The California Highway Patrol’s Major Accident Investigation Team was noticeably absent during the prosecution’s case against Eric Lively, the defense attorney argued yesterday, and that’s because CHP investigators reached the same conclusion as a defense expert: Jesse Simpson was run over and killed because he jumped out in front Lively’s truck and swung at it with his weed-whacker.

“The MAIT team — where were they?” attorney Russ Clanton asked during his closing argument in Lively’s murder trial. “Not one of them showed up. You know they did an investigation because (the defense expert) relied on some of their material.”

Eric Lively.

The MAIT material included reports, photographs and diagrams of the scene at Debbie Lane and Eileen Road, where Lively’s Toyota pickup truck struck and killed the 42-year-old Simpson on May 3.

“All that work,” Clanton said, yet the prosecutor presented none of it.

“The answer is as simple as can be,” Clanton said. “There’s zero disagreement between them and Mr. Walker (the defense expert). … The reason the MAIT team didn’t show up is that they’d all end up being defense witnesses.”

When Deputy District Attorney Adrian Kamada objected, saying Clanton was asking jurors to speculate on facts not in evidence, Judge Christopher Wilson allowed Clanton to continue.

Clanton also said Kamada had not countered the assertion that Simpson, who had been weed-whacking a neighbor’s grass, moved into the road when he saw Lively, his long-time enemy, driving up.

“Why in the world does he walk into the road unless there is something on his agenda besides weed-eating?” Clanton asked. He said no one will ever know what was in Simpson’s mind, but it is known there was “an extraordinary amount of methamphetamine in his system. So you know he’s seriously intoxicated with methamphetamine.”

Clanton noted that when Lively called the Sheriff’s Department a few hours before the collision to report he’d been robbed, he suspected by Jesse Simpson, he mumbled about reporting Simpson for methamphetamine activity a couple of years before. Since then, Lively complained, he’d been “treated like a snitch” in the Shelter Cove community.
Clanton said perhaps that was on Jesse Simpson’s mind when he stepped into the road. Or maybe, he said, it was because of the long-time conflict over Simpson and his friends being rowdy at night in the cul-de-sac across from Lively’s house.

The fatal collision, and how it happened, is just one aspect of Kamada’s case. A number of witnesses testified against him, including two co-workers, his former girlfriend, a neighbor, a former neighbor and Lively’s own teen-age daughter. Clanton accused most of those witnesses of having ulterior motives.

Timothy “Max” Mahony, Lively’s former boss; and Jordan Miclette, a former co-worker, testified that Lively often talked about his neighbors stealing from him and frequently mentioned killing neighbors in general and Jesse Simpson in particular. On the day Lively ran over Simpson, he reportedly suggested “killing my fucking neighbor” and also told co-workers that if anything happened to him they should sell his belongings and give the proceeds to his kids.

Clanton called Mahony and Miclette “those characters” whose credibility was “dead on arrival.”

“They tried to testify here and tried to pull the wool over your eyes,” he told the jury.
Both men testified that Mahony, out of the kindness of his heart, drove Lively to Shelter Cove from Ettersburg to get some belongings. The belongings, Clanton contends, consisted of marujuana bud, hashish and a 50- to 100-pound bag of marijuana “shake.”
“It was a weed deal, plain and simple,” Clanton said. Miclette reportedly had told Lively he could sell the drugs, which Lively estimated were worth up to $40,000.

Clanton thought it especially laughable that Mahony, although all the product was in the back of his truck, didn’t realize the huge bag of shake was marijuana.

As to Lively’s daughter Emma, “she comes in and gives testimony that’s wholly false.”
Emma Lively said her father came home after hitting Simpson, told her “Don’t call the police” and unplugged the house’s landline. Both statements are ridiculous, Clanton said, because police had already been called and Emma had a cellphone.

Most egregious, Clanton thought, was Emma claiming to know nothing about a handwritten note she gave to a sheriff’s detective, in which she explained that her father gave her cash and other items because he wanted her and her siblings taken care of. On the witness stand, Emma said she had signed the note but didn’t write it.

Emma and her brothers are now living with their aunt in Arizona, who wants to adopt them and take away Lively’s parental rights. Clanton says that explains her trying to discredit her father.

As to Crystal Worthy, Lively’s former girlfriend, Clanton dismissed her testimony that she heard Lively threaten Jesse Simpson with death, and that on two occasions he left home and told that if he came back with blood on his hands, she’d better “have his back.”

For one thing, Clanton said, Worthy was a methamphetamine addict. And she has a motive to have Lively out of the picture, because they share a 7-year-old son and had been fighting over custody.

Clanton didn’t mention the testimony of Trampus Danhaur, who said Lively hit him with the same truck back in 2013. Nor did he mention the neighbor who said he saw Lively with a baseball bat, smacking it into his palm and saying he was going to Jesse Simpson’s house “to straighten him out.”

Kamada will have a chance this afternoon to rebut Clanton’s argument. Once argument has concluded, the jury can begin deliberating.