UKIAH 4/5/2017 — The jury in the case of the People vs. Charles Reynolds found the defendant guilty of all charges on Wednesday morning, after about a day and a half of deliberations. Reynolds was charged with felony assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, with a lesser included charge of simple assault, and a special allegation of causing great bodily harm to Kenneth Fisher, who died after Reynolds punched him once in the parking lot of Boomer’s bar and grill in Laytonville on August 28. Reynolds was not remanded to custody on Wednesday. He is scheduled to be taken into custody at his sentencing hearing on May 10.
The attorneys delivered their closing arguments Monday, after making hasty adjustments to accommodate a last-minute request from defense attorney Justin Petersen for a self-defense instruction to the jury.
During jury selection, Petersen questioned jurors closely about their thoughts on the right to self-defense, though he did not request that presiding judge, John Behnke, speak about self-defense to the jury until Monday morning. “I don’t know when you came up with this theory,” Behnke told Petersen, who responded that he had thought of it over the weekend, while preparing his closing argument. “It’s ambush,” Behnke replied, though he agreed to instruct the jury on the definition of self-defense and the circumstances under which it is allowed by law.
Petersen’s argument, which lasted close to an hour and a half, began with a depiction of Fisher, harassing Reynolds in the bar, and proceeded to a detailed explanation of why Petersen believed the jury should discount the testimony of Chris Bradley, who witnessed the attack. He also stated that the tear in the vertebral artery, which killed Fisher, was probably not caused by the punch, but could have been the result of Fisher’s head striking the pavement as he fell. “People don’t punch hard enough to cause that injury,” Petersen said. He then reminded the court that a vertebral tear does not require a lot of force and can be caused by sneezing. The medical evidence, Petersen declared, indicated that there was no way to know what caused the tear to the vertebral artery.
Moving on to the sole eyewitness, Petersen told the court that Bradley was “like the captain of the Laytonville team.” He asserted further that Bradley “could bring home the conviction” of Reynolds, whom Peterson characterized as “a pariah,” Bradley would be “king of Laytonville for, like, a year and a half.”
Petersen insisted that Bradley was unreliable because he had backtracked on a claim that he had never flirted with Reynolds’ girlfriend; because he forgot, then remembered, that he had gone to the store the day of the attack to purchase beer; and because he claimed that it was light enough, at 8:40pm in late August, to witness the attack from 50 yards away. Petersen also found it significant that Bradley claimed he had not drunk any beer before the incident because he had his 12-year-old son in the truck with him, but that he freely admitted that he had smoked cigarettes in the vehicle while the juvenile was present. “The only evidence is Chris Bradley’s testimony,” he concluded. “If you disregard Chris Bradley as unreliable, you simply have no evidence.”
Deputy District Attorney Luke Oakley, who is prosecuting the case, reminded the jury that Reynolds was charged with assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, “not force likely to tear a vertebral artery;” and that “there is only one person on trial. It’s for what he did on the night of August 28.” Arguing that, “The parking lot is not an unusual interfering circumstance” for people who are knocked down with a punch, he insisted that, “But for that punch from the defendant, Kenneth Fisher would not have died.” The jury is permitted to choose what it believes or does not believe from witnesses, though only witness statements, not lawyer’s questions or comments, are considered to be evidence.
Sarah Reith [email protected]