The fate of 65-year-old Peter Jordan Chiesa will be in the hands of the jurors today.
The prosecution´s final witness Friday afternoon challenged findings of defense medical experts who stated Chiesa was not in control of his actions when he shot two neighbors on his property near Wallace.
Chiesa is charged with killing Leslie Hannameyer, 43, and Annette Truman, 41, on June 25, 2002 as the women cleaned up limbs and other debris from a recent trimming of a line of Eucalyptus trees.
The trees lined an easement and common driveway shared by the three families. The easement was the source of 10 years of conflict between the Chiesas and the other two families.
The tree-trimming job had been contracted by the Chiesas, and just before the killings he called 911 and announced that someone was stealing his wood and he was going to kill them.
Hannameyer was shot once at close range in the back of the head. Truman was wounded in the arm, and then shot in the back as she ran across the road.
Defense attorney Clyde Blackmon has admitted Chiesa killed the women, but has asked jurors to consider the possibility the crime was second-degree murder or manslaughter.
Blackmon had Chiesa tested and examined by medical specialists who testified the past two weeks that the defendant suffered physical brain damage from a stroke and other health problems.
Those parts of the brain control judgment, impulse control, reading social cues, and temper control, according to Dr. Daniel Amen, whose clinic in Fairfield performed SPECT scans of Chiesa to determine his level of brain activity.
The experts repeatedly referred to a person´s “executive function,” their ability to think and to plan and anticipate the consequences of one´s action and to change those actions if the circumstances warrant it.
Defense experts said that while Chiesa could function on a day-to-day basis and take care of daily routines, his ability was impaired when he had attacks of rage.
Dr. George L. Wilkinson said it was when the women defied him after he asked them what they were doing that triggered Chiesa´s rage. “That´s the point where he went out of control,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson also labeled Chiesa as delusional, noting that real confrontations with his neighbors piled up to the point he blamed them for everything that went wrong n every gate or barn door left open, or every animal that died.
As a rebuttal to those testimonies, Deputy District Attorney Seth Matthews called his own medical expert, Dr. Bennett Blum, a specialist in psychiatry and geriatrics from the Newport Beach forensic consulting firm of Park, Dietz & Associates Inc.
While his request to examine Chiesa was not granted by the District Attorney´s Office, Blum reviewed the tests, results and reports from the defense´s experts.
Agreeing that Chiesa suffered from vascular dementia, Blum added it did not mean the defendant was out of control when he killed the two women.
“He had a degree of self-awareness,” Blum said, noting that Chiesa got angry, recognized that, called 911 to announce his plan, and then carried out that plan by following a number of sequences such as getting his guns, driving to the main gate, getting out of his truck and approaching the women. “Someone who was not in control could not have done that,” Blum said.
Everywhere along the way Chiesa made choices and carried out his actions, Blum said.
Also, people who are out of control when committing such crimes usually aren´t so precise, but keep firing, even after the victim is dead. Chiesa fired one shot at close range into the back of Hannameyer´s head, Blum noted.
Then, after discovering he had only wounded Truman, he fired again to kill her. “This was not uncontrolled shooting,” Blum said.
He also discounted conclusions that Chiesa was delusional in blaming all his troubles on his neighbors.
Numerous, documented conflicts with his neighbors led Chiesa to believe they were behind other problems, Blum said.
If he had been presented with evidence the neighbors were not to blame, and still insisted on holding them responsible, that would have been a delusion, Blum said.
Calaveras Enterprise story by ontact Craig Koscho. For more Calaveras news. click: calaverasenterprise.com