Attorney Alvaro Gonzalez and Michael Hemphill
A man charged with murder for shooting an old friend at point-blank range did not intend to kill, according to opening statements made in court on February 18.
Michael James Hemphill turned 60 years old in custody last week; he has been held in lieu of one million dollars bail since April of 2013.
Defense attorney Alvaro Gonzalez told the jury, “He is not guilty of murder” and “There was no malice, there was no intent to kill.” Gonzalez asserted that Hemphill was “startled” and “he flinched.”
The defendant apparently intends to take the witness box, because his attorney told the jury: “He will tell you it was not intentional and that it was accidental.”
Escondido police found Brandon Sanchez, 35, lying on the ground in the 600 block of McDonald Lane after 8 p.m. on April 24, 2013. Sanchez was declared dead at the scene.
The prosecutor told the jury that Hemphill said to responding officers: “I should have shot him last time, but you got there early.” Police had been called to the property at least twice before, according to deputy district attorney Laurie Hauf.
Witnesses stated that the two men had met about ten years earlier, when they were both working on a construction job. It was Sanchez who arranged for Hemphill to live in a trailer on the property in Escondido, as a favor. Sanchez was familiar with the property because he did yard work for the disabled woman who owned it; she lived in the main home there.
However, the property owner eventually wanted Hemphill to leave because he was a drinker and had a worrisome temperament, according to the prosecutor. The landlady was informed that it was a “civil matter” to get Hemphill removed, and she had made plans to go to court to evict him, according to the prosecutor.
The day of the shooting, Sanchez had arrived at the property about two hours earlier with two men. Sanchez was taking a break from yard work, reclining against a small wooden table, when he was approached by Hemphill, according to a witness. Hemphill said, “I’ve had enough of you” while he extended his arm, according to the witness, who did not see a gun but did see flame and smoke and heard a loud bang.
Investigators recovered a .45 caliber 1911 Essex Arms Corp semi-automatic pistol.
The jury saw a photo of Sanchez’s right hand, with a ragged hole in the palm and dark stippling around the wound. The bullet traveled through the hand into his chest and came to rest in his back, according to Hauf.
The prosecutor claimed that Hemphill asked a witness who was checking the status of the victim, “Are you going to clean this shit up?”
The trial continues this week in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse in Vista.