SAN JOSE -- Welcome to Round 2 of the blame game.
The murder trial of a second young man accused of helping his buddy kill a fellow Santa Teresa High School sophomore for thrills began Tuesday in much the same way as the previous trial of his suspected accomplice did -- with finger-pointing.
Only this time, defendant Randy Thompson's lawyer blamed his client's best friend, Jae Williams, in the killing of 15-year-old Michael Russell. Thompson didn't lay a hand on Russell, his lawyer contended, just watched in fear as Williams sneaked up behind Russell on Nov. 10, 2009, put him in a chokehold and stabbed him 12 times in a frenzy.
"Jae hands the knife to Randy," Thompson's lawyer, Richard Pointer, told the jury. "Jae says, 'Do it.' Randy can't do it, says "I can't.' "
Thompson was 16, prosecutors say, when he and Williams, 15, strolled over to Michael's house carrying two knives, lured him outside with the prospect of smoking marijuana, then tackled and repeatedly stabbed and possibly choked the boy to death. Both were charged as adults and are being tried separately after implicating each other in statements to the police.
Earlier this year, it was Williams' attorney who blamed Thompson in his opening statement. Williams had told police he had slashed Michael's throat, but only after he believed Michael was already dead at the hands of Thompson. The jury convicted Williams of first-degree murder anyway and sentenced him to life in prison.
Prosecutor Valerie McGuire on Tuesday painted an entirely different picture of the relationship between Thompson and Williams, calling them "equals" and "blood brothers" who even exchanged pewter friendship rings and called each other "Grim" and "Goure."
"In each other," she said, "they had found kindred spirits, another person who wanted to, would, could and did commit murder."
In contrast, Thompson's attorney described Thompson as an impressionable "flunky" from rural Alabama who was "starved for attention" because his parents were having marital problems and fell under Williams' charismatic spell. He said Williams admitted being a Satanist and had groomed and desensitized Thompson by having him participate in torturing rabbits and kittens.
Williams cannot be called to the stand by either side because his appeal is pending.
If his client is guilty of anything, Pointer argued, it may be of smaller offenses, such as hiding evidence. But jurors will have a chance to vet Thompson themselves, Pointer promised.
"Ultimately, Randy Thompson, who sits here in front of you, he will bare his soul," Pointer said. "You will have to decide, is he telling the truth or lying."
Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport.