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Defense Begins Its Case In Trial For Fatal Stabbing In Lompoc

Edward Carter and Dequan Matthews are accused of first-degree murder in connection with the June 2015 slaying of Jesse Lara

Defendant Dequan Matthews testifies in his own defense Tuesday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court. He and Edward Carter are on trial for the fatal stabbing of Jesse Lara in June 2015 in Lompoc.
Defendant Dequan Matthews testifies in his own defense Tuesday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court. He and Edward Carter are on trial for the fatal stabbing of Jesse Lara in June 2015 in Lompoc.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The fatal stabbing of a Lompoc man involved self defense, a deputy public defender told a Santa Barbara County Superior Court jury Tuesday before one of the defendants took the witness stand.

Defense attorney Brian Carroll gave his opening statement Tuesday afternoon in the trial of Dequan Matthews and Edward Carter.

The two men are charged with first-degree murder in connection with the fatal stabbing of high-ranking VLP gang member Jesse Lara, 29, on June 6, 2015 in the 400 block of North M Street in Lompoc.

Carroll, who is representing Carter, had deferred his opening statement until after Deputy District Attorney Lynmarc Jenkins finished presenting his case, a milestone reached early Tuesday afternoon. 

Rather than a case involving gang violence, Carroll told the jurors they will learn the stabbing was a matter of self defense. 

After Carroll’s opening statement, defense attorney David Bixby called his client, Matthews, to the stand as the first defense witness, quizzing the man about his prior interactions with Lompoc police and Latino gang members.

Jumped at a party two weeks earlier and left with three broken teeth, Matthews said he carried a kitchen knife in the waistband of his pants for protection.

Edward Dion Carter sits in a Santa Maria courtroom where he is on trial in connection with the stabbing death of Jesse Lara in June 2015. Click to view larger
Edward Dion Carter sits in a Santa Maria courtroom where he is on trial in connection with the stabbing death of Jesse Lara in June 2015. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk file photo)

He testified that he and Carter and two other men were in a vehicle when it was struck by something, leading to a confrontation with people standing near a driveway.

As the altercation occurred, Matthews said, he felt the knife slip from his waistband and move down his pant leg before he pulled out the weapon.

He looked around and saw that Carter had left, so Matthews felt alone in the fight as he faced two rival gang members, slipping at one point.

“Why did you stab him?” Bixby asked.

“I thought I’d hurt him before he hurt me,” Matthews said.

After the stabbing, Matthews recalled being shaky and scared, he said in court. 

Carroll began questioning Matthews late Tuesday afternoon, and the defendant will face questioning by the prosecutor.

In his opening statement, Jenkins said the group of four men went looking for rival gang members as revenge since Carter had been attacked earlier, contending the Six Deuce Brims members entered neighborhood claimed by the VLP gang.

But the defense attorneys say the men were driving to a party in a borrowed, distinctive car, a silver Dodge Neon with pink rims, fake eyelashes above the headlights, pink windshield wipers and pink leopard print interior. 

“Did you intend to drive that car to fight?” Bixby asked.

Matthews answered, “No.”

Earlier in the trial, Lompoc Detective Sergio Arias took the witness stand to testify about gangs in Lompoc.

Opening statements by the prosecutor and Bixby occurred three weeks ago when the trial began. Attorneys initially estimated the trial would last six weeks.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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