The key witnesses in a murder trial of two Bayview-Hunters Point men should not be trusted because they are paid government “snitches” who are involved in a federal gunrunning and drug dealing case and will say anything to escape long prison terms.
That’s according to the lawyer of one of two defendants — charged with two murders in 2010 and 2013 — in her closing argument in San Francisco Superior Court on Tuesday.
“The government has thrown its lot in with rogues, ruffians, gun runners and drug dealers,” said Sangeeta Sinha, a deputy public defender. “But most of all they have thrown their lot in with liars.”
Sinha’s client Joshua Pittman and his co-defendant Antonio Bowers have been charged collectively with 15 felony counts, most solely against Pittman. He has been charged with the 2010 killing of Deon Jackson, as has Bowers. But Pittman has also been charged with the 2013 killing of Otto Brown as well as a number of other gun-related charges.
Assistant District Attorney Todd Barrett told jurors Monday that Pittman, Bowers and David Hall — who was killed in 2013 — plotted to kill Jackson by luring him to meet them to smoke marijuana. Barrett said witnesses put all three men at the scene, in front of an apartment complex in the 700 block of Kirkwood Avenue, in Hunters Point on Nov. 4, 2010. The alleged motivation, said Barrett, was that the men thought Jackson had “snitched.”
On Tuesday, Sinha methodically went through the evidence — to her there was little — before jurors and made an argument that the witnesses that the government’s case rested on were untrustworthy and contradicted one another.
“There are so few hard facts in this case,” said Sinha, which she added includes lack of DNA linking Pittman to any gun involved in the killings. “There’s no video. There’s no confession. We don’t have the gun from either homicide.”
Most of the evidence was from eye-witness testimony, said Sinha.
The witnesses in question were a group of men — and several women — who entered witness protection in 2013 in exchange for naming names and eventually testifying about the two killings, fingering Bowers and Pittman.
“We will see that their testimony is in fact a fiction,” said Sinha, who cast them as the bad guys in the case who “made Hunters Point what it is” by selling everything from crack, cocaine and methamphetamine to pills at their so-called “million dollar spot.”
One of those men was Iosefa Maloa. He was arrested by San Francisco police in 2013 and at the time had a federal warrant out of Missouri on gun running charges, but was released after a brief unrecorded interview at Bayview Station, said Sinha.
Soon after Maloa and two other men who worked the “million dollar spot” with one of the victims, Brown, went into witness protection in exchange for information and cooperation.
But their testimony had a variety of inconsistencies, from the location of the shooter they identified as Pittman in 2010, to the stories they told around the shooting of Brown in 2013, according to Sinha.
“You cannot reconcile these stories except to understand that they are false,” said Sinha. “They saw nothing.”
The case the will go to jurors after prosecutors give their final argument.