A Fresno man fired a shotgun to protect his backyard medical-marijuana garden from thieves, both sides agreed Friday as the man’s trial opened in Fresno County Superior Court.
But they disagreed about whether Phayvanh Dydouangphan murdered one of the intruders — Stanley Wallace — or shot him in self-defense.
Dydouangphan, 47, faces life in prison if convicted of murder, Pablo Lopez reports in the Fresno Bee.
The Sept. 8 shooting prompted the Fresno County Board of Supervisors to approve an ordinance that bans outdoor medical-marijuana gardens in unincorporated areas. And the city of Fresno is drafting a similar ordinance, police spokesman Jeff Cardinale said Friday.
In opening statements Friday, prosecutor Michael Frye and attorney Franz Criego, who is defending Dydouangphan, agreed that Dydouangphan was legally growing marijuana in the backyard of his home on Belmont Avenue, across from Roeding Park. The 243 plants were so large that they towered over the 6-foot-high wooden fence. They were “highly tempting” to thieves, Frye said.
Dydouangphan protected the crop with dogs and barbed wire. Fresno police were aware of the crop, Frye said, because Dydouangphan had complained to police that someone had tried to poison his dogs.
Days before he was shot, Wallace had “scoped out the garden,” Frye said. He then enlisted his friends to steal the plants, the prosecutor said.
On the morning of Sept. 8, Wallace, two women and several men went to Dydouangphan’s home in a van and pickup. They parked the two vehicles on Durant Avenue just west of Dydouangphan’s home, the lawyers said. The group then began to tear down the fence to the garden, they said.
Awakened by barking dogs, Dydouangphan saw the intruders and fired a warning shot over their head, the lawyers told jurors. Pandemonium broke out and the intruders quickly left in their van and pickup, they said.
But during the escape, Dydouangphan shot Wallace, 40, of Caruthers in the head as he sat in the passenger seat of the pickup, Frye said. He died two days later.
Frye contends Dydouangphan didn’t have a right to shoot Wallace, because Wallace didn’t pose a threat. He said the defendant gave police the shotgun and told an officer: “They rob. I shoot.”
But Criego told jurors that Dydouangphan also had told police that the thieves had guns. Criego said someone in the fleeing truck displayed a firearm “in a menacing fashion,” causing his client to fear for his life.
To support his theory, Criego said the pickup drove right past Dydouangphan’s home in order to harm him. If the thieves were trying to escape, Criego said, why didn’t they drive the other way — away from the home?
One of the women was driving the pickup when Wallace was shot. She drove to Roeding Park. While the other thieves ran away, the two women stayed with Wallace, the lawyers said.
Though police recovered a claw hammer and a large ammunition box, officers never found a gun in the truck, the lawyers said.
The trial in Judge Arlan Harrell’s courtroom resumes Monday. Testimony is expected to take several weeks.