Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A man who fatally stabbed a counselor at a Job Corps facility in Hollywood was convicted Monday of first-degree murder.

Freddy Leyva, 25, was convicted in the March 14, 2012, death of Dwayne Alexander, who was repeatedly stabbed in an office in the 1200 block of North Lodi Place. Leyva was a student in the program at the time.

Prosecutors said Leyva attacked Alexander without provocation. Three other students came to counselor’s aid and subdued Leyva, but they were unable to save Alexander, according to prosecutors, who said Alexander suffered 29 stab and cut wounds — five of them fatal.

Sentencing was set for Jan. 13.

During closing arguments last week, Deputy District Attorney Robert Britton told the five-man, seven-woman jury that Leyva was “stewing for days and weeks on end” and resented being counseled by Alexander.

Defense attorney Tomas Requejo countered that the case came down to Leyva’s mental state.

“This is not a first (degree murder). This is not a second (degree murder). This is not guilty,” Leyva’s attorney said.

Leyva testified that Alexander grabbed his genitals, laid on the bed in his dormitory room and hugged and kissed him.

In his rebuttal, the prosecutor countered there was “absolutely nothing” outside of Leyva’s testimony to support his account, saying that Leyva is “trying to drag his (the victim’s name) through the mud” when he can’t be in court to defend himself.

“This guy literally cannot tell the truth if his life depends on it,” Britton said, telling jurors that Leyva was “trying to pull the wool over your eyes by selectively remembering and forgetting things.”

Leyva testified that he had lain awake the night before the killing, worrying about Alexander’s latest advance, when he allegedly bear-hugged and kissed Leyva. But he couldn’t remember anything about what  happened in the office Alexander was sharing with two co-workers the day of the killing.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell initially allowed jurors to hear about Leyva’s testimony last year, in which he said he stabbed Alexander because he thought he was “coming for me.”

But the judge later ruled that part of the testimony was inadmissible and told jurors to disregard it. He also said outside the jury’s presence that jurors would not be instructed on voluntary manslaughter.

The jury foreman, who asked not to be identified by name, said the panel was “split” on whether Leyva was telling the truth about the alleged sexual advances. But in the end, he said, it didn’t matter, because “there was never an option” to consider self-defense under the jury instructions.

In 2013, a previous jury deadlocked in Leyva’s case, prompting a mistrial. Ten of those original jurors favored a murder conviction, and two opted for voluntary manslaughter.

But Leyva changed his testimony this time, Britton said, eliminating the possibility of a manslaughter verdict.

“It was a clean-cut first-degree murder case,” the prosecutor said. “I’m just pleased for the victim’s family.”

City News Service

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