By Isabelle Brady
MODESTO, CA– The murder trial of Joseph Chapman ended the evidence phase Wednesday in Stanislaus County Superior Court, with Chapman’s defense counsel delivering a closing statement in the three-year-old case.
Chapman is charged with felony murder for the death and alleged sexual assault of Christina Hill, a 47-year-old unhoused woman found outside some Modesto businesses on May 13, 2019.
Chapman’s defense attorney stressed to the jurors that the case must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order for them to convict Chapman, and he laid out several reasons why the prosecution had failed to do so.
According to Chapman’s lawyer, there were many inconsistencies in the prosecution’s timeline of events, including surveillance video showed Sam Jones riding his bicycle to the Quik Stop and leaving it at 1:47 a.m.
A witness said that after he rounded the corner onto 18th Street, he saw a person sleeping “up there” at around 1:50 a.m. That person was Joseph Chapman, “sound asleep.”
Jones did not see a dead body, noted the defense in its closing statement to the jury, concluding “at 1:50 a.m., Christina Hill was not laying there, murdered.”
She may have been sleeping “up there” with Chapman, the lawyer said, but added, “If he’d raped her—he was sound asleep—why didn’t she run away? Or did she? Or was she up there, sound asleep?
“Was it a rape or consensual sex? These are two things to consider…but none of those things are consistent in the prosecution’s theory,” said the defense, pointing out that another witness had “a bird’s eye view, basically, of what’s happening.”
That witness, said the defense, witnessed two people having a sexual encounter at about 11:30 p.m. in the spot where Hill was murdered. She “couldn’t see the woman,” only “the top of the man.”
The witness’ husband heard a woman’s voice at about 1 a.m.—just a voice, not sounds indicating that an assault was happening, said Chapman’s attorney, adding that in conjunction with what Jones saw proves that Hill was not murdered at approximately that time.
“The whole narrative of the prosecution doesn’t work,” he said. “Nothing fits into place.”
Chapman’s lawyer also touched on the sweater, declaring to the jury that it “doesn’t make sense that someone, having just brutalized Christina Hill, would be able to move the sweater without getting bloody handprints on it.
“It’s not consistent with the prosecution’s theory…It is consistent with the defense theory, that there was another person there,” closed Chapman’s attorney. He will continue his close Thursday, along with rebuttal from the prosecution.