Man could face life sentence for ballpark killing

A 26-year-old Daly City man stood emotionless before the family of the man he killed nearly four years ago outside the Giants ballpark as a jury convicted him of second-degree murder Thursday.

Rafael Cuevas stabbed Timothy Griffith, a 21-year-old Redwood City man, five times during a fight on the night of Sept. 17, 2004, in a parking lot behind the ballpark. The melee started after Griffith smacked the passenger-side window of Cuevas’ recently purchased Toyota Corolla.

Cuevas testified that he was shocked that a fist would hit the window of his car so close to his face, so he got out of the car and confronted Griffith. The stabbing was a matter of self-defense after he was attacked in turn, he said in court.

Prosecutor Harry Dorfman, however, called Cuevas’ testimony lies, and the jury agreed.

Outside the courtroom, Ronald Light, who served on the eight-woman, four-man panel, said the jury doubted the “crediblilty” of Cuevas and did not believe the man had been put in a chokehold by Griffith’s friend Carlos Ortega.

“Sure, it was possible,” Light said. “But looking at the evidence, it just wasn’t plausible.”

Griffith’s mother, Stacey Redman, said outside the courtroom that she was pleased with the outcome of the case, but it would never bring back her son.

“From a mom’s perspective, it feels hollow … because we miss Tim so much every day,” she said.

The penalty for second-degree murder using a knife is 16 years to life in state prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office. The defendant is scheduled to appear before Judge Cynthia Ming-Mei Lee in Department 25 today to set a sentencing date.

The jury, which deliberated for almost four days, acquitted Cuevas of felony assault charges against Ortega, and codefendant Jeffery Skiffich agreed to a lesser charge of simple assault in the fight.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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