A man who was fatally shot in Paso Robles in what the defendant calls a self-defense case had previously had a gun pulled on him after a fight, according to a court document.
And the defendant is accused in an attempted murder that allegedly occurred a week after he posted bail in the Paso Robles murder case.
Attorneys on both sides want jurors to hear about such unrelated acts of violence that they say were committed by the victim and the defendant.
“Marshall Savoy was a violent man and acted in conformity with that trait on the night he was killed,” reads a defense motion, filed this week by attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu.
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Funke-Bilu represents Thomas Yanaga, 52, who has pleaded not guilty to murdering Savoy, 32, inside Yanaga’s Paso Robles home.
Yanaga’s trial is set to begin July 6.
While Funke-Bilu thinks Savoy’s past crimes will help bolster Yanaga’s self-defense case, the prosecution wants jurors to hear about Yanaga’s past offenses as well as the attempted murder he allegedly committed a week after posting bail in the murder case.
“The people will be seeking to introduce these prior and subsequent acts in order to show a pattern of violent conduct of the defendant, and particularly acts of gun violence,” notes a prosecution motion, filed earlier this month. “The people will seek admission of these acts if the defendant offers evidence of self-defense.”
According to testimony at a preliminary hearing, Savoy was visiting a friend who lived on Yanaga’s property when he heard an argument break out between Yanaga and his wife. What happened next is disputed.
The prosecution says Yanaga overreacted during the argument, grabbed a gun and shot Savoy, who was unarmed, multiple times. The defense says Yanaga acted to protect himself from Savoy.
Funke-Bilu theorizes that Savoy wanted to “honor” Yanaga’s wife by assaulting her husband or wanted to steal Yanaga’s truck.
“Evidence will reveal that the decedent entered the Yanaga residence uninvited,” the motion reads. “After entering, the decedent challenged the defendant to a fight. The defendant hurried from the garage into the kitchen.”
As he entered the kitchen, Funke-Bilu wrote, Yanaga opened the garage door and asked Savoy to leave.
“The decedent, who was now shirtless, refused to leave and instead followed the defendant into the kitchen. The defendant, fearing for his life, retrieved his firearm and shot the decedent multiple times as he was charging. The decedent then turned around, walked out of the garage and collapsed in the driveway.”
Because Yanaga is claiming self-defense, Funke-Bilu argues, past incidents of violence committed by Savoy are relevant. According to the motion, Savoy was involved in the following incidents:
- In 2003, a man saw Savoy and another person fighting in his kitchen. When the man told them to quit fighting, Savoy allegedly punched him in the face. After the man and other roommates pushed Savoy out of the house, he forced his way in and punched the man in the face again. The man then went upstairs to retrieve a gun. When he brandished the firearm, Funke-Bilu wrote, Savoy left.
- In 2006, Savoy threw a remote control at the mother of his two children, the motion states. He then grabbed the woman by the throat and would not let her up from the couch. After the woman called 911, Funke-Bilu states, Savoy slapped her in the face.
- In 2007, a man and his son returned home to see Savoy and his brother riding their motorcycles. After an argument, the motion states, Savoy attacked the motorcycle owner in what another neighbor described as a “very vicious attack,” which included a sucker punch from behind. Savoy was convicted of a felony for the assault, Funke-Bilu wrote.
- After arguing with a Frog and Peach Pub doorman in 2009, Savoy threw a cigarette in his face.
- In 2011, Savoy tossed beer in the face of a private security worker during a concert at the Pozo Saloon.
“Discovery has revealed a plethora of violent contacts between the decedent and the authorities (including a drive-by shooting, discovery of which is presently pending ... ),” Funke-Bilu wrote.
While the prosecution intends to oppose the admission of Savoy’s priors, saying they are irrelevant, it does want the court to consider acts committed by Yanaga both before and after Savoy’s death.
Exhibits detailing past incidents committed by Yanaga were not available to the public; however, if the defense claims self-defense, the prosecution wants to tell jurors about a shooting incident Yanaga was allegedly involved in while out on bail in the murder case.
A week after posting $1 million bail in April, according to a criminal complaint filed in Kings County, Yanaga and two other men committed attempted murder there. According to police reports, a man was shot in the abdomen over a dispute about a motorcycle.
The two other defendants have multiple priors in San Luis Obispo County, according to a complaint filed by Kings County prosecutors, including convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, battery and drug offenses.
According to Funke-Bilu’s motion, no one has identified Yanaga as being at the scene of the Kings County incident.
“He was specifically not identified in a photographic lineup by both of the eyewitnesses,” he wrote. “The defendant denied repeatedly that he was awake when the shooting occurred. Two others were arrested and identified as involved shooters.”
Yanaga is being held without bail at the San Luis Obispo County Jail.
If convicted of the murder, he faces up to 50 years to life in prison.