A mistrial is declared in man’s attempted murder case
The trial of 19-year-old Sou Feng Yang, accused of attempted murder, was declared a mistrial Friday after jurors couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict following almost two days of deliberation.
The trial itself was marred by inconsistent witness testimony and an adversarial witness causing several recesses and sidebars for Deputy District Attorney Derek Lee and defense attorney Leroy Davies to discuss with Judge William Follett how best to proceed. The three-day trial bled into a fourth.
Yang was accused of bashing the skull of Robert Davis Jr. with a hammer, causing a fracture that sent him to a hospital in Redding for surgery and resulting in the stapling of a 7-inch gash.
An altercation occurred after Yang and several other males arrived at Davis’ residence on Del Norte Street at around 11 p.m. on April 28 after Davis called them and angrily accused them of knocking off a side-view mirror from his car when he refused to buy alcohol for them.
Five males, including Yang, showed up to Davis’ house on three separate occasions throughout that night, the prosecution and defense agreed. The third time was after the call from Davis, and they arrived with weapons, his brothers testified.
A verbal confrontation ensued on the last trip to the house, in which 15-20 more males appeared in the front yard, the brother said.
Davis went into his house to grab the handle of a carjack and came back out. When he stepped out onto his front stoop, he was thwacked with an object in the side of the head that his brother’s testified caused a sound they both described as “like popping a balloon.”
Davis collapsed immediately as his brother, Willie Davis, tried catching him, but instead caught a 2-by-4 to the side of the head.
Another brother, James Davis, was struck in the head with a beer bottle before all of the males scattered.
Yang was arrested about two months later on suspicion of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, assault by force likely to cause great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury.
In the beginning of the case and during the preliminary hearing, both brothers, James and Willie, were adamant that Yang struck Davis with the hammer, according to court documents.
Willie Davis testified Tuesday, sticking to his story that Yang was the one who struck his brother with a hammer.
Willie Davis said he saw Yang walk to the side of the house and lie in wait near the corner where the stoop met the side of the house until Robert Davis stepped out.
Defense attorney Davies attacked what he called inconsistencies in Willie Davis’ trial and preliminary hearing testimony, including whether his brother was drunk, whether a front porch light was on and who Robert Davis called about his side-view mirror being broken.
James Davis asserted that he wasn’t sure it was Yang who struck his brother, even though previously he told investigators that Yang wielded the hammer, documents show.
As James Davis sat down to testify he looked toward Yang sitting at the defendant’s table and gave him a friendly nod — Yang has been a longtime friend of the Davis brothers.
At the onset of Lee’s questioning, James Davis fired back answers almost immediately, causing Follett to stop the testimony a couple of times to remind them that there was a court reporter who needed time to type out the testimony.
Lee questioned James Davis about his unassuredness of the facts; Davis blamed it on the time that had passed.
Lee reminded James Davis of his preliminary testimony and he responded:
“I told you what I know and that’s it.”
“I’m not on nobody’s side,” he said another time
“I just want this case to be over with,” he said another time.
James Davis said he was frustrated with having to testify and wanted to return to work. His testimony continued to the following day, but he was assured it would end by 11 a.m.
When his testimony was finished he remained in the courtroom, sitting with people who were there in support of Yang, along with his brother Robert Davis, the victim.
Both of the brothers would sit with Yang’s family and friends throughout the day. They both returned to hear closing arguments Thursday, again sitting and socializing throughout the day. And again on Friday, waiting in the courthouse until the jury delivered its verdict around 4:30 p.m.
Inadequate evidence and inconsistent witness testimony led nine of the 12 jurors to vote not guilty, said juror Wanda Kirkpatrick.
“I think there could have been a lot more evidence and also more witnesses,” said Kirkpatrick.
She said she would have liked to hear from a couple of the other males who were part of the main five who repeatedly returned to Davis’ residence and were directly involved in the confrontation.
She also was unsure what type of object was used to split Robert Davis’ skull.
She said the other eight jurors who voted to acquit had the same problem with finding there was enough evidence that proved Yang struck Robert Davis beyond a reasonable doubt.
“We do not think the prosecution had enough proof Sou Feng Yang did hit Robert with a hammer,” said Kirkpatrick.
She said there should have been forensic tests done to prove whether there was blood on the hammer, adding she would have liked to see a photograph of the hammer where it was found when authorities arrived.
“The hammer was just given to us in a bag,” said Kirkpatrick.
The jurors took around 10 different ballots and each time the voting remained 9 to 3, Kirkpatrick said.
“The case was problematic from the outset, not the least of which was the inconsistencies in the victim and brothers’ testimony,” said District Attorney Jon Alexander. “We did and continue to believe (Willie Davis’) statement that the defendant was the assailant. “In this business you’re not always dealt a straight flush— you play the cards you’re dealt. This office will continue to try hard cases.”
After the jurors were released, Judge Follett granted the prosecution’s request that Yang remain in custody until Wednesday’s hearing, when it will be decided whether he will be retried, Alexander said.
“We’ll look at the entire case and make an informed decision,” said Alexander.