Wed, Oct 24, 2012
The witness was confusing, or perhaps he was just confused. It was hard to tell. Esdras Garcia took the stand on Tuesday at Kings County Supreme Court to try to recall the night he witnessed the murder of Gavin Torres.
A short, round-faced taxi driver in his mid-thirties, Garcia entered the courtroom wearing a white t-shirt bearing the logo of the Maya Express car service and holding his black cap tightly in his hands. When he was asked to spell his name, he told the court that he couldn’t do so in English.
An interpreter, who was already in the room to help one of the defendants, stood next to him for the rest of his testimony as he explained the events of the early morning of March 23, 2010. That night, according to the prosecution, Julio Iglesias, 21, and Omar Xochimitl, 26, attacked and killed Gavin Torres in a gang-related murder.
At 12:15 am on March 23, 2010, Garcia told the jury, was driving his taxi on Avenue J in Midwood with two passengers on board, when he saw two men chasing somebody.
“At first, I thought they were playing,” Garcia told the court in Spanish.
A few minutes and three gunshots later, Garcia saw Torres collapse yards away from his car.
What happened before and after the shooting remains unclear.
With the help of the interpreter, Garcia explained how he saw the two men hit the victim in the back while he was waiting for the traffic light to turn green. He then drove one block where he was stopped by another red light. At this point, his testimony got confusing.
It was unclear whether it was, in fact, Torres who ran in front of his taxi or whether it was one of the defendants.
“I have to clarify something with the defendant,” the interpreter told Judge Vincent M. Del Giudice.
“The witness, you mean,” the judge said, correcting him.
The interpreter spoke to Garcia in Spanish for a few minutes. When Garcia resumed his testimony he told the jury that it was Torres who had run in front of his cab, chased by one of the assailants.
Garcia explained that he had witnessed what next transpired through the side mirror of his car. He heard three shots and saw Torres fall to the ground. The police arrived on the scene almost immediately. They arrested Iglesias who was allegedly trying to leave the scene after dropping a gun and a knife on the ground. Iglesias, who prosecutors say was a member of the Esquardon gang, initially insisted that he had acted in self-defense.
But once in jail, waiting for his trial, prosecutors say he confided to his cellmate that he had shot Torres in the back. He also told his cellmate about two other murders he said he committed in 2009, prosecutors say. Later, in a statement to the police, Iglesias identified Omar Xochimitl as his accomplice in the Torres murder. Prosecutors claim Xochimitl is a member of the Panchitos gang.
But as he continued his testimony, a nervous Esdras Garcia told the jury he was unable to tell whether or not he saw the police arrest Iglesias or if he had already left the scene to drop the passengers at their destination.
The judge finally interrupted his testimony and asked, “Are you a little confused, Mr. Garcia?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“Are you a little nervous?”
“Yes,” he said.
The defense continued that line of questioning.
“Is there any other thing that you’re confused about?” Geoffrey Stewart, Xochimitl’s lawyer, asked on cross examination. “What did you see in your review mirror? You don’t see someone getting shot everyday, do you?”
Finally, after an hour and a half of questioning, Garcia was done. His face was as tense when he left the courtroom as when he had arrived.