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July 23, 2013

Court Room Diary: People vs. Robert Allen Barnhart, Day 2

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Written by: Katie
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The prosecution rested its case at the beginning of Day Two of the trial of Robert Barnhart, Case Number 11WF2614.

Mr. Barnhart is accused of two counts of felony Assault With a Deadly Weapon and one count of misdemeanor Battery, stemming from what is being characterized as a road rage incident following a traffic accident in Los Alamitos in November 2011.

The defense, represented by public defender Mike Perez, opened by calling Mr. Barnhart to the stand. During his testimony, Mr. Barnhart claimed that his Dodge pickup truck was stopped at the crosswalk on Bloomfield St. at the flood control channel when Jesse Ochoa’s vehicle, an Isuzu Rodeo, rear-ended him.

Mr. Barnhart contended that after he stepped out of his truck to exchange information, Mr. Ochoa “smirked” at him and left the scene at a “very, very high rate of speed”.

Mr. Barnhart stated that he was unable to call 911 because his cell phone was dead, and only pursued Mr. Ochoa’s vehicle in order to get his license plate information. He said that he pressed on his horn multiple times “to warn people we were coming.”

He denied engaging in a PIT-like maneuver on Ball Rd., as well. He said that Mr. Ochoa made a voluntary U-turn before heading westbound in the eastbound lanes.

Mr. Barnhart then explained that he made his own U-turn before stopping in the crosswalk at the intersection of Bloomfield St. and Ball Rd.

Mr. Barnhart contends that, at this point, Mr. Ochoa smirked at him again and the purposefully accelerated, broadsiding the defendant’s pickup truck.

During his testimony, Mr. Barnhart stated that he was not extremely upset at the time of the initial accident. During cross-examination, Deputy District Attorney Kristin Bracic questioned him on this statement.

“Isn’t it true that you got angry at that first moment because you have an anger management problem?” she asked before bringing up Mr. Barnhart’s prior convictions for Corporal Injury to a Spouse in 1994 and another conviction in 2010 for an incident in which he threw coffee at another motorist.

“You just threw coffee because you weren’t mad?” DDA Bracic questioned him.

After Mr. Barnhart stepped down, the defense next called Christopher Gayner as an expert witness. Mr. Gayner is the owner and sole employee of Expert Reconstruction LLC, with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from UC Santa Barbara.

Mr. Gayner was hired by the defense to reconstruct the accident using the physical evidence, witness statements, police reports, crash data retrieval system, and other documentation.

What followed was a deluge of photos and data that Mr. Gayner testified supported the defendant’s version of events.

One key factor in Mr. Gaynor’s testimony was the data recovered from the crash data retrieval system, which records information such as vehicle speed and engine rotations at the time of an impact of a certain level of force.

DDA Bracic, during her cross examination of Mr. Gaynor, pointed out that there was only one recorded impact from the day in question. Since there were two uncontested collisions between the two vehicles (the initial rear-ending and the final T-bone broadside), she asked Mr. Gaynor if it were possible that there were, in fact, other unrecorded collisions that occurred.

Mr. Gaynor admitted the possiblity.

Mr. Gaynor also contradicted Mr. Barnhart’s testimony that his pickup truck was stopped at the time of the intial accident, and acknowledged the possibility the damage to the pickup’s right rear quarter could have been caused by an impact on Ball Rd., as claimed by multiple witnesses.

The trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.

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About the Author

Katie
Born and raised in Orange County, I have a B.A. in English from the University of Southern California. I grew up on Star Trek, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Saturday morning PBS reruns of Doctor Who. I am also a proud volunteer with my local police department.




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