A 19-year-old homeless man stabbed numerous times in downtown San Luis Obispo in July testified in court Thursday that he couldn’t remember who committed the crime.
At the start of the attempted-murder trial of Harvey Paul Finney, Chad Robinson was the first witness called by prosecutor Dave Pomeroy in the case against the 28-year-old Atascadero man.
Pomeroy reminded Robinson of his admonishment to tell the truth and noted that at a preliminary hearing on Aug. 13, Robinson identified Finney as his attacker and described in detail how the stabbing occurred.
“I thought it was him,” Robinson testified. “But I recalled memories that weren’t true. I made these memories up from being traumatized.”
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Pomeroy laid out the case in his opening statements by saying that Finney and a friend were involved in a fight with a group of people whom Robinson was hanging out with at Mission Plaza in San Luis Obispo on July 20.
The trial resumes at 10 a.m. today in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.
During the altercation, Pomeroy said, Robinson put Finney in a chokehold that left Finney unconscious for a period of time.
Later that evening, Pomeroy alleges, Finney and a friend approached Robinson on a path that runs behind the businesses along Higuera Street, Finney stabbed Robinson repeatedly and the friend, nicknamed Trip, kicked Robinson in the head twice.
Bleeding and thinking he was going to die, Robinson sought help from employees at F. McLintocks restaurant and was hospitalized.
Robinson initially told investigators he didn’t know who stabbed him, which Pomeroy attributed to his fear of ‘snitching’ to police. That was part of a street code that Robinson and others he knew live by, he said.
Investigators since have helped Robinson move out of state for his personal protection, Robinson said.
Days later, after investigators became involved in sorting out the details of the case, Robinson fingered Finney at the preliminary hearing.
But more recently, Robinson has said he doesn’t remember what happened exactly with the stabbing, only that he was stabbed 12 times in addition to scratches.
“I’ve been telling you for the past week, I don’t remember,” Robinson told Pomeroy during questioning.
During his testimony, Robinson used profanity and said he was “about to puke” while on the witness stand.
He also admitted to using drugs and alcohol and that the only thing on his mind the past few months has been his father’s death and doing drugs.
Judge John Trice warned Robinson to be aware of his language during his testimony and to use discretion with his comments.
Defense attorney Raymond Allen said in his opening statements that the case is so “muddy” that it’s going to be difficult to know exactly who stabbed Robinson, but that it wasn’t his client.
Allen said that Robinson came to his law office this week to tell his investigator that he couldn’t recall who stabbed him.
During Allen’s questioning, Robinson testified that it was dark when the stabbing occurred and that he likely was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time.
But when pressed to recall if Finney was his attacker, Robinson said he previously thought it might have been Finney, but now he doesn’t think it was Finney.
That’s because he couldn’t recall with any certainty, and he was going through withdrawal when he identified Finney, Robinson said.
Robinson said that he has “choked out” 25 to 30 people, suggesting that any one of them could have approached him on the street that night, saying “Are you the one who slept me?” a comment Finney allegedly made before the stabbing.
Trice accepted Pomeroy’s request to declare Robinson a hostile witness.
Pomeroy is expected to argue that Robinson was being deliberately deceptive today so he can read Robinson’s comments from the preliminary hearing in the presence of the jury.