Dueling surprises at Ferrer trial

Paul Mann
Mad River Union

EUREKA – The defense immediately called Arcata murder suspect Juan Joseph Ferrer to the witness stand in surprise testimony today, April 27 after the prosecution abruptly rested its case without calling some of its key witnesses.

Under questioning by Conflict Counsel Marek Reavis, Ferrer, 36, began by flatly denying statements attributed to him earlier in the morning by Humboldt County Sheriff Corrections Deputy Scott James Harris.

Ferrer gave unequivocal undertakings to the jury that he did not tell Harris, “I stuck him to get past him,” referring to the alleged murder victim, Abruzzi chef Douglas Anderson-Jordet, 50. He died after a confrontation on H Street early in the morning of November 25, 2013, from a single stab wound which punctured his heart to a depth of 3.5 inches.

Ferrer also denied Harris’s claim that he thrust his left hand in and out in a jabbing motion, indicating how he had “stuck” Anderson-Jordet.

Not long before Ferrer took the stand when the state rested its case unexpectedly, taking the defense by surprise, Harris recounted to the court the spontaneous remarks Ferrer volunteered while being treated in the emergency room at St. Joseph Hospital for heart palpitations.

Harris and a second corrections officer had accompanied Ferrer to the E.R. on Dec. 4, 2013 at about 11:30 a.m., about nine hours after Arcata Police investigators charged him with murder and conspiracy in Anderson-Jordet’s death.

According to Harris’s notes of developments at the hospital, Ferrer asked to speak again with Arcata Police Acting Sergeant Chris Ortega. He had interviewed the suspect on video at police headquarters between approximately 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. earlier that same morning, Dec. 4.

While awaiting Ortega’s arrival at St. Joseph, according to Harris’s notes, Ferrer recounted his version of what happened in the fatal encounter between 11th and 12th and H streets. Ferrer claimed that “some guy came up behind us” (Ferrer girlfriend Sophie Rocheleau, 25, and Nicholas Stoiber, 29), cursed them as faggots, stamped off, then returned seconds later to confront the three again.

Ferrer told Harris he was scared, but not in fear of his life or of great bodily injury. According to the deputy’s notes, Ferrer said he was afraid for his companions and “I stuck him to get past [or by] him,” not to kill him. Ferrer and his friends claimed Anderson-Jordet looked much younger to them than his 50 years, perhaps in his 20’s or 30’s. They were surprised when they learned his age in news accounts – but did not come forward to admit their involvement.

At no time, Deputy Harris testified, did Ferrer claim that Anderson-Jordet swung a fist at him or that the deceased fell on Ferrer’s knife. Both are crucial points in Ferrer’s defense.

Ferrer and Reavis tried to sow doubt on Harris’s notes and memory. Harris recalled being accompanied to the hospital with a fellow corrections officer named Cox, but in fact it was Officer Lane, according to Ferrer. Deputy D.A. Rees did not dispute that. today’s surprise testimony was preceded by the screening of the hour-long video interview that Ortega and fellow APD Sgt. Ron Sligh had recorded early in the morning of Dec. 4, 2013, when Ferrer was taken into custody at his grandmother’s residence.

Ortega asked the majority of the questions and Ferrer, wearing a sleeveless black T-shirt, remonstrated again and again, “I didn’t do nothing man,” “Nothing happened,” “I didn’t get into a fight with nobody,” “You guys ain’t got nothin’ on me.”

Reminded he had told his grandmother he had been in a fight “with a dude” whom he had called a “skinhead,” Ferrer retorted, “I didn’t do shit, man!”

He claimed he did no more than walk his companions home after sharing drinks with them on tavern row on Arcata Plaza, but gave a somewhat confused account of what routes they took.          

Asked again about his grandmother’s statements to police, Ferrer snorted, “My grandma is fucking crazy, man!” On the witness stand, he said his grandmother suffers from dementia.

Told that Rocheleau and Stoiber had confirmed to investigators that he was involved and that he “had freaked” in the confrontation with Anderson-Jordet, Ferrer replied, in a somewhat plaintive, more conciliatory tone, “I’m sorry, man, but I didn’t do nothing. That’s the truth, I didn’t do shit.”

Police confronted Ferrer with still photos taken from surveillance videos recorded at RE/MAX Realty and Humboldt Clothing Company on opposite sides of H Street that show the trio walking north, Stoiber first, then Rocheleau and Ferrer.

The defendant dismissed out-of-hand this circumstantial evidence that the three had been in the vicinity of the stabbing scene. The pictures only show “people just walking by,” not a stabbing, he said. “That’s all I did, I walked them home.”

Throughout the interview, Ferrer made stout protestations of innocence. “You guys want to put me away for something I didn’t do,” he declared.      

When Ortega pointed out that Rocheleau and Stoiber had implicated themselves in the killing in prior interviews with police, Ferrer riposted, “Maybe they did it, man!” and “Well, good for them, man!”

Referring to Rocheleau in particular, Ortega admonished, “She’s taking the ride for something you did; her parents are devastated.”

“I’m not involved,” Ferrer repeated.

“They say you were,” Ortega countered.

“She didn’t do nothing, man, I don’t believe ya, man! Just take me in. You guys want to put some fucking shit on me, man, go ahead. I don’t care what you think, man.”

Moments later, Ferrer persisted. “I’ve told you the truth, I didn’t do nuthin.’”

Summoned unexpectedly to the witness stand, Ferrer took aim at Deputy Harris’s recollection of “I just stuck him.”

“I didn’t say that at all, nothing like that at all,” he contradicted. “It just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Ferrer did acknowledge the accuracy of Harris’s notes to the effect, “Some guy came up, stamped past us.” But he said at the time he volunteered his remarks to the deputy he was “pretty drowsy” from the medicine he had been given for his heart palpitations, his blood sugar “was all off” and he was experiencing incredulity in recalling what had occurred in the altercation with Anderson-Jordet.

Harris had described him as excited in manner, but Ferrer testified, “I wasn’t excited.” He noted he had had no sleep in 24 hours, he was “pretty wrought,” he was hooked up to an EKG and IV and his right hand was handcuffed to a hospital bedrail. He contradicted Harris again, stating, “I made no gestures about a physical confrontation.”

Ferrer professed amazement at “how this had happened,” saying “I would never hurt nobody, I help my grandmother. It’s stupid; no, I didn’t stick him.”       

In his testimony, Ferrer said of his initial police interview that he had mistakenly assumed that after being read his Miranda rights, he was under no obligation to say anything more and that was why he uttered so many denials. “I wasn’t using Miranda very well,” he told jurors. He apologized to Ortega in their second interview “for my overall, general attitude and lack of contributing to the investigation.”

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