By Michele Chadwick
MODESTO, CA – Jury deliberations began Tuesday in a trial here in Stanislaus County Superior Court involving a car shooting.
Judge Robert Westbrook heard closing arguments in the trial of Fernando Garcia, who admitted he shot at a car but only after feeling threatened. He faces two counts of attempted murder and two counts of shooting at an occupied vehicle.
The defense claims Judy* was driving aggressively and passenger Matthew* antagonized Garcia. The shooting happened when Matthew allegedly lunged out the passenger side window of their car at Garcia in his car at a stop. Garcia believed that Matthew had a gun and shot first.
Garcia was handed his gun from a passenger in the backseat of his car after asking for it. He shot the victim four times before driving off.
Sara* testified that she did not see a gun from her position in the passenger seat of Garcia’s car. She testified that Matthew may have had a water bottle or hand sanitizer and threw it at the car. Additionally, the officer who processed the scene did not find any weapons in the car or on Matthew’s person.
After driving away, Sara testified that Garcia said “I messed up.”
The prosecution argues that Garcia acted in an unreasonable manner and “continued to engage with them by pulling into, changing lanes to get right next to them and pulled up next to them” and “hoping that he could use the firearm.”
The defense attorney, Martin Baker, relied on a self-defense and Castle doctrine argument, arguing Matthew’s lunging was not typical road rage but rather aggressive and unreasonable. During his closing argument, he said “There’s no ability to retreat. You are stuck there. It culminated in a dead-end where [Garcia] was driven to a last resort.”
Baker also charged both Matthew and Judy perjured themselves on the stand. Both lied about Matthew’s methamphetamine use on the day of the incident, the defense counsel said, noting medical records in evidence confirm he was using that day.
Baker requested the jury consider Matthew’s tendency to violence. Judy testified on the stand that Matthew beat her for rolling her eyes at him.
Baker finished his closing statement by asking the jury why Judy would maintain proximity to Garcia’s car rather than distance themselves to protect her child in the car. Baker claims that Judy was “egging on” Garcia.
(*Names changed for anonymity)