An Alameda County Superior Court jury today began deliberating the fate of a man charged with murder for the stabbing death of University of California at Berkeley senior Christopher Wootton near campus two years ago.
Wootton was stabbed during a confrontation in the parking lot of a sorority house in the 2400 block of Warring Street at about 2:45 a.m. May 3, 2008.
Yolanda Huang, the defense attorney for 22-year-old defendant Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield, told jurors in her closing argument on Tuesday that Wootton's death "could well have been an accident."
The stabbing occurred at the end of a drunken shouting match that developed when Hoeft-Edenfield and a group of his friends encountered Wootton and his friends on a street near campus.
Huang admitted that Hoeft-Edenfield, who worked at Jamba Juice in Berkeley and attended Berkeley City College, stabbed Wootton but said he acted in self-defense after he was outnumbered, surrounded, kicked and stomped by Wootton and a large group of Wootton's friends.
Huang said Hoeft-Edenfield should be acquitted, telling jurors, "It's time for you to send Mr. Hoeft-Edenfield home to his family and for this to be over."
But prosecutor Connie Campbell said, "To call this an accident is outrageous." Campbell said Hoeft-Edenfield intentionally drove his three-and-a-half-inch knife into Wootton's chest with so much force that it broke a rib and created a gash in Wootton's heart, causing him to die from blood loss.
"The number-one fact that tells you this is a murder is that broken rib," Campbell said.
The prosecutor alleged that Hoeft-Edenfield and his friends had an opportunity to walk away from the confrontation but that Hoeft-Edenfield "wanted to be a bad ass with a knife and escalated a verbal altercation to a lethal situation."
Wootton, 21, who was from Bellflower in Southern California, was only weeks away from graduating with honors in nuclear engineering. He planned to continue studying nuclear engineering in graduate school at UC Berkeley.
Hoeft-Edenfield's lengthy trial started on March 16 and concluded late Tuesday after two full days of closing arguments by Campbell and Huang.