Indio, Calif. - Jury deliberations will continue Friday morning in the trial of two Northern California men accused in the financially motivated killing of a Palm Springs Retiree. The jury went home late Thursday afternoon without reaching a verdict.
Kaushal Niroula, 31, and Daniel Carlos Garcia, 30, are charged with 10 felony counts, including murder and conspiracy, in the Dec. 5, 2008, stabbing death of 74-year-old Clifford Lambert. Niroula and Garcia are both representing themselves.
In her rebuttal argument to the defendants' closing statements, Deputy District Attorney Lisa DiMaria asked jurors this morning to convict Garcia and Niroula "on the evidence, not on their game playing."
Earlier this week a Northern California man accused in the financially motivated killing of a Palm Springs retiree told jurors Tuesday that the prosecution's case was based on theories, inferences and the testimony of a witness who couldn't remember anything.
Kaushal Niroula, 31, is charged with 10 felony counts, including murder and conspiracy, in the Dec. 5, 2008, stabbing death of 74-year-old Clifford Lambert. Niroula and co-defendant Daniel Carlos Garcia, 30, are both representing themselves.
Niroula said in his closing argument that Craig McCarthy, who testified that he was present when Lambert was stabbed to death in his own kitchen, couldn't remember what anyone was wearing, what Lambert's body was wrapped in or where he helped bury it.
Seeing a murder "would haunt any human being, they would think about it over and over and over," Niroula said.
He said authorities relied on McCarthy's testimony of what happened even though there wasn't physical evidence to support it.
"The scam is not being done by me, the scam is being done by the prosecution -- they have more holes to fill," said Niroula, attacking Deputy District Attorney Lisa DiMaria's contention in her closing statement that he was trying to scam the jury when he testified.
Niroula said the prosecution didn't prove that he sent text messages that were found in Garcia's phone, including messages sent in September and October 2008 while Niroula was in jail in connection with another case.
The prosecution used text messages they said were sent between the two men to contend that there was a conspiracy against Lambert, Niroula said. "The prosecution has not proven without a reasonable doubt that there was a homicide," he said.
Garcia also took shots at McCarthy's testimony in his closing statement, saying there were many unanswered questions and things McCarthy didn't mention on the stand. There was no evidence the defendants cleaned up any blood or that there was blood to begin with, and no evidence corroborating McCarthy's testimony, he said. "So which is it? Did (law enforcement) do a good job and didn't find anything or they screwed up and missed something? ... You can only go off the undisputed fact that they didn't find anything," Garcia said.
He said it was very unlikely a group of people could commit a "perfect crime" and not leave evidence. "There's evidence Mr. Niroula went into a bank, there's evidence Mr. (co-defendant David) Replogle put his thumbprint on a notary book, but not for the murder, not for the murder they have alleged," Garcia said.
He said he made the mistake of trusting Niroula, a "master storyteller" who he tried to turn in to police when he found out about other crimes Niroula was allegedly involved in.
"Ms. DiMaria said I'm the link. Why would Mr. Niroula even know who Mr. Lambert was? ... But they have presented no evidence I told them who Mr. Lambert was," Garcia said.
He said he didn't know if Lambert was dead, "because I wasn't involved." "I didn't ask anyone to kill my friend, and that is the truth. That is what the evidence is," Garcia said.
DiMaria will give her rebuttal argument Wednesday morning, and the jury could get the case by noon. Niroula and Garcia are the last of six defendants to be prosecuted in the case.
Replogle, a San Francisco attorney, and Miguel Bustamante were convicted in January 2011 of first-degree murder and eight other felony counts stemming from Lambert's death, and both were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
McCarthy, Bustamante's roommate, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in August 2010 and is scheduled to be sentenced in October. San Francisco art dealer Russell Manning pleaded guilty to fraud-related charges in the case in 2010 and was sentenced to five years in prison.