23 Aug 2014
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Jury Hears Closing Arguments in Case of Alamo Neighbor Killing

Michael Littman would frequently photograph and film his neighbors in the years leading up to Doris Penico's killing, says Deputy District Attorney Molly Manoukian, who is seeking a second-degree murder conviction.

Jury Hears Closing Arguments in Case of Alamo Neighbor Killing

After closing arguments were heard today in a Martinez courtroom, a jury will soon deliberate the fate of an Alamo man accused of attacking his next-door neighbors and pushing one of them to her death in the driveway between their homes in August 2012.

The jury heard closing arguments today in Contra Costa County Superior Court in the case against Michael Littman, 60, who is charged with murder and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury for striking and ultimately killing his neighbor, 59-year-old Doris Penico. He is also charged with stalking his next-door neighbors.

Attorneys on both sides agree that Penico and her husband Victor Penico had an adversarial relationship with Littman and his wife and squabbled over a shared driveway between their two homes in the 3000 block of Stonegate Drive.

But Deputy District Attorney Molly Manoukian, who is seeking a second-degree murder conviction, said it was Littman who took the disagreements further and would frequently photograph and film his neighbors in the years leading up to Doris Penico's killing.

In one instance, the prosecutor alleged, Littman came speeding up the shared driveway toward the couple in his car, prompting them to jump into some nearby bushes to escape injury.

During the trial, the jury saw hours of video footage seized from Littman's home, as well as video from surveillance cameras the Penicos installed out of fear of the defendant, according to the prosecutor.

Some of that footage showed the defendant following, photographing and filming the Penicos, Manoukian said. The jury also saw footage of the Aug. 27, 2012 altercation that led to Doris Penico's death.

Around 11 a.m. that day, Doris Penico was backing out of her driveway when she noticed Littman recording her with his cellphone. When he kept filming after she asked him repeatedly why he was doing so, she called her husband, who then came outside, according to police and prosecutors.

Victor Penico asked Littman why he was filming his wife, and a scuffle began.

Manoukian described again for the jury today how Littman allegedly chased Victor Penico, climbed on top of him and struck him more than 15 times.

A large photo displayed in the courtroom today showed Victor Penico bleeding from the head and neck following the attack.

A police officer who testified during the preliminary hearing about surveillance footage of the beating said Littman could be heard saying, "You're hitting me -- get off of me!" while Penico is heard saying, "I didn't touch you."

At one point, Littman pushed Doris Penico as he ran after her husband, causing her to fall down the steep driveway and become seriously injured, according to prosecutors.

She was taken to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek where she died hours later.

Today, Manoukian told the jury that Littman never claimed self-defense during multiple police interviews about the attack after his arrest. She said the defendant also lied to police, telling them that he was the one who had been assaulted but struggled to provide any details about the attack.

The prosecutor said Littman showed "conscious disregard for human life" when he pushed Doris Penico, since he was aware of the risk of her falling down the steep driveway.

But defense attorney Michael Cardoza painted a different picture of the attack during his closing arguments today, saying that Littman was provoked by Victor Penico, whom he said approached his client aggressively before the fight.

He said that Littman never meant to kill Doris Penico, but merely "bumped" her accidentally.

According to Cardoza, the defendant and his wife only began filming the Penicos in 2011 after receiving a letter threatening to sue Littman and that the filming didn't constitute stalking or harassment.

"It was after he was threatened to be sued that these videos started," Cardoza told the jury.

The jury is expected to begin deliberations next week after closing arguments have finished.


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