District attorney Pat McKinley, who is prosecuting the case against David Attias, brought the court to Isla Vista on Friday evening in an attempt to give the jury a feel for what the night of Feb. 23, 2001 was like before the incident.
Attias, who is charged with four counts of second-degree murder, four counts of manslaughter and one count of gross negligence resulting in great bodily harm, chose not to attend the viewing.
Judge Thomas Adams, the jury, McKinley and Attias’ defense team first drove to Fransicso Torres, where Attias lived in 2001, then drove to the scene of the crime. The bus then looped around and stopped on the 6600 block of Sabado Tarde Road, where the court stepped onto the street at about 10 p.m.
Police set up a squad car where Attias’ vehicle ended up, and marked nine cars to demonstrate where those he hit were located. Interns from the district attorney’s office stood in the places where the victims were struck, and plaques with Nicholas Bourdakis’, Christopher Divis’, Elie Israel’s, and Albert and Ruth Levy’s names were placed in the street where the victims finally laid.
Before they went to I.V. last Friday, the court met in regular session at the Santa Barbara County Superior Courthouse downtown, where Adams said the trial is running ahead of schedule.
Adams also cautioned the jury that character testimony pertaining to Attias’ behavior prior to the incident should be used to judge the defendant’s mental state, not personality.
“Some of the evidence regarding the defendant’s attitude, drug use, whatever – that is coming in for the mental state of the defendant,” Adams said. “You should not consider this as a basis to show that Mr. Attias was a bad person.”
Among the character witnesses who testified on Friday was UCSB student Adrienne Selbert, a Santa Monica resident and neighbor of the defendant. Selbert said although she knew Attias was also attending UCSB last year, she only met him the morning of the incident while she was walking through I.V.
“We only talked for about five minutes,” Selbert said. “I asked him how he liked school. He said he didn’t like the DP party scene very much and that he didn’t drink. We talked about home, we exchanged phone numbers and then we walked away.”
Selbert’s testimony created an image of the defendant that contrasted with the description given by previous character witnesses. She also said she had no qualms about giving Attias her phone number because he “seemed like a nice guy” who was “looking for friends.”
“It’s hard finding people who just like to hang out and not party. I thought it would be nice if we could just hangout sometime,” Selbert said. “He was friendly. Maybe a bit jittery but nothing out of the ordinary. He made eye contact with me.”
Selbert also testified that she had recently met with a CHP officer regarding a message Attias had left on her answering machine the night of the accident. She said she had not thought the message, which was a hang-up, had been from Attias until the CHP officer had brought it to her attention.
The trial continues this morning at 10 at the Courthouse downtown.