Defense lawyers sought Monday to shred the credibility of a key prosecution witness whose testimony last week put their clients in the middle of a 2004 robbery-homicide in South Natomas.
The lawyers for Robert Lee Hammons Jr. and Christina Marie Martinez poked and prodded to try to find holes in Teran Holliman’s recollections, but the prosecutor didn’t seem to think they did much damage.
After defense attorneys Paul Irish for Hammons and Philip Cozens for Martinez spun Holliman around for several hours in their cross-examinations, Deputy District Attorney Sheri Greco asked about four questions to rehabilitate her witness. Then she called it a day.
“I wanted to get this behind me,” Holliman answered Greco, on why he incriminated himself, why he admitted his guilt, and why he took a deal that gave him a 15-year prison term on his no-contest pleas to voluntary manslaughter and robbery charges in the killing of Clayton Skinner, 37.
Holliman last week told a Sacramento Superior Court jury that Hammons, 26, planned the fatal July 2, 2004, robbery of Skinner in his home on Millet Way. Then, Holliman said, Hammons smashed Skinner in the head with a Club anti-car-theft device when the victim pulled a knife to thwart the robbery.
The witness said Martinez helped set up the robbery by posing as a car buyer interested in a vehicle Skinner had for sale. He said Martinez, 26, fashioned a garrote out of speaker wire and was prepared to strangle Skinner if he got up from the Club attack.
On Monday, the defense sought to tarnish Holliman’s standing with the jury by focusing on the discrepancies between the stories he told police and the testimony he gave in court.
Cozens pointed out that transcripts of the police interviews make no mention of Martinez fashioning any kind of a garrote. Holliman said he told detectives about the wire and couldn’t explain why the detail didn’t make the report.
The defense lawyer went hard after Holliman’s recollection of events the night of the killing. Why couldn’t he remember things clearly was it because he was smoking marijuana? Did he say that Hammons “socked” Skinner or hit him with the Club? Did he actually see the socking? Which was it: Did Martinez go up to Skinner’s house under the ruse of buying a car by herself or with Holliman’s younger brother, Taje? Last week you put Taje in the doorway of Skinner’s house when the fatal attack began, Cozens said, but now you’ve got him in the kitchen. Are you lying now or were you lying then?
Irish whacked Holliman on his past, pointing out that the witness had been convicted of attempted robbery in 2008. Irish also picked at variations and omissions in Holliman’s assorted accounts.
Holliman conceded to the lawyers, “I got mixed up on the details.” He said, “I just didn’t have everything in order.”
But he didn’t budge on Hammons as having planned robbery and taking the first swings at Skinner.
“I didn’t make any of it up,” Holliman testified. Hammons, he said, “socked the guy and started hitting him with the Club when he was on the ground.”
Later, Holliman said, Hammons threatened to kill his family if he told anybody what had happened. Before trial, when the two passed each other in a courthouse elevator, he testified that Hammons called him “a snitch.”
Holliman has since pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and robbery. He is is facing a 15-year sentence. He testified that his brother, now 20, also hit Skinner with the Club. Taje Holliman’s case has since been decided in Juvenile Court.