As the morning began, defense called a longtime friend of defendant Elijah Taylor of Oregon to testify.
Tyler Simco testified to being friends with Taylor for over ten years. He said they attended elementary and high school together.
He was asked about another friend, Shane Kelly. Simco said all three were friends, but Kelly was a closer friend to Taylor.
On the night of April 23, 2013, Simco said Taylor showed up at his house at around 8 PM, when it was dark out. Simco said he knew the truck Taylor was driving was not his and,” I got some weird signs, ” stated Simco.
He said Taylor and Kelly asked him to go with them to a dance club called the Sky Bar in Medford, Oregon. Simco told them he didn’t want to go. He said the two left but he did not see who was driving. After that night, Simco had not seen Kelly until about a month ago.
Simco testified that “after about a week, Kelly messaged me on Facebook.” The content of the message was not allowed in trial.
“Were people worried about Kelly?” asked the defense. “Yes,” Simco replied.
Simco said he found out from Taylor’s family that Taylor was in California, in jail.
He told the defense that Kelly went to Colorado and did not return to Oregon for about three to four months.
Deputy Public Defender Dan Hutchinson asked Simco about a shirt found inside the truck. “Did Kelly ever play football?” “Yes, for the Cougars.” replied Simco.
A white t-shirt with the name “Cougars” on it was found in the truck. A photo was shown to jurors earlier.
Simco said he knew that Shane Kelly had been going through a rough time in his life. He said that because Kelly had no vehicle to commute from Shady Cove, his residence, to Prospect, Oregon, Kelly and Taylor didn’t get to see each other a lot.
“There’s only one person who had a reason to run, one person desperate, one person who stole a truck and one person who was caught,” Deputy District Attorney Matt De Moura began.
“Ladies and gentlemen, on April 24, the defendant committed assault on a peace officer, he committed assault with a deadly weapon. The pursuit went to speeds of 100 mph, it was aggressive, intentional and deliberate,” stated De Moura.
The DDA asserted that this is NOT a joyride, this is a high-speed chase. He said that a lie never stays the same, it changes each time it is told.
The defendant merged into oncoming traffic at speeds above 85 miles an hour. He was trying to “shake the cops,” DDA De Moura explained.
De Moura said Taylor’s actions were dangerous. He tried to hit Officer Garcia and caused CHP Officer Quigley to spin out, after having to brake hard to avoid an accident during the pursuit.
Taylor never told officers about anyone else driving, never gave information or even said he wasn’t the driver, opined DDA De Moura.
“You see what can be called as the parting of the Red Sea, as cars part the road not to get hit. We know he came into oncoming cars because the video shows them braking, veering off to the side of the road,” stated the DDA.
De Moura said the defendant used his truck as a deadly weapon. It is assault when you fear someone is going to hit you, when it is aggressive. Taylor swerved into the CHP car, putting an officer in danger. He swerved into oncoming traffic, putting the public in danger. But it didn’t stop him, the DDA said.
De Moura said that time frames match up, according to witnesses.
“Taylor is charged with six counts, everything about this case is deliberate, intentional. If you hit someone at that high speed, there will be severe injuries and people killed,” said De Moura.
The defendant was “desperate, high and used an applied force,” the DDA stated.
De Moura said Taylor had a “guilty conscience and was inconsistent with his stories, having erratic and bizarre behavior.”
We know from the fingerprints that Taylor was in the truck. He stole the truck. He was the last one seen driving the truck and we know he was under the influence, De Moura explained. “He has a guilty conscience.”
He said the evidence shows Taylor knew cops were behind him and he escalated his speed. No one saw another occupant; he was the only one.
De Moura said that what the defense would like the jury to believe is the “SODDI” defense. Some other dude did it, stated the DDA. It is an acronym used by defense attorneys.
We hear in the video how he told the doctor he was driving about 576 miles an hour. He never said he was not the driver.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you know he did this, he is the one and he is the one guilty of all six counts.”Thank you,” De Moura concluded.
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. As I told you in opening, this case is based on assumption. I also told you when you put the pieces of the puzzle together, you will see how this is wrong.” Mr. Hutchinson began.
“I propose two main questions to you: 1) Has the prosecution proven he was the driver? and 2) Has the prosecution proven he was the only one in the vehicle? You have heard all of the officers testify, and not one of them said they could see how many were inside the truck, or the description of who was driving,” asserted Hutchinson.
“I want to talk about testimony. In Penal Code section 222, if a testimony is stricken from the record, it means you must disregard it. You cannot consider it. You took a duty to follow the law,” Hutchinson explained.
Hutchinson reminded jurors of Officer Quigleys testimony. He said when the officer wrote his first report and gave it to his supervisor, he was told to go home and re-do it. “That report wasn’t good enough,” his supervisor told him, stated the defense.
“Now, I want to talk about the video. If you look at this video long enough, you can get punchy. You may see one person, you may see two or you may see Elvis!” Hutchinson insisted.
Defense explained that there was no way to tell either way because of the bright tail lights. Hutchinson said, “We know this was personal for some, you saw Sgt. Shultz get teary-eyed when he spoke about hearing over the radio it was one of his own.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s talk about what we do know. We know from Simco’s testimony that two people were in the truck. We know Kelly never went back after the incident. We know that Taylor had no money and we know there were two cups in the truck and they were not the [truck] owner’s,” asserted Hutchinson.
“We know from Paul Gosher’s testimony, the cups were not his. Paul was the owner of the truck.”
They had to stop for gas, Hutchinson said. This is not CSI, stated the defense, this is a real case, real defendant and these are real charges he faces.
He said the prosecution could have tested the cups, but they did not. They could have tested the cigarette butts, they did not.
Here is a big one, the defense stated – we know the passenger side window was rolled down and we know someone went out that window. “We know it was cold out too,” stated Hutchinson. “That is a key point, the window being rolled down.”
He told jurors that both the driver’s side doors were open and an escape by Kelly would have been easy because police were running after Taylor. “Nobody searched the opposite parameter, Kelly could have hid ’til helicopters and cops stopped searching,” explained Hutchinson.
He said to remember what Officer Quigley stated in testimony: “I can’t believe he was pulling it off,” the officer had stated.
Numbers are important, Hutchinson said, because if Taylor was so high, how was his driving so accurate?
“Ladies and gentlemen, don’t look at possibilities, look at reasonability,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said that Taylor did not take the stand. He didn’t have to. He pled not guilty, and that is enough.
“Taylor said he was not driving in the interview, listen to it,” asserted Hutchinson.
He concluded, “There is no dispute that he stole the truck. We know he did and we know he is guilty of evading a peace officer. He ran from the crash. He will walk away with those convictions.”
The defense said, “What is funny about this case is that Taylor was not charged with reckless driving.”
Hutchinson commended Officer Simpson for remaining professional during the interview with Taylor.
“Ladies and gentlemen, when you put all of the pieces together it is more reasonable to believe two people were in that truck. It is no coincidence the window was rolled down. It is no coincidence two cups were found and two different types of cigarettes. The truck crashed up against a tree. The passenger door wasn’t opened and we know someone went out that window. We know because of the fingerprints.”
“I heard once before that jurors never decide on the laws; they use empathy towards a defendant. I do not believe that. I believe they use the law and evidence. I asked you in jury selection if you could do that and you all agreed you could use the law,” stated Hutchinson.
“The defendant has the presumption of innocence until the prosecution proves he is guilty. You have to ask yourself if they have proved their case.”
“But Taylor is guilty of count 4 and guilty of count 6. He is not guilty of the other charges. He will walk away a convicted felon.”
“Thank you for your time, and thank you for your service,” Hutchinson concluded.
FINAL CLOSING BY DDA
“Ladies and gentlemen, don’t follow the red herrings. They will take you away from the evidence. They are used for that purpose. Defense sticks to the SODDI defense. We have no evidence of Shane Kelly driving, only the defendant. His stories are inconsistent tales, that is all they are,” stated De Moura in rebuttal.
He told jurors not to get caught up with possibilities but with the facts. He said, “The defendant never gave any information about another driver, not once in interviews, not once.”
“He is the one, the only one with a reason to run, the only one found and arrested. There is no evidence of another person. It is a defense, that is all,” De Moura said.
“If Shane Kelly did this, where is he? And why hasn’t the defense brought him here? Because if he were here, he would say he wasn’t the driver, that is why,” asserted DDA De Moura.
“Don’t get caught up with the imaginary possibilities,” pleaded De Moura.
“Some other dude did not do this, this man right here did this and he is guilty of all six counts. Thank you,” De Moura concluded.