|The DA is wrong. There is clear and convincing evidence that Dangerfield acted in self-defense (i.e. not being the aggressor, no avenue of escape, and disparity of force [size differential]).|
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Judge Dismisses Attempted Murder Charge Against Arcata Man Who Stabbed His Roommate Last Month, Agreeing That He Acted in Self-Defense
Visiting Judge Marjorie Lord Carter dismissed an attempted murder charge against an Arcata man this morning, agreeing that Kaven Dangerfield was acting in self-defense when he repeatedly stabbed his roommate during an altercation the night of July 19.
Carter, after hearing evidence presented during a preliminary hearing, held the 29-year-old Dangerfield to answer only on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. She also dismissed the special allegations that Dangerfield personally used a knife and inflicted great bodily injury on Samuel “Sam” Matranga, who suffered a punctured lung and numerous stab wounds.
Matranga, 32, told Arcata police investigators he didn’t know he’d been stabbed during the fight until he heard himself breathing through the open wound on his back.
The problem for the prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Luke Bernthal, was that Matranga admitted being drunk on vodka during the episode, and he couldn’t remember how the argument started or who started it.
Dangerfield, however, provided Arcata police Detective Victoria Johnson with a detailed, chronological description of the events leading up to the knifing.
Johnson, the only witness called, testified today that Dangerfield said he was in his room playing his guitar when he heard Matranga yelling something like “don’t touch my stuff or don’t touch my shit.”
Dangerfield has been staying in a room in Matranga’s motorhome for about three months, and the two had never argued before.
Matranga was upset about a table; it wasn’t clear why. But he told Dangerfield to gather his belongings and get out of the trailer.
“He went to pack up his stuff,” Johnson testified under questioning by Bernthal, “and Sam started yelling at him through the door.”
The argument escalated as Matranga reportedly kicked in the door two or three times. At one point Dangerfield saw a chain wrapped around Matranga’s hand, so he took out a pocket knife and placed it on his bed.
“Sam told Mr. Dangerfield he wanted to punch Mr. Dangerfield,” the detective said. At that point Dangerfield picked up the pocket knife. After Matranga swung at his face, Dangerfield began jabbing him with the knife.
“He stabbed him until the knife collapsed,” Johnson said. Dangerfield’s right hand was cut, and when he opened the knife with his left hand one of his left fingers was cut. He then grasped the knife with both hands and continued stabbing.
Bernthal asked about Dangerfield’s motivation, and Johnson said Dangerfield told her it was “to end his life.”
The two men began scuffling, rolling around on the floor, and Dangerfield pulled the knife out of his roommate’s back. Matranga then got on top of Dangerfield and began choking him. Dangerfield told the detective he tapped Matranga on the knee and told him to get up and go clean off the blood. Matranga did.
Then Dangerfield went to a neighbor and asked him to call the police.
Matranga said after the attack, “he heard himself breathing from his back.”
In arguing for a dismissal, Deputy Public Defender Adrian Kamada said this was a clear case of self-defense.
“What we have here is a victim who is 4 to 5 inches taller and weighs at least 25 pounds more (than Dangerfield,” Kamada said. Matranga was drunk, belligerent and aggressive, and Dangerfield had seen a chain in his hand.
When Matranga came into his room and punched him, the defense attorney said, Dangerfield felt the need to protect himself.
“He has a right to self-defense under California law,” Kamada said.
He noted that even after Matranga was stabbed, he was able to get on top of Dangerfield and choke him. And Matranga told police “I told (Dangerfield) to get the fuck out. He wasn’t leaving so I went after him.”
As to Dangerfield’s statement that his purpose was to end Matranga’s life, Kamada said that needs to put in context with the entire interview. What he meant, Kamada said, was that he would kill Matranga “if necessary.”
Bernthal, in response, argued that the issue of self-defense should be decided at trial, not a preliminary hearing.
“I would submit to the court that it should be a jury’s decision,” the prosecutor said.
He quoted the witness who saw Matranga outside his motorhome, bleeding copiously from several large stab wounds. The witness could clearly hear the “sucking and blowing” sounds from Matranga’s punctured lung.
“He stabbed him over and over again,” Bernthal argued. “He had incredibly severe injuries.”
Dangerfield’s response “was not reasonable use of force,” he said.
The judge disagreed, saying there was not sufficient evidence to hold Dangerfield to answer on the attempted murder charge or the special allegations of personal use of a knife an inflicting great bodily injury.
Bernthal questioned her, making sure she did not find that Matranga was seriously injured.
“No,” Carter said. “The court is not finding great bodily injury.”
Dangerfield is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 18 on the charge of assault with a deadly weapon. He remains in custody, though his bail will undoubtedly be lowered.
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