WOODLAND — Anti-gay slurs often are used to challenge a person’s masculinity, and do not necessarily demonstrate bias against homosexuals, a linguistics expert testified Monday in Yolo Superior Court.
William Eggington, chair of the linguistics department at Brigham Young University, was called as a defense witness for Clayton Daniel Garzon, the 20-year-old Davis resident accused of brutally beating a gay man in what authorities have classified as a hate crime.
Judge David Rosenberg is expected to rule today whether there is sufficient evidence for Garzon to stand trial for the March 10 beating of Lawrence “Mikey” Partida outside his cousin’s I Street home, where family and friends had gathered to celebrate Partida’s 32nd birthday.
Garzon has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, which include felony counts of assault, battery and criminal threats, all of which carry hate-crime enhancements that, if proven, could increase the penalties in the case.
Eggington took the witness stand during the second day of Garzon’s preliminary hearing. He testified that language is “incredibly nuanced,” with a single word having various meanings when used in different social contexts.
Research shows “there’s a wide range of usage attached to the words ‘fag’ and ‘faggot,’ ” Eggington said. He likened the term to “sissy” and “girlie man” — “loaded terms that challenge masculinity.”
In other settings, the word has been used as a put-down, synonymous with “stupid” or “idiot,” Eggington said.
Witnesses have testified that Garzon hurled the slur several times at Partida as he and his cousin Vanessa Turner left another cousin’s I Street home during the early hours of March 10. Turner previously testified that Garzon became angry when she and Partida shrugged off Garzon’s attempts to talk to her.
After the beating, Garzon allegedly pounded on the front door of the I Street house and said, “Your faggot cousin was talking sh–. I had to f— him up,” Channon Cooper, who also lives at the house, testified under questioning by Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven.
Garzon’s attorney, Linda Parisi, has contended her client used the slurs in the context of youthful “slang” and not as a reference to Partida’s sexual orientation. She maintains Garzon was raised in a tolerant household that included positive relationships with a gay uncle, neighbor and friend.
Monday’s hearing also shed additional light on the injuries Garzon suffered to his face on the night of the beating. Parisi displayed a photo of her injured client several times during the hearing’s first day on May 10, showing several scrapes and gashes to his face.
Josh Lawson, a bouncer at G Street WunderBar, said he was walking home from work at about 3:45 that morning when he heard a commotion from outside Partida’s cousin’s home. He said he walked up to discover Partida, whom he knew, “bleeding from every hole in his head.”
As Lawson dialed 911, Garzon — who was being detained by Cooper — hopped the front-yard fence and ran toward his house across the street, Lawson recalled. As he ran toward a stairway at the rear of the house, Garzon tripped over a bender board in his front yard and fell onto his face.
Lawson said he caught up to Garzon before he was able to enter his home, twice compressing his neck and causing him to lose consciousness because he feared Garzon would attack him, he said.
Lawson also testified he had shone a flashlight into Garzon’s face before the pursuit and saw no injuries.
Partida, who was hospitalized for nearly two weeks following the assault, suffered fractures to his skull and rib cage during the beating,Davis police Detective John Evans testified. He also underwent surgery to remove from his right eye socket a nearly two-inch-long piece of wood — possibly from being impaled on a fence post during his assault — which Raven displayed in court in a plastic evidence bag.
Evans said Partida recalled that Garzon had followed him and his cousin around the block after they left the party, and he that he was attacked when he went back for a set of forgotten keys.
Under cross-examination by Parisi, Evans said Partida initially identified his assailant as someone named “Nick,” and that he failed to identify Garzon out of a photo lineup shown to him by police.
The preliminary hearing concludes today with testimony from a final defense witness before Rosenberg issues his ruling.
Garzon reportedly waived his right to a preliminary hearing last week in another pending assault case in Solano County, stemming from a September 2012 stabbing at a Dixon house party. His arraignment in that case is set for May 31.
— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene