Olivehurst man faces trial in shooting death
Saying a jury should weigh the evidence, witness credibility, conflicting accounts and resolve a myriad of legal questions, a Yuba County judge ordered an Olivehurst man to stand trial in the bitterly disputed homicide of a neighbor last year.
Retired Judge Dennis Buckley on Wednesday bound Gabriel Natal, 34, over for trial in the May 18 shooting death of Joey Stancil Jr., 23, and the attempted murder of Stancil's fiancee, Rosie Wheeler, 23.
Natal's attorney, Roberto Marquez, argued that Natal was defending himself and his girlfriend when he opened fire in the middle of the 3000 block of Brougham Way. Yuba County prosecutors rejected the claim, saying Natal was the aggressor when he confronted Stancil with a gun.
"You can't provoke a fight, then claim self-defense," said Mike Byrne, Yuba County deputy district attorney. "If there is a right to self-defense at all in this case, it belongs to Mr. Stancil."
A parade of defense witnesses testified during Tuesday's preliminary hearing that Natal and his family suffered hours of verbal abuse that day from Stancil and his friends. Several said Stancil was armed and possibly pointing a gun when Natal started shooting.
"This is clearly self-defense," Marquez argued on Tuesday.
Many of Stancil's friends and family have insisted that Stancil was unarmed during the dispute, but even prosecutors don't believe that was true.
"The evidence suggests that Joey Stancil had a gun," Byrne said Wednesday in court.
Wheeler first claimed that Stancil never had a weapon, but later testified that "anything was possible." Investigators seized a pistol from Stancil's home after the shooting.
Authorities said medical evidence suggests that Stancil was running away during the shooting and suffered gunshot wounds to his side, back and the back of his foot.
The judge appeared conflicted regarding self-defense claims and at least some of the evidence presented during the preliminary hearing.
"Factually, the court was in a bind," Buckley said. "The legal issues (of self-defense) can't be resolved at this hearing."
Buckley said it was "unusual" for a defendant to argue self-defense at a preliminary hearing.
The veteran judge's remarks closely resembled statements made by Judge Julia L. Scrogin during another preliminary hearing in September.
During the first hearing, Scrogin refused to allow testimony from defense witnesses regarding self-defense claims, saying such testimony was not relevant during a preliminary hearing.
Scrogin's ruling was overturned on appeal in November and the case was refiled.
Both Scrogin and Buckley stated the technical legal questions of self-defense were best left to a jury.
Natal is due back in court March 29 for arraignment and a bail review. He remains in custody at the Yuba County Jail on $2 million bail.
CONTACT Rob Parsons at email@example.com or 749-4785. Find him on Facebook at /ADcrimebeat or on Twitter at @ADcrimebeat.