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Defense Attorneys File Motion to Dismiss Charges in Retrial for Lompoc Fatal Stabbing Case

Attorneys say defense witness lost job training law enforcement officers after testifying

Defendant Edward Carter, left, stands next to his attorney, Brian Carroll, with co-defendant Dequan Matthews next to his attorney, David Bixby in a Santa Maria courtroom after a mistrial was declared in the first trial for a June 2015 fatal stabbing in Lompoc. Click to view larger
Defendant Edward Carter, left, stands next to his attorney, Brian Carroll, with co-defendant Dequan Matthews next to his attorney, David Bixby in a Santa Maria courtroom after a mistrial was declared in the first trial for a June 2015 fatal stabbing in Lompoc.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk file photo)

Attorneys for two men facing a second trial in connection with a fatal stabbing in Lompoc have asked a judge to dismiss the charges, contending a defense witness lost a job teaching law enforcement officers when the police chief learned about the testimony.

However, the prosecution team contends Chief Pat Walsh has a right to determine if someone serving as an adverse expert witness should train his officers.

Dequan J. Matthews and Edward D. Carter were charged and tried in connection with the fatal stabbing of Jesse Lara, 29, in early June 2015 on the 400 block of North M Street.

Linked to the Six Deuce Brims gang, the two defendants were among four people arrested in connection with the death of the rival VLP gang member in what prosecutors contend stemmed from gang warfare, while defense attorneys argued it was self defense.

Last summer, the first trial for Matthews and Carter ended with a not-guilty verdict on the first-degree murder charge, but a divided jury could not reach a decision on lesser charges.

With retrial looming, Matthews’ attorney, David Bixby, asked Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge James Voysey to dismiss the charges which include a gang allegation.

Bixby contended one of his witnesses from the first trial, Chuck Rylant, lost his job teaching police officers at the Allan Hancock College Law Enforcement Academy.

Rylant, a former police officer, testified about use of force as a defense to physical assault during the first trial, and learned weeks later the chief had talked to officials with the officer training program.

“In his declaration, Mr. Rylant sets forth his sense of intimidation and interference regarding testifying in this case,” Bixby said in his motion. “He quoted the Chief as saying, ‘I’m not having any person testifying for the defense train my officers.’”

Bixby argued the officers who testified in trial “may be impacted and negatively influenced by this conduct of their Chief.”

Deputy Public Defender Brian Carroll, who represents Carter, joined the motion.

But Deputy District Attorney Lynmarc Jenkins said the “speculation related to Mr. Rylant is irrelevant.”

Jenkins added a police agency would not want employees trained by someone who testifies for the defense.

“It is well within the administrative function of the Chief of Police to determine who he pays to have his people trained,” Jenkins wrote. “Mr. Rylant’s creation of a conflict of interest within his professional life is not a legal burden on Mr. Matthews caused by the retrial.”

While defense attorneys want to quiz the police chief during a hearing, an attorney representing the city also filed a motion to quash the subpoena.

“The subpoena herein is an irrelevant waste of court and police administrative time,” the city motion said. 

Lompoc’s attorney said the defense motion failed to show how documents concerning Walsh’s personnel decisions regarding training is related to the murder trial. 

Additionally, the city’s attorney questioned “how it can be reasonably considered ‘witness tampering,’ given the timing of the decision, or how demonstrating ‘to what end even the Chief of Police will go to ‘win’ a case’ is even relevant to the guilt or innocence of the defense against second degree murder charges.”

All sides appeared in court Monday, when the judge set Jan. 17 — a week before the planned start date for the second trial— to decide the motion.

“I’m getting the feeling the trial date’s artificial at this point,”  Voysey said during Monday’s hearing.

The trial date initially was set for late January at the defense request so court reporters could have time to complete the transcript from the first trial.

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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