UKIAH, 3/29/2017 — The trial of Charles Reynolds began Tuesday morning in Mendocino Superior Court, with opening statements from the prosecuting and defense attorneys. Jury selection took all day on Monday, during which residents of Laytonville, a former military policeman, a doctor, and a retired judge were among those excused after detailed examination.
Reynolds is charged with felony assault on Kenneth Fisher, with a special allegation of inflicting great bodily injury. On the evening of August 28, 2016, outside of Boomer’s bar and grill in Laytonville, Reynolds allegedly struck Fisher once on the side of his head, tearing his vertebral artery and causing a hemorrhage, which killed him. Reynolds’ defense attorney, Justin Petersen, called the outcome “a miracle of bad luck,” while Luke Oakley, the deputy District Attorney who is prosecuting the case, described the defendant as “strolling” away from the victim after striking him “with so much force that he never got up.” A witness, Chris Bradley, saw the incident from his truck, while waiting for his daughter in the parking lot.
During opening statements Deputy DA Oakley addressed the jury first, telling them the case was about “force and power.” He asserted that Reynolds struck Fisher “out of the blue;” and that “This was no fight.”
Bradley testified that the two men walked into his line of sight as he and his twelve-year-old son waited in the parking lot facing Highway 101 after having dinner at Anna’s Asian Palace, which shares a building with Boomer’s. He recalled that it was around 8:30pm, and that he recognized Reynolds as the two men walked out of the bar and stopped, facing him. Reynolds, he said, was “hard to miss, tattoos everywhere, white tank top, he always dresses the same.” He said the two men were standing side by side, and looked like they “could have been talking about fishing,” though because Bradley’s engine was running, he could not make out what they were saying.
Bradley testified that Fisher was standing with his hands at his sides, looking down slightly. Bradley did not see Fisher raise his hands or turn towards the defendant, who struck a blow that “Looked devastatingly hard.” Bradley testified that Reynolds then stepped over Fisher’s fallen form, “looked at him for a second, and walked away.” Bradley, thinking Fisher had only lost consciousness, approached him out of concern that he would be run over, and was performing CPR on him when “his pulse went away.”
In his own opening statement, Reynolds’ defense attorney painted a much more detailed picture than Oakley, describing interactions in the bar that he assured the jury were visible on a surveillance tape. He portrayed Fisher as aggressively pursuing an already-existing animosity between the two men. He contended that Fisher had grabbed Reynolds from behind while the two men were still inside the bar, and that Reynolds had pushed Fisher off of him, knocking over a barstool. Petersen told the jury to expect a witness who would testify that later, when Fisher approached Reynolds outside the bar, “He looked like a guy coming out the door to talk about why Charlie Reynolds pushed him.” Petersen stated that the vertebral artery can be torn by a cough or a sneeze. “It doesn’t take a lot of force,” he said. “Everything has to be just exactly wrong...it tore in this instance, and Kenneth Fisher died.”
The trial is expected to last into next Tuesday or Wednesday, with a court holiday on Friday, March 31.
Sarah Reith [email protected]