By Joshua Liang
Woodland – These words will either convict or exonerate Eric Wayne Smith of battery within the next one hundred and twenty hours.
They were spoken by the alleged victim mere seconds before the defendant reportedly drove his balled up fist right into the victim’s face on the evening of April 8. Both men had been receiving drug and alcohol rehabilitation at Walters House, an addiction treatment center called Fourth & Hope, situated on Fourth Street in Woodland.
Mr. Smith showed no reaction as the charges, battery with serious bodily injury, were laid out to the court. Upon swearing to the legal Code of Conduct, the court saw the first witness to the altercation, a Walters House counselor by the name of Rebecca Trujillo, take the stand.
Laying out her own relationship with the defendant, Ms. Trujillo reported abundant contact with Mr. Smith on the weekends, with intermittent contact dispersed throughout the weekdays. When questioned by the court on Mr. Smith’s arrest record while in treatment, Ms. Trujillo answered that the defendant had never been faced with such legal action throughout the duration of his stay.
When asked if she had the same experience with the alleged victim, the same witness pointed the inverse – citing multiple attitude issues. Disclaiming that, while she herself had never filed a report on the alleged victim’s attitude, the witness had been aware of several other counselors who had. Two reports had actually been documented in the weeks prior to the night of the altercation. Mr. Smith’s lawyer then took the opportunity to question the witnesses’ knowledge of an incident involving a belt that had occurred on the afternoon of the incident. The witness affirmed the occurrence.
Upon Ms. Trujillo’s dismissal from the stand, the court called for the second witness, “SK.” She stated on the record that Eric Smith had been receiving his primary care under her counsel. SK went on to detail her personal interaction with the defendant throughout a typical week, including their tri-weekly appointments. When asked if the witness had knowledge of the alleged victim, she said yes.
When Mr. Smith’s attorney inquired as to whether or not SK had noticed a history of troublemaking and lack of cooperation on the part of Mr. Smith, the witness denied any such behavior.
Upon being asked the same of the alleged victim, SK detailed a history of impoliteness, aggressiveness toward other clients, and an overall sense of “entitlement.”
The witness went on to explain that she had been made aware of the altercation because she had been Mr. Smith’s counselor. She stated her belief that both Mr. Smith and the alleged victim should have been discharged. When pressed as to why this had not happened, SK was unable to provide an answer. She went on to state that she had only heard from another counselor about the alleged victim’s supposed whipping by Mr. Smith with his belt.
At this point, the court heard the prosecutor’s objection, on the basis of these testimonies bearing no relevance to the case at hand. The defendant’s attorney responded in kind, stating that the histories of both the alleged victim and Mr. Smith were necessary for determining what had transpired.
The case resumed with the third and final witness taking the stand, a counselor who gave his name as one Romney Sears. Mr. Sears explained his occupation and his daily interactions with Mr. Smith. He proclaimed he had never had any trouble with Mr. Smith.
The witness began his testimony starting from around 3:30 on the day in question, while he had been preparing for his upcoming class. Mr. Sears claimed he had first noticed something wrong with the defendant by his disposition upon entering the room. Mr. Smith, who had customarily greeted the room, according to the witness, with a smile and a joke seemed forlorn and withdrawn. Upon questioning the defendant for an explanation in this change of behavior, Mr. Sears was told that the alleged victim had been intruding on Mr. Smith’s being with a belt. Believing the situation to be relatively benign, the witness then proceeded with the day’s scheduled lesson. As the day progressed, Mr. Smith’s mood appeared to improve.
An unspecified amount of time after eight o’ clock that evening, Mr. Sears responded to the confrontation between Mr. Smith and the alleged victim in the courtyard of the building. Coming upon a scene of the latter curled onto the ground with both hands covering his face, the witness took the exasperated defendant into his office.
When asked if he had any personal altercations with the alleged victim, the witness shook his head in the negative before clarifying that he was well aware of the experiences other counselors had had with the victim.
The court then declared that all three witnesses would be subject to recall the next day at 1:30 PM.
The prosecuting attorney made the first appeal to the jury. “Let me make it absolutely clear that this was no act of self-defense.” The deputy DA detailed the positions in which Mr. Smith and the alleged victim were found, highlighting the proximity of the alleged victim’s face with the pavement. He described the pizza party that had been taking place in the courtyard, and Mr. Smith’s reaction to the alleged victim’s throwing of a cigarette pack toward him as an act of disproportionate rage. Throughout the speech, the prosecutor brandished a digitized photo of the alleged victim’s wounds to the jury.
The defendant’s attorney then rose to address the jurors. She proclaimed that Smith was hit by a white man with a belt in the afternoon of April 8. Eric had gone up to the victim and had politely asked him to desist making such further actions, as doing so caused him great mental duress. Later that night at a pizza party thrown to celebrate the graduation of one of their own, the alleged victim threw a pack of cigarettes into Mr. Smith’s face. Mr. Smith had not asked for said cigarette pack. What followed was an exchange of profanity as Mr. Smith warned the victim to back off, culminating with the latter careening toward the seated Mr. Smith and proclaimed, “What are you going to do about it? Get up.”
The trial is expected to resume the next day.