BARSTOW • A second day of testimony is expected Wednesday morning as Raul Aldrete's latest defense attorney seeks to win a new trial for his client, a third-striker convicted last August of shooting his ex-fiance in the shoulder and other charges.
Omission of believed-to-be key evidence during trial — thought by Attorney Jeffery Lawrence to exonerate Aldrete — and an allegedly questionable defense strategy by Aldrete's former attorney Ron Powell, were at the forefront of Tuesday's arguments inside Barstow Superior Court.
Lawrence would also inquire into why Powell never called upon a ballistics expert to challenge bullet trajectory in the case or attempted to extend the trial through November, when reformation of the "Three Strikes" law in California was pending and potentially helpful to Aldrete.
Aldrete, 34, testified Powell ignored his repeated plea to introduce more than 40 letters he received while incarcerated from his ex-fiance, Angela Thomas, admitting Aldrete wasn't at fault.
In one notarized letter, Thomas wrote that she shot herself.
In another letter, postmarked March 26, 2012, a little less than a week after Aldrete's arrest, Thomas stated Aldrete wasn't home at the time of the shooting.
Powell later testified he chose not to introduce the letters into evidence as he was afraid they might lead to reveal telephone conversations between Aldrete, his mother and Thomas, where they "were telling Angela what to say — 'be careful what you say.'"
Lawrence criticized the former attorney for not calling Thomas to testify during trial — a missed opportunity, he thought, to discredit her because she had provided three separate accounts of the incident to authorities.
Powell told Lawrence, for that same reason, he was uncertain of what Thomas would say once on the stand.
"Thomas had originally given me the answer I was hoping for — that this was all an accident," Powell testified. "But then she stated she only made those statements to help Raul and his mom."
During cross examination, Deputy District Attorney Joel Buckingham sought to poke holes in Lawrence's arguments.
Buckingham played a recorded conversation between Aldrete and his mother where Aldrete called it "frivolous and absurd" to bring on a ballistics expert.
Also, in another taped conversation, Aldrete asked his mother to report his previous defense attorney Jon Mahlum to the State Bar for what he perceived to be delays in getting to trial, Buckingham said.
Aldrete's request seemed to undermine Lawrence's stance that Powell neglected Aldrete's best interest in pushing for trial.
Last August, Aldrete was found guilty of assault with a firearm on another person, inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or other cohabitant and possession of a firearm as a felon.
If not granted a new trial, Aldrete could face 67 years to life in prison.
Shea Johnson may be reached at (760) 256-4126 or at SJohnson@DesertDispatch.com.