The case against Eric Hodges — who stands accused of two counts of attempted homicide and one count of making a criminal threat — boils down to “he said, she said, he said,” argued his defense attorney, Larry Montgomery.
Montgomery and Nevada County Assistant District Attorney Anna Ferguson each made their closing arguments during Hodges’ trial in Superior Court Wednesday; the jury reconvenes today to begin deliberations.
Hodges, 37, allegedly broke into the house of his uncle and aunt, Brent and Susan Scott, on Maiden Lane the afternoon of Nov. 30, 2012, and attacked them with a hammer.
Montgomery strove to poke holes in the circumstantial evidence against Hodges, and told the jurors that if his client had wanted to kill the Scotts, he would have.
“There was nothing — there was no one — to stop my client from killing Susan,” he said. “If he was there to kill her, why is she still around?”
Montgomery went even further, saying that the wounds to Susan Scott’s face — which Hodges previously testified were actually caused when Brent Scott swung at his nephew and missed — would have been much worse if Hodges actually was the perpetrator.
“If he was using the claw end of the hammer, her face should be hamburger,” Montgomery said. “There shouldn’t be much left of her face.”
In fact, Montgomery said, Hodges is a boxer and martial artist, and had no need to bring a hammer to the Scotts’ residence to hurt them.
He added that it was entirely possible that Brent Scott, who had trained his nephew, might have felt he was the one who needed a “weapon to take him down.”
Earlier in the day, Hodges had given his version of the events inside the Scotts’ Grass Valley home.
Prosecutors argued that Hodges attacked his relatives because Brent Scott was accusing his own father, Hodges’ grandfather, of molesting him as a child.
Under cross-examination by Ferguson, Hodges said that his uncle had made similar allegations about his grandfather as long as 16 years ago.
“I know it’s not true,” he said. “The whole family knows it’s not true. Even my uncle knows it’s not true.”
Hodges said he had gone to the house because he wanted the Scotts to apologize for an incident that had happened several days earlier that involved his grandmother.
He said he exchanged words with Susan Scott and she attacked him, saying she was going to kill him.
He testified that he turned and saw Brent Scott with a hammer.
In Hodges’ version of the fight, Susan Scott hit him in the back of the head and was behind him, pulling on his shirt, as Brent Scott swung the hammer at him 10 to 15 times.
“He’s swinging the hammer and I am able to deflect it as I slipped to the side,” he said.
“I’m dodging his blows. I’m throwing fast punches here and there.”
Brent Scott never landed a blow, Hodges said, before he was able to grab his fist and knee him in the stomach, then wrench his arm over his head to get him to drop the hammer.
Hodges said he saw the hammer hit Susan Scott at least twice in his peripheral vision.
He said that the lacerations to the top of Brent Scott’s head must have happened when he was trying to wrench his arm over his head.
But during closing arguments, prosecutor Ferguson said Hodges brutally attacked his aunt and uncle over some ugly family issues — and said his version “simply doesn’t add up.”
Ferguson said Nov. 30, 2012, was when those family issues came to a head — precipitated by Hodges having drunk a number of beers and a pint of whiskey.
She said Hodges showed premeditation by showing up at the Scotts’ house with the hammer, wearing latex gloves.
“This was not a sudden quarrel,” she said.
Both the defense and the prosecution told the jury the case comes down to credibility — Hodges versus the Scotts.
“Brent and Susan’s story has been consistent from the beginning,” said Deputy District Attorney Tiffany Dix.
“Eric is the one who’s changed his story — from I wasn’t there, to ‘Oh wait — it was self-defense.’”
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4229.