In a 59-minute opening statement today, Orange County homicide prosecutor Ebrahim Baytieh promised jurors he won't "sugarcoat anything" about the gruesome 2006 jailhouse murder of John Derek Chamberlain by "waves" of inmates who erroneously suspected that he was a child molester.
"They tortured him and they sexually assaulted him and they beat him to death," said Baytieh, referring to the five extremely pale, in-custody defendants sitting at the defense table. "At the end of this trial, we are going to look you in the eye and tell you they did this and you will find them guilty of first degree murder."
Chamberlain, a 41-year-old Rancho Santa Margarita software engineer, couldn't post bail and was awaiting trial on a misdemeanor child pornography possession charge when he was taken by inmates to an area inside the Theo Lacy Jail's F-West barracks that could not be seen from a guard station and stripped to his underwear.
"The evidence is going to prove that they [the defendants] decided to act as a judge, a jury and as an excutioner," said a pacing Baytieh. "They punched him. The kicked him. They stomped him. They sexually assaulted him and they tortured him."
According to Baytieh, the autopsy found that Chamberlain suffered 43 fractures of his 24 rib bones.
The defendants are: Jared Louis Petrovich of Tustin, Stephen Paul Carlstrom of Anaheim, Garret Eugene Aguilar of Anaheim, Raul Villafana of Santa Ana and Miguel Angel Guillen of Santa Ana. Eric Charles Miller of Huntington Beach will be put on trial in November and Baytieh has already secured guilty pleas from Michael Stewart Garten, Christopher Teague and Jeremy Dezso Culmann. (Garten got 20 years in prison while Teague and Culmann nabbed 15 years each.)
Edward Munoz, Guillen's defense lawyer, said in his opening statement that jurors will learn about the "unhealthy" culture inside the Orange County Jail. His key point? Because of the jail culture, Guillen had to participate in the beating "to save his own skin" or face a beating himself by powerful inmates given authority by unethical deputies to brutalize weaker in-custody defendants.
"This structure is condoned by the deputies," said Munoz.
Fred Thiagarajah, Carlstrom's Newport Beach-based attorney, said that the crime originated with the acts of Deputy Kevin Taylor, who inmates claim spread the false word that Chamberlain was a child molester and worthy of a beating. During the beating, Taylor watched television and sent text messages to girlfriends. After the beating, his team of deputies doctored an official log with false information and erased the department's video of the killing. No deputies were charged with any wrongdoing.
Thiagarajah said that Carlstrom wasn't involved in the murder because he had no intent to kill and did limited damage to Chamberlain.
"One kick," he said. "One kick is not murder. The evidence is going to show that Stephen Paul Carlstrom kicked John Chamberlain, but it will not show that Mr. Carlstrom murdered this suspected child molester."
(Dozens of inmates brutally assaulted Chamberlain for as long as 45 minutes, according to court files.)
Keith M. Davidson, the lawyer for Petrovich, said the evidence will show that Deputy Taylor wasn't just "lazy" but "as much a participant in this crime as these five defendants . . . He gave the orders [to pummel Chamberlain]."
Baytieh predicted he will conclude his portion of the case by the end of the month.
He said, "This is going to be a long trial."
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly
Please read Nick Schou's previous coverage of the Chamberlain case:
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