The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

May 8, 2013

Testimony begins in stabbing trial for Enid man

By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — The trial of a 47-year-old Enid man on a felony count of assault and battery with a deadly weapon began Wednesday afternoon.

Robert Allen Hays was charged last year with the felony, and if convicted, faces 20 years to life in prison because of two prior felony convictions.

Hays is accused of stabbing Albert Hererra III May 19, 2012, during an argument.

The nine-woman, three-man jury was seated at about 3:30 p.m., followed by instructions from Associate District Judge Tom Newby, who is hearing the case.

Assistant District Attorney Irene Asai said Enid Police Department officers responded “code 3” May 19, 2012, to 2206 E. Pine and arrived to find Hererra.

“He was lying on the lawn of that residence and was covered in blood,” she said.

Asai said Hererra had gone to the residence to speak with another man who lived there with Hays. She said Hererra’s girlfriend got into a fight with another woman there, and when Hererra tried to break up that fight, he was attacked by Hays.

“He was struck in the abdomen by the defendant and then stabbed multiple times,” Asai said. “You will learn Albert had some 19 stab wounds to his body.”

She said Hererra suffered a wound to his liver in the attack, leaving him hospitalized for about a week and a half.

“I ask you to listen very carefully to the witnesses and the testimony,” Asai said.

Hays’ attorney Steve Singer told the jury a defendant’s right to a jury trial was the “spinal cord of democracy.” He said the trial was a chance for Hays to have his story heard.

“This case is about who is right and who is wrong,” he said. “This case is about who followed the law and who ignored the law. This case is about Robert’s right to defense.”

Singer told jurors the May 19, 2012, incident stemmed from a previous argument between his client and Hererra, in which Hererra choked Hays nearly to unconsciousness.

He said when Hererra came to Hays’ residence about a week later, he repeatedly was asked to leave and again attacked Hays. He said Hererra was the aggressor in the situation and Hays was defending himself.

“All the wounds are defensive wounds,” Singer said. “I think you’re going to see all those wounds are defensive in nature.”

He said prosecutors should have reviewed the case further before filing charges against Hays.

“I would suggest, ladies and gentlemen, the cause of Mr. Hererra’s problem is Mr. Hererra himself,” Singer said. “We are here for a jury trial for one reason: because he didn’t do it and it was self-defense.”

Asai called former neighborhood resident Morgan Bridges and asked questions about Hays’ 70-year-old roommate, Harry Matlock, and his usage of alcohol.

Bridges said she and her family worried about Matlock because of his drinking.

“He drank a lot. He didn’t have much of anybody around,” the 18-year-old testified.

She said she was outside at her home across from Hays and Matlock’s residence the night Hererra was stabbed. She said initially she couldn’t tell if Hererra was drunk or hurt, until she saw the blood on his jeans.

“He was lying flat on his back in the grass,” Bridges said.

Asai asked her if there was any blood.

“There was a lot. He moved his hands from his stomach and I saw the gash,” Bridges said. “It was a big cut. It was just open. It was huge.”

Bridges said Matlock came outside of the house after police arrived and she thought he appeared confused.

“It was just the look on his face,” she said. “He was just out of it.”

Asai asked Bridges if she thought Matlock was intoxicated and she said it was “very possible.”

Upon cross examination, Singer asked Bridges if the look on Matlock’s face could have been from something else, such as shock from witnessing the incident.

“Yes, it could have been,” she said. Bridges also said she did not witness the incident or the events leading up to it.

The trial resumes at 9 a.m. today.