By Deb Murphy
Raymond Bencoma’s trial may wrap up today, Tuesday.
The prosecution will have the opportunity to call rebuttal witnesses. Presiding Judge Brian Lamb will instruct the jury. The defense and prosecution will make their closing arguments and then it will be up to the jury to determine the final outcome.
After two and a half days of jury selection, Assistant District Attorney Dee Shepherd presented the case against Bencoma last week.
Bencoma is charged with multiple felonies, primarily assault on an officer stemming from an incident when Inyo County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a domestic abuse call on Winuba in Bishop in the early morning hours of August 26. Bencoma allegedly appeared, armed, from behind a shed as officers approached. He was shot, transported to Northern Inyo Hospital then transferred to Reno.
This is only a snapshot of testimony given Monday. Tuesday’s closing arguments should provide a clearer picture of both the DA’s and defense attorney Josh Hillemeier’s cases.
It can be assumed from Hillemeier’s questioning Bencoma was not aware the individuals walking up his driveway, without flashlights’, were law enforcement officers. The patrol cars arrived at the scene with their parking lights on, a procedure not considered a black-out approach.
In addition, the lead officer’s body camera was not activated. The reason: the red light indicating the camera was on put the officer in danger.
Using photographs taken by Christian Ray at the scene around 4:50 a.m. following the incident, Hillemeier tried to establish that from his position near a shed in his yard, Bencoma could not have seen the patrol cars parked on Winuba.
A neighbor of Bencoma testified he had called the Sheriff’s Department reporting a prowler in his yard August 25. The neighbor confronted the prowler, with Bencoma present. The next day, the same neighbor had a physical confrontation with an individual who left in the direction of Bencoma’s residence.
Shepherd’s questioning established there was no threat to Bencoma from either incident.
The jury was dismissed before noon Monday. This morning, the final defense witness, a criminologist from the California Department of Justice will testify and the case will be wrapped up.