MERCED - A man, who didn’t give a “tinker’s damn”
about a court restraining order, determined to commit murder over a failed
That’s how Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II characterized
the case of 41-year-old James White, on trial on accusations of firing
two bullets into 33-year-old Stephen Jackson, killing him.
Attorneys on both sides presented closing arguments Friday in the trial,
in which White is charged with first-degree murder with an enhancement
of discharging a firearm. The prosecution maintains that White killed
Jackson during an afternoon brawl March 8, 2007, at Cone Avenue and G
Street. Prosecutors say White, a two-time convicted felon, became enraged
after Jackson began a romantic relationship with White’s ex-girlfriend.
White, on the other hand, claims the killing was unintentional, testifying
that the gun accidentally went off when he and a passer-by named Benito
Aguirre struggled with it.
During his closing argument, Morse challenged the idea of the crime being
an accident, saying both shots fired by the defendant “required
a conscious decision to pull the trigger.” Furthermore, Morse said,
the first bullet hit the victim “dead center in the chest.”
White told one of Jackson’s relatives that he’d planned to
kill Jackson, Morse said. Weeks before the killing, White also personally
threatened Jackson near R Street and Olive Avenue, prosecutors say. Although
Jackson and his girlfriend made the effort to get a restraining order
against White, Morse said it didn’t stop White’s murderous plans.
“Everything he did in the months leading up to March 8, 2007, was
a blueprint to murder,” Morse said.
While Morse said there have been “thousands of poems and songs”
written by and about people who’ve been dumped in relationships,
most people “carry on or move forward” without resorting to
killing. “(White) didn’t have a right to do this,” Morse
said, holding a photograph of Jackson’s dead body in front of the jury.
Morse also pointed out the many witnesses who say they saw White shoot
Jackson, including a Merced County Transit bus driver and Jackson’s
Morse also mentioned testimony by Aguirre, a witness who testified that
he saw White fall to the ground during the fight. Aguirre testified about
seeing the gun on the ground, and that he’d tried to kick it out
of the way. But White grabbed the .32-caliber Derringer handgun, pointed
it at Aguirre, and then pointed it back at Jackson and killed him, Aguirre
For the shooting to be an accident, Morse argued that Aguirre, Jackson’s
son and bus driver would all have to be lying.
“The defendant hunted, confronted and finally killed Stephen Jackson,”
Morse argued. “That man committed murder. We know it — and
he knows it.”
Jeffrey Tenenbaum, White’s attorney, downplayed testimony by the prosecution’s
witnesses, questioning whether they were able to get a good look at the incident.
For example, he said Jackson’s son was scared and running away during
the fight, only turning around after he heard the first shot. Tenenbaum
also said the bus driver didn’t see the fight unfold, only catching
the tail end of it.
Tenenbaum also questioned why Aguirre didn’t stick around to tell
police what he saw the day of the killing — and didn’t talk
to detectives until they tracked him down four months later.
“That sounds like a man who doesn’t want to talk about his
involvement in the shooting,” Tenenbaum said.
White also is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and
possessing a prohibited weapon. If convicted, he faces a sentence of life
Jury deliberations are scheduled to resume Tuesday.
Managing Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 385-2431.