Judge to rule on reopening 1995 murder and dismemberment case
- From: Beaver Fever <Beaver_Fever@xxxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 9 Dec 2011 13:20:08 -0800 (PST)
y Dalina Castellanos, Los Angeles Times
December 9, 2011
A judge listened to closing arguments Thursday on whether to reopen a
case involving a man who has already served almost 15 years of a life
sentence for a notorious 1995 dismemberment killing in Santa Clarita.
"Something unusual is going on here," Superior Court Judge Gregory A.
Dohi said at the conclusion of two days of arguments in the habeas
corpus hearing in Van Nuys. A ruling will come after the holidays, he
Edward Contreras, now 40, was convicted in 1997 along with Scott
Taylor of killing their friend, Frederick Walker, at a backyard
barbecue and stealing a $635 cash inheritance that Walker was
carrying. A key witness in 2009 recanted her testimony implicating
Deputy Dist. Atty. Juan Mejia told the court Thursday that there is no
proof that the witness, Lisa Garringer, who was then 16, wasn't
telling the whole truth and that there is no evidence that
investigators coerced her into saying the two men were involved.
Mario G. Conte, an attorney with the California Innocence Project,
which took on the case in 2009, argued that Garringer saw the
questioning by investigators as "intimidating and coercion," and
testified to that in a June hearing as part of the habeas petition.
Taylor, who also is serving a life sentence, has testified that he
alone killed Walker, who was beaten, beheaded and then cut up with a
machete. The body parts were later dumped in nearby Bouquet Canyon.
In her original testimony, Garringer said she told investigators that
Contreras helped Taylor beat up Walker and dispose of the body.
"It's not reasonable to believe that these experienced homicide
detectives go with a two-person theory," Mejia said. "They had Scott
Taylor, why come up with this?"
Mejia played a tape of the original interview conducted by the
investigators, both of whom are now retired, and said the questions
put to Garringer and her mother, Rosalyn Blaser, didn't seem forced.
"Instead of continuing to ask about the second man involved," Mejia
told the court, "they ask about the house."
Garringer, however, testified in June that she lied to investigators
because she was afraid Taylor might not otherwise be convicted and
would then come after her.
"I wanted everything to be over.... I was afraid Scott Taylor was
going to get out if [Contreras] wasn't convicted too," Garringer is
quoted in court transcripts as saying, fully aware she could be tried
for perjury for her admissions. She and Contreras were in the house
"freaking out," she said, when Taylor attacked Walker with a machete
As for her mother's situation, Garringer testified that she was
worried her mother would be deported because she had a felony on her
"My mom's never been a citizen of the United States," Garringer said.
"She's always been here with a green card, but because of her parole,
you know, if you're on parole and you break your parole, they'll
deport you. That was one of our fears.
"I have felt bad for so long about not telling the truth," she
Conte also argued that Contreras' actions after the murder were a
result of Stockholm syndrome, in which a person held captive feels he
must side with his captor.
Taylor, who has testified that he was able to get Contreras to do his
bidding, had a presence that was, in Conte's words, "overpowering the
whole situation." Conte also reminded the court that Contreras
testified that he had felt "paralyzed with fear" after Walker was
Mejia countered by reading testimony from the original trial in which
Taylor and Contreras are described as play-fighting over the money and
giggling about it.
Dohi said he would issue a ruling Jan. 10.
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