Prosecutor says revenge was motive for Cowboy’s murderAround the City Thursday, September 20th, 2012
Revenge was the reason that Jason “Cowboy” Huggins was killed after being struck in the head with a heavy rock by a man whom Huggins had testified against in court, a prosecutor has told a jury.
Huggins, 31, often appeared in Hillcrest with his trademark black hat, boots, and a big belt buckle, but many people he knew did not know he was homeless and lived in a tent in a Hillcrest canyon with a boyfriend.
His accused killer is Joshua James Larson, 38, who is on trial for murder and also for felony assault in allegedly striking Huggins’ boyfriend, Nathan Meza, 28, with another rock June 22, 2011.
The prosecution is expected to rest this week in San Diego Superior Court and the defense will start. Judge Theodore Weathers and the jury of seven women, five men, and four alternates has been hearing testimony since Sept. 11.
“Revenge – that punitive need for retaliation – revenge is the reason the defendant beat Jason Huggins to death,” said Deputy District Attorney Makenzie Harvey in her opening statement.
“Physical retaliation is never justice – it’s murder,” said Harvey.
Harvey told jurors Huggins testified against Larson in March, 2009 after Larson stole his wallet. Larson pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 132 days in jail on probation conditions that barred any contact with Huggins.
Larson violated terms of his probation and he ended up serving 293 days in jail. Harvey told jurors Larson was released about six weeks before he randomly ran into Huggins at the McDonald’s restaurant in Hillcrest.
The prosecutor showed security tape footage of Huggins and Larson talking in the restaurant and other footage showed Larson following Huggins the day he was fatally injured.
Larson’s attorney, Peter Will, named another suspect – a friend of Huggins – as the real killer during his opening statement. Will said that person will be called as a witness.
“Joshua Larson didn’t kill anybody,” said Will. “Something’s not right with the police investigation.”
Police officers and investigators combed the area where Huggins was injured, but no bloody rocks could be found.
Meza identified Larson as the man who approached Huggins in the restaurant and said “this little shit here accused me in court.” Meza also identified Larson as the man who later showed up at the tent and struck him with a rock, but didn’t see Larson hit Huggins with a rock.
“Have you ever had a rock to your face?” Meza quoted Larson as saying before the attack. “He said he was going to burn us when we sleep.”
Meza testified Larson hit him with a rock so hard that it cut into his mouth and later got stitches at a hospital.
“The defendant said if I know what’s good for me, I’d get away from him,” said Meza, who added that Larson told him “I’m not going to hurt him, just scare him.”
Meza testified he fled the scene into Hillcrest, but he didn’t tell police initially where the assault took place. Meza said he was frightened of a homeless guy named Red who had allowed him to stay in the area on condition he never have police officers show up.
After the attack, Huggins managed to walk up to Washington Street in Hillcrest and two people called 911 after seeing him injured. There was little blood on him, but two women said he appeared to be in great pain. The 911 call was played for the jury.
Meza was shocked to learn that Huggins was beaten so badly he was in the intensive care unit at Scripps Mercy Hospital. About 50 friends of Huggins turned out for a candlelight vigil June 28, 2011. He died July 6 without regaining consciousness.
San Diego Police Detective Michael Lambert testified he met with Huggins’ family members from Tennessee and let them look at what little possessions were his. The family took his cowboy hat to remember him by.
Larson has grown a full beard since his year in jail. He remains at the George Bailey Detention Facility without bail.
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