Octavio Meza said he was bullied into a corner by a mixed-martial-arts buff last year and was forced into nearly killing him — and now his attorney accuses prosecutors of bullying him into a plea deal.
On Oct. 9, 2010, the 43-year-old Meza plunged a knife into roommate Jayson Lindsey’s chest during an argument. Meza had been punched in the face and “suffered severe injuries at the hands of Jayson,” his attorney, Eric Safire, said in a court filing. Both men, bleeding profusely, were hospitalized and Meza was arrested on attempted murder charges.
“This was mutual combat,” Safire said.
The case has already been tried once. In April, jurors could not reach a verdict after a two-week trial, voting 11-1 for acquittal on attempted murder, and also splitting on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and battery.
Today, attorneys will meet in San Francisco Superior Court to see if they can reach a plea deal on Meza’s case before a second trial.
“My client is innocent,” Safire said. “We’ve proven it once, and no matter how many times they take it to trial, if there’s justice, they’re not likely to get a conviction.”
Prosecutor Andrew Clark agreed with Safire that “there’s definitely a possibility” of reaching a satisfactory resolution and avoiding another trial.
A costly retrial at a time when Superior Court is facing the closure of 25 of its 63 courtrooms and the prospect of laying off hundreds of employees could possibly take years. If the attorneys can’t reach agreement in the case, jury selection is scheduled for Tuesday.
A resolution would likely require Meza to plead guilty to a lesser crime and pay restitution to the victim. Both attorneys declined to discuss specific negotiations.
Safire would only say, “My client refuses to pay any money towards the medical bills of someone who attacked him.” Clarke, however, said the restitution is the law.
At trial, the defense argued Meza, who they describe as a “skinny guy,” a Mexican immigrant working as a baker, was acting in self-defense when he stabbed Lindsey, a personal trainer, mixed-martial artist and weightlifter, during a confrontation in Meza’s Mission district apartment.
According to Safire, the stabbing followed months of harassment by Lindsey and police calls to the apartment. Safire said Lindsey had overstayed his welcome.
“His bullying got so aggressive that my client had to tie his bedroom door shut for fear of being attacked during the middle of the night,” Safire said.