A pack of lies, or testimony that stands uncontradicted?

Self-defense? Or a cold-blooded intent to kill?

On Friday attorneys in the jury trial of murder-for-hire suspect Isreal Soria Jr. presented their closing arguments, with Deputy District Attorney Luke Bernthal urging jurors to believe what Soria told the deputy who arrested him: that he was hired by the Norteño gang to kill McKinleyville resident Dylan Eubanks for stealing from the gang.


In contrast, Bernthal argued, when Soria took the witness stand to present a new story, his “ridiculous’’ testimony was “a pack of lies” that should be entirely disregarded.

But defense attorney Christina DiEdoardo told the jury Soria made a false confession because he was high on drugs and alcohol. And because Eubanks did not testify, she said, Soria’s testimony about June 2021 shooting was never countered.

Soria testified he was not ordered to kill Eubanks but acted on his own after seeing Eubanks on Snapchat boasting about his guns and marijuana. His only plan was to rip Eubanks off. Further, he says, he fired 11 rounds at Eubanks only because Eubanks was preparing to shoot him with an assault rifle.

Eubanks told the ambulance crew he was shot while talking on his cellphone in the kitchen. The bullet shattered his right forearm and lodged in his wrist. Bernthal, showing jurors a photo of the wound, said the path of the bullet shows Eubanks had his arm up, as in holding a cellphone to his ear. Soria testified Eubanks was holding an assault rifle and his arm was down.

It is “physically impossible” that Eubanks was shot with his arm down, Bernthal said.

“Mr. Soria told you a lot of lies over the past couple of days,” he said. “This was probably his biggest one.”

Soria says he first walked up to Eubanks’s front door, looked through a window and saw Eubanks holding a machete. He panicked, ran to a back window outside the kitchen and then saw Eubanks holding an assault rifle and “cocking it back.”

When officers searched the house, no weapons were found. Bernthal said Eubanks, after being shot, would have kept the assault rifle to protect himself. And why didn’t he fire at Soria after being shot?

“He didn’t fire back because he was never armed,” the prosecutor said.

Bernthal argued Soria stayed in Eubanks’s neighborhood after the shooting because he intended to finish his job. And while being questioned after his arrest, he asked more than once if the person who was shot had been murdered.

“He’s trying to confirm his kill,” Bernthal said.

Soria claims he confessed only because he had consumed huge amounts of alcohol and drugs.

“We know he’s lying about that,” Bernthal said. Former sheriff’s Deputy Jordan Walstrom, now a police sergeant in Willits, arrested and interviewed Soria. He saw no signs of intoxication. Walstrom also said if someone had ingested the quantity of drugs and alcohol that Soria claimed, he would have been barely able to move.

DiEdoardo, in her closing argument, said it was Walstrom’s privilege to opine that Soria was not under the influence.

“Mr. Soria said he was,” DiEdoardo argued, “and the jail nurse agrees.”

When Soria was booked into Humboldt County Correctional Facility, the nurse evaluating him indicated he appeared to be either under the influence or suffering from withdrawal. The nurse did not testify.

As to what the path of the bullet shows, “Neither Mr. Bernthal nor I are ballistics experts,” the defense attorney said.

She said Soria was under the influence of “multiple mind-altering substances” when he confessed, and he had been under the influence for several days.

“So he says some crazy things to Sgt. Walstrom,” DiEdoardo explained. She described Soria’s confession as “noise.”

Also noise, DiEdoardo said, were taped phone conversations between Soria and family members when he was incarcerated. He later posted bail and remains out of custody.

Soria was trying to act tough, she said, because while on the phone he was near Norteño gang members and was afraid to be overheard.

But Soria also admitted many times during those phone conversations that he had “ratted myself out, threw myself under the bus, snitched on myself.”

“It’s all there in black and fuckin’ white,” he said at one point.

DiEdoardo stressed no-one has countered Soria’s testimony about firing in self-defense.

“Only two people know what happened and you only heard from one of them,” she told the jury. “It’s uncontradicted testimony.”

Soria, she said, “had every reason to believe Mr. Eubanks was going to shoot him. He fired and fired and fired; he wasn’t even looking at Mr. Eubanks.”

Soria testified he had his head down, looking away, when he fired the 11 rounds into the kitchen.

And Soria’s account of the incident, DiEdoardo said, “is the only evidence you have.”

“The shots were not aimed at all,” she said, “let alone with intent to kill.”

DiEdoardo questioned why, if Soria had a plan to commit murder, he didn’t shoot Eubanks when he first spotted him holding a machete.

“Wouldn’t that have been the moment to do it? And Mr. Soria doesn’t shoot.”

What should have Soria done, she asked, when he saw Eubanks loading an assault rifle?

“Should he run? You can’t outrun a bullet.”

As to officers finding no weapons in the house, DiEdoardo pointed out Eubanks’s bedroom was not searched. And officers only searched places large enough to conceal a person.

Also, she said, Eubanks’s roommate testified she was allowed to enter Eubanks’s house after the shooting. He was lying wounded and bleeding on the ground and was asking for his cellphone.

“We don’t know how long she was in there or what she might have moved,” DiEdoardo said.

Soria’s charges include attempted first-degree murder, attempted robbery, attempted burglary and firing into an inhabited dwelling. He essentially admitted to attempted burglary and robbery by testifying his plan was to arm himself and steal from Eubanks. It’s also clear he fired into an inhabited dwelling.

As to the argument of self-defense, if Eubanks did arm himself after hearing an intruder outside his home, can the intruder claim self-defense after he shoots him? That’s up to the jury to decide.

Because the prosecutors have the burden of proving guilt, they are allowed two closing arguments. Deputy District Attorney Trent Timm is scheduled to rebut the defense argument on Monday morning.