," he said. "I don't know why  I didn't say it."

In the wake of an audio-visual glitch, Liroff used a pen and  notepad mounted on an easel to challenge details surrounding the shooting  itself. According to Campbell's earlier testimony, he pulled into a  cul-de-sac in his father's Hyundai and McNary came running up to meet him.  When Fontana pulled his car up behind the two men, McNary allegedly asked for  the gun, then shot the officer as he approached.

Liroff revisited this account in great detail, asking Campbell how  McNary could have seen he had a gun in his car, if it was down on the floor  between his legs and McNary was standing next to the driver's side window.

"I grabbed it and pulled it up and he asked for it," Campbell  said. 

"You said you didn't tell him, he saw it," Liroff said of the  weapon. Campbell acknowledged he had not made this statement previously.

Next he asked Campbell to sketch Fontana's location in proximity  to a diagram of the two men and the car. The location Campbell specified did  not match photographs and evidence from the crime scene.

"It's not going to work, is it?" Liroff asked him.

Campbell said, "As I sit here now, that is the memory that I  have."

In his remarks Wednesday and this morning, Campbell told the  courtroom he was afraid of being labeled a "snitch" if he told police McNary  shot Fontana. He said he also feared police officers would hurt him in  retaliation for the death of one of their own.

Liroff noted that Campbell is a 12-time convicted felon whose  prior offenses include battery charges against officers when questioned about  shoplifting at an electronics store, and once for a 2000 traffic stop when an  officer found five containers of marijuana on Campbell. In the electronics  store incident, Liroff said Campbell resisted arrest and became forceful with  officers.

"There was three officers, they were big guys," he said. "Why  didn't you just submit?"

Campbell replied, "I thought I could run away."

Liroff spent the remainder of his three-hour session pointing out  how Campbell's recollection of events differs from phone records and witness  testimony. In many instances Campbell replied, "I don't remember" to these  queries.

Earlier in the afternoon, defense attorney Edward Sousa spent the  final moments of his examination questioning Campbell openly for the first  time about his fear of McNary's alleged association with the 7 Trees Crips  gang.

Judge Diane Northway had previously ruled that this information  would prejudice the jury.

"The defense's motives and thought process are important to  explaining his otherwise inexplicable behavior, she said. "I find the  probative value outweighs any prejudice and I'll allow it."

Sousa said "fear of Rodney and his gang are central to the case"  and one of Campbell's main reason for not going to the police after the  shooting. Sousa's parents were among the many onlookers gathered in the  courtroom to observe the trial.

Cross-examination will continue April 27.


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