By Alex Jimenez
OAKLAND, CA- The defense and prosecution made their closing arguments here Thursday in Alameda County Superior Court in the murder trial of Juan Espino, accused of killing a man with a baseball bat after a heated confrontation with his then-pregnant girlfriend.
The jury is now deliberating. Espino is charged with murder and use of deadly weapon in the 2017 incident.
At the time, Espino was working as a bartender at an upscale restaurant in Oakland where his pregnant girlfriend and child were in a car nearby waiting for him. A man approached the car asking for money and began pounding on the door aggressively when she told him she didn’t have any money, according to the prosecutor.
According to news accounts and the DDA, Espino found out what happened and confronted the man, the victim began to walk away and Espino got a baseball bat and struck the victim in the back of the head and he died shortly after at a hospital.
“Mr. Espino, pursuing the victim with a baseball bat, did a calculated move,” said the prosecutor as he went through the video for the jury. The prosecutor told the jury that the case was neither self-defense nor a heat of passion case.
After the victim began to walk away, the prosecutor continued, Espino sped up trying to catch up to him making a turn in the opposite direction of where his family was yelling “you don’t put your hands on a pregnant woman.”
Based on the actions taken by Espino and the time that had passed between the initial confirmation and fatal blow, the prosecutor insisted that it was not a self-defense case.
The prosecutor described the criteria for a justifiable homicide and imperfect self-defense, saying “the action was not necessary, no reasonable person in the world would think it’s necessary to chase him down.”
The prosecutor finished by asserting that the actions taken by Espino were calculated and constituted a murder conviction.
After a quick recess the defense began his closing arguments by attempting to paint and asking the jury to consider Espino’s state of mind, laying out the groundwork for the intent and state of mind elements of a homicide.
“Consider that he has a pregnant wife with a son and is unaware of what’s going on,” said the defense attorney.
The girlfriend ran out to Espino with a frantic and panicked look on her face to which, according to the defense, would convey a sense of danger and panic. “Imagine yourself your four months pregnant wife with your kid in the car and he’s pounding on the car—you’d be freaked out.”
The defense described a string of robberies in the area, creating a mindset that the area was inherently dangerous.
The defense also added that during the initial confrontation between Espino and the victim, the victim dropped his backpack and charged at Espino before walking away.
“He (Espino) is driven by fear and driven by anxiety and is shocked about what has unfolded by these events,” declared the defense counsel.
The defense once again asked the jury to consider that Espino’s family was present and, given the fact that the events happened very quickly, argued that the case was voluntary manslaughter.