The defense rested on Monday, May 11 in the Juan Joseph Ferrer second-degree murder trial, as the Union went to press. Jury instructions and closing arguments were scheduled for today, May 13, to be followed by jury deliberations.
Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – Seated on the witness chair for the fourth time in two weeks, Arcata murder suspect Juan Joseph Ferrer again upstaged his lawyer last Friday, May 8 with verbal sallies of his own against the prosecutor’s line of questioning.
When Deputy District Attorney Roger C. Rees cornered Ferrer on inconsistencies in his lengthy testimony and statements to police, the defendant shot back so many defiant queries that Superior Court Judge John C. Feeney ordered Ferrer to confine himself to answering questions, not asking them.
Ferrer would prove unrepentant as his exchanges with Rees drew on.
Shortly before court adjourned last Friday, Rees fixed on the suspect’s alleged inconsistencies surrounding the stabbing death of Abruzzi chef Douglas Anderson-Jordet, 50, in the early morning hours of Nov. 25, 2013.
Ferrer balked the first time when asked if his two companions that night, Sophie Rocheleau and Nicholas Stoiber, had “put a beat down” on Anderson-Jordet for insulting them unprovoked.
“That’s not language I would use,” Ferrer answered.
“You wouldn’t?” Rees exclaimed in mock surprise.
“Not necessarily, no.”
“You like to say fuck a lot, don’t you?” Rees challenged.
Ferrer retorted, “Are you going to ask me questions or just sit there and put me down?” He retreated instantly, answering “Yes, absolutely, I use it [the word fuck] when I’m happy and when I’m sad.”
But putting “a beat down” on Anderson-Jordet “is nothing I would say,” Ferrer repeated.
Promptly shifting gears, Rees turned to the subject of why Ferrer pulled out a knife. He asked if Ferrer thought about the consequences as he brandished it. “I was just thinking about defending myself and Sophie,” Ferrer replied.
Rees swept on to the discrepancy between Ferrer’s current trial testimony and his second statement to Arcata Police on Dec. 4, 2013. Ferrer was interviewed at St. Joseph Hospital by Acting Sergeant Chris Ortega the afternoon following the suspect’s arrest at his grandmother’s home in Arcata. Ferrer was being treated for heart palpitations.
Rees fixed on the fact that Ferrer omitted to inform Ortega that among the things Anderson-Jordet allegedly yelled at the trio that night was, “I’ll fucking kill you, I’ll fuck that fat bitch up!” or “I’ll shut that fat bitch up!”
“I don’t remember everything,” Ferrer said steadily. “We all remember some things and don’t remember some things.”
Changing gears again, Rees cross-examined the witness about his previous denial of statements made in the early days of the trial by Humboldt County Sheriff Corrections Deputy Scott James Harris.
While waiting for Ortega’s arrival at St. Joseph, Ferrer volunteered remarks to Harris about what had happened in the street-side confrontation. The officer took notes afterward and at trial, he quoted Ferrer as stating, in reference to Anderson-Jordet, “I stuck him to get past him.”
Ferrer flatly denied those words in his first round of testimony, effectively calling the deputy a liar.
As Rees burrowed in again on the discrepancy, Ferrer voiced frustration. “You’re really simplifying what happened,” he declared. “Your questions are too simple, like you’re trying to use Aristotelian logic or something.”
Rees answered, “Let me make them more complicated.”
Ferrer recounted his understanding of what had been said in his hospital interview with Ortega, aired earlier last Friday morning in court with an audio recording.
“Ortega didn’t accuse me of murder,” the defendant parried. “He talked to me about a homicide. He [Anderson-Jordet] was stabbed, yes, but it wasn’t intentional.”
Before Rees could move to his next question, Ferrer interjected: “It seems like you’re going off subject, or going subject to subject. You remind me of a girlfriend I had when I was 19.”
Imperturbable, Rees turned to yet another matter. Had Ferrer and Anderson-Jordet faced off on the sidewalk in front of Vintage Avenger or a few feet away from it on the street? Ferrer had testified to both at different times.
“The altercation was more on the sidewalk, to the best of my recollection,” the witness clarified.
At this point, Rees moved to blindside Ferrer. “Did you say to a cellmate in Humboldt County jail, ‘Doug attacked me with a chef’s knife’?”
Rees and Ferrer went on fencing about Rocheleau’s testimony last week. The prosecutor asked if Ferrer had been listening when his longtime girlfriend took the stand. This was a calculated jibe at the fact that Ferrer had admitted in a past exchange that he had stopped listening momentarily to an earlier witness.
The defendant was ready with another volley. “Sometimes I think you ask questions just to be intentionally rude,” he rebuked the deputy district attorney.
When Rees went on to correct some of Ferrer’s words, the witness replied acidly, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t get the right pronunciation for you.”
But in a sudden about-face, Ferrer hastened to add, “I’m sorry, Roger” — as if the prosecutor were a personal acquaintance, a man Ferrer hoped to soften and woo.
Very shortly, however, Ferrer was back on the offensive, miffed about having to testify yet another time about why he got rid of the alleged murder weapon.
“I threw it out because I was traumatized,” he repeated to the court with exasperation. He “was walking along with the knife in [his] hand before” realizing he was still displaying it openly as he and his companions proceeded along 12th Street headed west, departing the scene of the stabbing at 11th and H, a block south.
“I didn’t, like, try to conceal it, or bury it, I just tossed it” into some bushes, Ferrer repeated. It was never found.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he went on moments later. He was recounting the shock he felt in reliving the slanging match of obscenities that broke out with Anderson-Jordet and the violence that followed the victim’s alleged initiation of the fatal encounter, including his alleged punch to the left side of Ferrer’s head.
Rees was studiously unmoved by Ferrer’s serial challenges, which seemed to compound the defendant’s frustration. If Ferrer sensed or believed, in addressing Rees by name, that he could rile his adversary, he was mistaken.
Seeing the deputy district attorney had no intention of backing away from his aggressive cross-examination, realizing that Rees would continue to parse his every word, Ferrer unleashed a further salvo.
“Is it hard to wrap your head around what I said?” he retorted at another point, challenging the prosecutor again with a cross-examination of his own.
Judge Feeney had heard enough. When Rees asked him to admonish the witness to answer questions, not ask them, Feeney responded with alacrity and with his usual elaborate courtesy. “Don’t pose questions, please, to Mr. Rees,” he directed the defendant. “Questions go one way.”
But Ferrer delivered one more magisterial put-down as he and the prosecutor dueled right up to adjournment for the weekend. The closing scrap returned to differences over what Ferrer told Ortega at the hospital, where the two had chatted amiably and Ferrer apologized for lying during their first interview at the Arcata Police station. Rees wanted to know why Ferrer had said in court that Anderson-Jordet ran at him, when he had told Ortega, “We ran into each other.”
“I’m not sure why I told him that,” Ferrer answered.
From there, Rees asked Ferrer to clarify whether he had known at the time of the confrontation that Rocheleau and Stoiber assaulted Anderson-Jordet because they were angry at his insults or whether, alternatively, Ferrer had concluded that after the fact.
Confusion had arisen because Ferrer had testified before that he could not remember or visualize anything his companions did after he and Anderson-Jordet made physical contact.
“I didn’t know what they were feeling,” Ferrer replied. “I had gathered” after the fact, from his interviews with Ortega, that they had been “pissed off.”
“We (Ortega and Ferrer) had a better conversation than we’re having,” the witness complained in his final rejoinder to Rees.
The combative Ferrer jurors saw on the witness stand last week was in marked contrast to the defendant who assumed a warm, smiling and prudential air when he stood at the counsel’s table to introduce himself to prospective jurors in the pre-trial proceedings in early April.
Ironically, in the state’s opening statement three weeks ago, Rees called attention to Ferrer’s demeanor in those early phases. The prosecutor led off with a large photograph of Anderson-Jordet projected on a courtroom wall, telling the jury, “Doug won’t get to stand up and introduce himself. That’s because he killed him.” Rees pointed a finger at Ferrer.