Testimony continued Monday in the David Attias murder trial, as numerous UCSB students took the stand, including a friend of Attias and several I.V. residents who witnessed the crash.
Attias is on trial for the Feb. 23, 2001 crash on Sabado Tarde Road, which left four young people dead and a fifth seriously injured. The defendant pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to nine felony charges, which include 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.
Through a series of character witnesses, Deputy District Attorney Patrick McKinley has attempted to establish a picture of the defendant as a regular drug user, while Attias’ defense team has worked to represent him as an impressionable and mentally ill student who talked about drugs to fit in at UCSB.
Britni Saavedra – a former Francisco Torres resident and friend of the defendant – was one of many students called to the stand by McKinley late Monday.
Saavedra said she met Attias through a mutual friend in October 2000 and smoked marijuana with him on numerous occasions, including one day in the Francisco Torres parking lot soon after she met him.
“He came by my room to smoke marijuana. We went to his car to hang out,” she said. “We were in the car for maybe an hour, hour and a half … We were just talking. Dave was mostly talking … He just seemed really excited about the music and dancing.”
McKinley asked Saavedra if Attias ever told her he used drugs besides marijuana.
“PCP, cocaine and I don’t really know the rest. He took ecstasy one time and said he didn’t enjoy it very much,” she said. “The first time I met him [he said] he was on LSD.”
Saavedra said she spoke to Attias almost every day over the 2000 Winter Break and also visited him in Los Angeles, although she never actually went into his parents’ Santa Monica residence. She also testified about a traffic accident in January 2001, in which Attias totaled a car on Highway 101.
“He told me he got in a car accident on the freeway. I remember he usually didn’t use cocaine … but he said he had done a little bit that morning, before the accident occurred,” she said. “He said he had in his car K, coke, marijuana, some sort of pills … and he threw them over a bridge or something.”
The last time she saw Attias, Saavedra said, he came into her dormitory room a few days before the incident.
“He wasn’t the normal Dave. He was kind of relaxed, he looked kind of sad. When he left he gave me a hug, and that was the last I saw him until this day,” she said. “The only unusual thing that stuck in my head was that he was so calm … that night he came in, kinda sweet. He looked kinda sad.”
McKinley asked Saavedra, who appeared subdued through her testimony, if she was tired.
“I’m not tired, I’m sad. I’m sad for everyone involved with [these] death[s]. It’s terrible. I don’t want to be here. It’s sad,” Saavedra said.
McKinley also asked the witness, who had trouble remembering specific details of events, as many witnesses have, if she thought her drug use affects her memory.
“I’m sure if I did not smoke as much pot I’d be able to help you a lot more,” she said.
Defense lawyer Jack Earley cross-examined Saavedra briefly, mostly about incidents McKinley had already brought up.
Earley asked her if the neighborhood looked like a gang area, apparently in reference to testimony from students who said they witnessed Attias yelling something about a Los Angeles gang at the scene of the incident.
“No, it didn’t,” she said.
The prosecution also called several former Sabado Tarde residents, who were present at the scene of the crash, to the stand Monday afternoon.
Thurman Ashley said he pulled Attias out of two altercations in which numerous males were fighting the defendant.
“[The second time] I pulled him out of a group, walked him over to the sidewalk and let him go. He turned to me and said, ‘Don’t ever fucking put your hands on me.’ I had my hands up in the air and said ‘I’m not touching you.’ He said again, ‘ Don’t ever fucking touch me again.’ And then he hauled off and hit me in the face,” Ashley said.
Ashley described Attias as “coherent” at the time of the accident. During cross-examination, Earley read Ashley part of the testimony he gave to an investigating officer soon after the incident.
“In the report [it says] ‘he was pretty frantic, it wasn’t thought out, it was almost crazy … it wasn’t making any sense,'” Earley said. “You didn’t describe him anywhere -”
“You won’t find anywhere in there where I called him calm,” Ashley said. “Nor would I have called him calm when he hauled off and hit me in the face.”