Defense attorneys for Floyd Eugene Maestas, who is charged with capital murder, again hammered at the motives and credibility of two key prosecution witnesses who have testified that Maestas is the killer.
William Hugh Irish and Rodney Roy Renzo, both now 22, have pointed the finger at Maestas for the Sept. 28, 2004 slaying of Donna Lou Bott, 72, who was beaten, stabbed and strangled to death in her Salt Lake home.
They also testified that Maestas hurt a now-89-year-old woman during a home invasion robbery at her house that same night.
But Troy Archuletta, who currently is in the Salt Lake County Jail, testified Friday that Irish told him that Irish had "made a statement I shouldn't have made" and asked about reversing what he had said.
Archuletta said Irish told him that he stole Maestas car with another man "Razzo or whatever his name is," and then they committed a crime.
Irish said they framed Maestas because he has a long prison history, Archuletta testified. Archuletta also said that Irish announced he thought he might be going to prison and Archuletta indicated Irish was worried about being labeled a snitch.
Meanwhile, prosecutor Kent Morgan questioned Archuletta's truthfulness, asking if he knew the penalty for perjury, and asking if he was lying for Maestas, whom Archuletta recently met in passing while in jail. Archuletta denied the accusations.
Archuletta, who admitted he has been in and out of prison most of his life, has a criminal history that includes attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a child, aggravated burglary and giving false information to a police officer.
Another defense witness Peter Rosenberg, who also is in jail, said he spent 60 to 90 minutes in the same cell with Irish.
"He told me they brought him over because he got into a fight." Defense attorney Michael Misner asked what caused the fight..
"He (Irish) said he hated (racial expletive)," Archuletta said.
Irish recently got a swastika tattooed on his face to link up with a white gang for protection.
Both Rosenberg and Archuletta said repeatedly they did not want to be in court Friday and they did not want to testify.
A woman also testified Friday that she had received phone calls from Renzo, describing how he had gone into someone's house and how entry was gained by breaking a window with a brick.
That scenario played out at the second victim's home who survived the attack.
"It kind of scared me because he had to pull an old lady's shirt over her face," the woman said.
But when questioned by prosecutors, she said she could not remember if Renzo had specifically said he had committed the crime or if his reference to other people or multiple people committing a crime. She added that she had the impression at the time that Renzo was bragging about his involvement to impress her.
A prosecution witness, Robert Stevens, a former fingerprint examiner with the Utah State Crime Lab and now a forensic scientist in Virginia, described taking fingerprints from the Bott home. He was questioned by defense attorney Michael Sikora about the fact that is possible to make serious errors in fingerprint identification, which Stevens conceded. However, Stevens said he followed all proper procedures at the Bott home.
He said he found Maestas' fingerprints on the inside of the back door of Bott's home and found Irish's prints on the same door.
Another defense witness, Anthony Zinnerman also an inmate is scheduled to testify this afternoon. The case could go to the jury as early as Tuesday.If convicted, Maestas will be the focus of a penalty phase of the trial to determine if his punishment will be execution, or life in prison with parole or life in prison without parole.
E-mail: [email protected]