After 2 1/2 days of police and witness testimony, a man who was shot in the face took the stand Thursday to testify against his alleged shooter.
“The bullet went right in here underneath my eye,” John N. Duran, who goes by his initials “J.D.,” said as he pointed to his left cheek. “ ... It went downward through my nasal pathways — through my nose — hit my eyeball and shattered it. And it ricocheted off the bone, out of my cheek.”
The accused shooter Kenneth E. Nalan, 36 at the time of the incident and now 37, is charged with first-degree assault, a felony. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison. He is claiming self-defense.
On Thursday, Duran told the jury he now has a metal titanium plate in his right cheek where the bone used to be.
“In the cold, I do feel the skin rubbing against the metal,” Duran said. “It doesn’t feel natural.”
The fact that serious injury resulted from the shooting is undisputed, per a pretrial agreement reached between District Attorney David Brower and Nalan’s attorney Eric Hedland.
What is disputed are the events leading up to the shooting and the shooting incident itself.
Prosecutors allege Nalan recklessly shot his Duran, 33, with a .357-caliber gun during a small get-together at Nalan’s house in the Mendenhall Valley the night of Dec. 20.
Also at the house at the time was Nadine Peratrovich, 41, and her fiance John Day Jr., 43, both of whom testified this week. Day is both Nalan’s longtime friend and brother-in-law, as well as Duran’s friend of about two years.
Since the trial began Tuesday, the defense has painted Duran, a construction worker from Southern California who moved to Alaska in 2009, as a violent person. In contrast, Nalan is being portrayed as peaceful in order to demonstrate that Nalan’s fear of Duran at the time of the shooting was reasonable.
Hedland has cross-examined the state’s witnesses to prove Nalan’s state of mind, based on conversations exchanged the night of the shooting and what Nalan knew about Duran, whom he has only met twice before.
Day and Peratrovich testified on Wednesday and Thursday that the night of the shooting, Duran told the group that he allegedly killed someone in California, that he robbed someone, that he was involved with gangs in California, that he was a “martial arts expert,” and that he demonstrated kill points on Day with a knife.
Duran denied almost all of it on Thursday.
Duran denied ever killing anyone, despite Day’s testimony earlier in the day that Duran has told him numerous times that Duran was involved in a crime of vengeance and he killed someone with a gun.
It’s alleged Duran told them he killed a man who shot and killed his pregnant girlfriend out of vengeance when Duran was 15. The judge ruled that the allegation could be admissible at trial since it’s needed to show Nalan’s state of mind before the shooting, regardless of whether it’s true or not.
“As a result of her getting shot, did you do anything?” Brower asked.
“No, they never found the killers,” Duran said, adding “We never found out what happened.”
Duran also denied robbing anyone. Both Peratrovich and Day said Duran told the group a story that night wherein Duran was at a party, pretended to be drunk with homeowners in California, then tied them up and robbed them.
“He thought it was funny,” Peratrovich told the jury.
Day agreed that Duran seemed proud of it.
“I never said that,” Duran protested when he was on the stand.
Duran also said he was not a “martial arts expert,” though it was possible he drunkenly told someone that to impress them. He said he couldn’t recall specifically if he told Day.
“I might have told him I knew martial arts because he said he knew martial arts, but, I mean, most of the stuff I know is from watching TV,” Duran said.
Duran did, however, admit to getting into “many” fights and to being in a gang Southern California when he was 12 years old, the same year his parents split up. He also admitted to demonstrating kill points with his folding knife on Day the night of the shooting.
Day also testified on Thursday that when Nalan was “jumped” outside his house in 2010, Duran volunteered to “back up” Day up when confronting the suspect. The two went to Nalan’s house first though to get permission to seek revenge, but Nalan waived them off, saying law enforcement would take care of it, Day said.
The shooting incident itself is a haze for Duran, he said. He said he remembers hanging out in Nalan’s kitchen, and going to Nalan’s bedroom with Nalan and Day to play guitar and listen to music.
He said he doesn’t recall actually being shot, or much of what happened afterward, except waking up at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
One instance Duran did say he remembered, which Hedland pressed him on during cross examination, was regaining consciousness while waiting for paramedics to arrive, and hearing Nalan tell police that Duran attacked him. Duran said he remembered responding by calling Nalan a liar.
Hedland asked Duran if he actually remembers that or if that’s something someone told him after the fact.
Duran said he specifically remembers that. Hedland then reminded Duran that during a recent phone interview with a police officer last month, the police officer asked him the same question, but Duran had admitted, “Well, that’s just stuff people told me that I said.”
Still under cross-examination, Hedland asked Duran if he remembered telling the same police officer in the same phone interview that he didn’t drink alcohol on the night of the shooting. Duran said he remembered that part of the conversation, and agreed he didn’t drink that night because he only remembered “smoking weed.”
Hedland then asked the judge to read a pretrial stipulation reached between himself and Brower that says it is undisputed that Duran’s blood alcohol content was tested twice after the shooting, once at 11:30 p.m. at Bartlett Regional Hospital and again at 4:12 a.m. (Alaska time) at Harborview Medical Center. The judge read aloud for the jury that it is undisputed that Duran’s blood alcohol level content was .218 for the first test and .118 for the second test.
Cross-examination is scheduled to continue on Friday.
Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez, who is presiding over the trial, told the jury that the trial is likely to extend into next week. It was originally slated to last one week.
Menendez said it’s possible it could continue on Saturday, but Monday was more likely. He said he would cancel his flight to California for the upcoming Easter holiday, and urged jurors to be prepared to be flexible.
Before Thursday’s proceedings began, one of the jurors was excused from her seat after she wrote a note to the court that said when jury selection began Monday and the prospective jurors were filing into the courtroom, a man had made a passing comment that Nalan was a “hot-head.” She told Hedland during a line of inquiry that the comment had not affected her, but Hedland told the judge he was “gravely concerned” about it.
The judge then closed the court to the press so the parties could discuss the matter privately. When the courtroom re-opened, the juror’s seat was empty. Thirteen jurors remain, now seven women and six men. One, to be determined at a later time, is an alternate.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.