FAIRFIELD — Two former Solano County public defenders took the witness stand Monday to explain how they did their job in defending a 14-year-old Vacaville boy who raped, sodomized and repeatedly stabbed a 13-year-old girl and then repeatedly stabbed her baby brother in December 2010.
Their testimony came during the protracted effort to garner a new jury trial for Alexander Cervantes.
A jury more than a year ago found Cervantes guilty of attempted murder, torture, mayhem, assault, rape and other sexual assault charges. Prosecutors opted to try Cervantes as an adult. On the day he was set to be sentenced, an international law firm stepped into the case and has been fighting since then for a new trial, claiming the public defender who worked for Cervantes botched the job.
No one disputes what Cervantes did. He broke into the girl’s Vacaville home in the middle of a December night in 2010 and savagely attacked her – stabbing her 42 times and stabbing her 1-year-old brother 13 times, then passing out on a bed where police found him after the girl made her way to safety.
What is in dispute is why he did it.
The first former public defender to testify was William Pendergast. He was elevated to a court commissioner job before Cervantes’ jury trial. Pendergast said he definitely would have used his own investigator in the case and he would have tried to convince jurors that drugs and alcohol and mental health problems had driven Cervantes’ actions.
The second former public defender to testify was Erin Kirkpatrick. She resigned from her job months after the jury trial and is now in private practice in Riverside.
Kirkpatrick said she did not use an investigator because there was little dispute about the facts. She did not build a case for psychological or drug-addled motivation because it would have meant putting Cervantes on the witness and having him face questioning about the variety of lies he gave police.
She said she retained a psychiatrist who met with Cervantes at the juvenile hall, but she did not put him on the witness stand because he was vague with her about how he felt about Cervantes.
Cervantes is scheduled to be return to court Sept. 30 when additional witnesses will testify.
When Cervantes was arrested in 2010, state law made it likely he would be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for his crimes. A month before his trial, the California Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional for juveniles to be sentenced to life without possibility of parole.
Cervantes, who faces a possible sentence of 227 years to life, turned down a pretrial offer of a 50-year prison sentence and prosecutors refused a counteroffer of a 35-year sentence made by his defense attorney.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.