The David Attias murder trial continued on Friday, with multiple character witnesses who lived near Attias in Francisco Torres during the 2000-01 academic year.
Friday marked the end of the first week of the trial, during which the prosecution presented multiple witnesses to attest to Attias’ chronic drug use. The defense cross-examined the witnesses in an effort to attribute Attias’ erratic behavior to his long history of mental illness.
Testimony regarding the fatal incident, which occurred Feb. 23, 2001, was also given by residents of Sabado Tarde Road who were at the scene. Coroners from Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital and the Sheriff’s Dept., who investigated the deaths of Nicholas Bourdakis, Christopher Divis, Ruth Levy and Elie Israel, also took the stand during the first five days of testimony.
Attias pled not guilty by reason of insanity to the nine felonies he is charged with, including four counts of second-degree murder, four counts of manslaughter with gross negligence while driving under the influence of marijuana, and driving under the influence of marijuana resulting in great bodily injury.
Jonathan Hodgkin, a UCSB graduate and former resident of the 6500 block of Sabado Tarde testified that the accident scene was “something like a B horror movie.”
He described Attias’ behavior as “jittery and stereotypical of a person on methamphetamines. He socked my roommate in the jaw and tried to kick him. He took swings at a lot of people and he kept yelling ‘Representing 213!'”
Defense attorney Jack Earley asked Hodgkin about the number of pedestrians who would be wandering the streets of Isla Vista on an average Friday night. Earley said a car wouldn’t have been able to travel at the alleged speed of 60 miles per hour among many people. He also said the level of a pedestrian’s intoxication would have affected his or her ability to avoid an oncoming car.
“Unless these people were so stoned, they would have been able to see the car coming,” Earley said.
Hodgkin said Del Playa Drive is the most densely populated street in I.V. on weekends, and that Sabado Tarde would have had about a fourth as many pedestrians.
Assistant District Attorney Patrick McKinney asked Lawrence Gillespie, a recently retired coroner with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept., about the victims’ levels of intoxication.
Gillespie said an analysis of the victims revealed that Bourdakis and Divis had no alcohol or narcotics present in their systems. Israel had a .08 blood alcohol level, as well as cocaine and marijuana in his system, while Ruth Levy had a .10 blood alcohol level and was not under the influence of narcotics.
Adam Carlin, a UCSB student who lived at Francisco Torres last school year, gave testimony describing a car ride to Los Angeles with Attias, during which he and the defendant smoked marijuana. He also said Attias had discussed with him the circumstances of a car accident Attias caused on Highway 101 about a month before the fatal crash.
“[Attias] made it sound like an intense crash,” Carlin said. “He said it was exhilarating. He told me he had to throw drugs out of the car. It wasn’t like how anyone else would describe an accident. I’ve never heard anyone talk about an accident that way.”
Elizabeth Juenger, a UCSB student who lived in Francisco Torres at the same time as Attias, said she remembered Attias speaking about doing drugs and then driving while under the influence. Juenger also said she remembered seeing Attias snort a line of “Special K,” an animal tranquilizer otherwise known as ketamine, that is used recreationally in the rave scene.
“He said he was a frequent user [of Special K],” Juenger said. “He said he used as much as he could get. He told me that he drove while on it. He said, ‘It’s fine. I do it all the time.”
Juenger said she remembered Attias enumerating “a big list” of the different drugs he had done, which included marijuana, codeine, Special K and acid.
“I don’t think he did all of them, though,” she said. “I think he might have been just talking. He told me he was a dork in high school and didn’t do drugs, but now he did whatever he wanted.”
Juenger said she recalled a seemingly intoxicated Attias refusing to leave her room in the dorms.
“His hand was burning. His eyes were dilated. He was twitching and he couldn’t stop talking. He kept telling me ‘We don’t have to take this oppression,’ but I didn’t know what he was talking about,” she said. “Then he stormed out.”
Since Juenger was able to define terms like “K hole” and “twamp” during her testimony, Earley asked her during her cross-examination how she knew so much about drugs. Juenger said she learned the drug terminology in a drug education class in high school.
UCSB student Laura Stump testified as a witness who both lived in Francisco Torres near Attias and was a bystander at the scene of the accident.
“I didn’t know the defendant was the driver of the car, but I recognized him from FT,” Stump said. “I remember he was yelling the most appalling words, but I can’t remember exactly what those words are now. It was something about society.”
Stump’s description of the Attias she knew in the dorms – “a dorky kid” – contrasted with how she described Attias’ actions at the accident scene.
“He was forceful, hostile, and defensive. I was assaulted before by someone on a drug that made them hostile like that. The behavior was very similar,” Stump said.
The trial continues this morning at 10 in the Santa Barbara County Superior Court House.