RIVERSIDE, Calif. - The prosecution rested today in the trial of an ex-con accused of beating and gunning down a Riverside police officer at the end of a foot chase.
After briefly questioning four witnesses, Deputy District Attorneys John Aki and Mike Hestrin informed Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jean Leonard that they were done submitting the government's evidence in the case.
At 11 a.m., Leonard dismissed the 18-member jury -- which includes six reserve jurors -- ordering the panel to return at 9 a.m. Tuesday, when the defense will begin presenting its case.
Earl Ellis Green could face the death penalty if convicted in the slaying of 27-year-old Ryan Patrick Bonaminio on Nov. 7, 2010.
The murder trial got under way last Monday, and closing statements could begin as early as Wednesday.
Green's attorneys have admitted that the 46-year-old killed Bonaminio, but they dispute the prosecution's allegations of how and why it happened, arguing that the defendant should be convicted of second-degree murder, not first-degree.
Green is also charged with special circumstance allegations of killing a peace officer and committing a murder to avoid arrest, as well as charges of vehicle theft and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
The sole eyewitness to the killing, Stephen James McQueen, testified last week that Bonaminio pleaded for his life just before he was shot, shouting at Green, "Don't do it! Don't do it!"
McQueen testified that he was relaxing by his car, having a cigarette in the parking lot of the Center for Spiritual Living on Ridge Road, adjacent to Fairmount Park, when a man suddenly ran in front of him and headed across the parking area, with a police officer a few seconds behind.
"The officer yelled, `Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands!"' McQueen testified.
He said the suspect -- whom he never identified -- ran behind a stairwell on the east side of the center, where the witness worked as a part-time groundskeeper.
McQueen testified that Bonaminio ran toward the stairwell but slipped in a planter freshly watered and muddy. The witness said the officer went down on one knee, with his rear-end in the mud.
"I saw (the suspect) come out from the stairwell a second later and swing something at the officer," McQueen said. "I guess it was a pipe. He swung it at the officer in three consecutive quick blows."
The witness said after the assailant struck Bonaminio, he backed four to five feet away from the injured officer, who struggled to his feet with his palms toward the man, begging him not to shoot.
According to McQueen, the attacker fired three shots, two of which struck Bonaminio in the face and head, causing him to collapse face-first in the flower bed.
Prosecutors allege Green took off in a yellow-colored semi truck which
he had allegedly stolen earlier that Sunday evening, and drove it back to the
Rubidoux facility from which he'd taken it.
The defendant was stopped by Bonaminio on suspicion of fleeing a hit-and-run crash on Market Street, near the Pomona (60) Freeway, according to testimony. The officer had no idea the truck had been stolen.
Hestrin alleges Bonaminio was killed with his own .40-caliber Glock pistol.
Green, who has a rap sheet spanning more than two decades, was identified through a fingerprint match, leading to his arrest outside a Target store in Riverside two days later. Bonaminio's gun was recovered at the ex-con's girlfriend's house, Hestrin said.