MERCED - A drunkard with a taste for violence — or a desperate slave to the sins of the bottle?
Jurors are facing those conflicting perspectives in the trial of Jose Paz, a farmworker who pumped three bullets into his boss, but then dropped the victim off at Mercy Medical Center.
Attorneys on both sides presented opening statements Friday.
The victim in the shooting, 60-year-old Edward Trindade, survived the brutal attack.
Deputy District Attorney Matthew Serratto, prosecutor in the case, said Paz had worked for the victim as a tractor driver for 20 years. But Paz had a severe drinking problem that his boss didn’t approve of, especially because the defendant often would turn up intoxicated at work.
Paz’s issues became a point of contention between him and his boss, Serratto said, and tensions began to simmer in 2004. Back then, Trindade warned Paz about coming to work inebriated, saying he’d fire him if the behavior continued. The defendant responded by saying he’d kill his boss if he was fired, Serratto explained.
The defendant continued coming to work drunk, and four years later Trindade fired him. Paz responded by making threats to the victim’s son, which landed him in jail.
Paz finally did sober up, and asked for his job back after a stint in rehab. Trindade relented and gave him a second chance — but it didn’t take long for Paz’s old habit to return. The situation finally boiled over on Sept. 21 last year, as Trindade confronted Paz one last time. “No more chances, Jose. You’re fired,” Trindade told Paz.
Paz then stood up from his tractor, pulled a gun and fired three shots at close range. One of the bullets barely missed the victim’s spine. The victim pulled out his cell phone and tried to call police, only to have Paz snatch it away, Serratto said.
The victim lay on the ground, bleeding from his wounds. “I am dying, Jose,” he pleaded with the defendant. Paz then took Trindade’s truck and drove the victim to the hospital.
Defense Attorney Jeffrey Tenenbaum said there’s no denying his client shot his boss, but it wasn’t attempted murder.
Tenenbaum told jurors his client, who’s been an alcoholic most of his adult life, should be convicted of charges lesser than attempted murder. Tenenbaum said he’ll call experts to testify about the devastating impact of alcohol abuse, and how there’s a direct correlation between the crime and Paz’s longtime drinking issues.
Tenenbaum emphasized Paz has also expressed remorse, saying the day of the crime was the “worst” of his client’s life. “He will have to own up to that,” Tenenbaum said.
Paz is charged with attempted murder, assault with a firearm and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He faces 35 years to life in prison if convicted, and remains at Merced County Jail without bail on an immigration hold.