Testimony resumes in murder-for-hire trial of alleged hitman

November 2, 2011 4:41:54 PM PDT
Court testimony linked an accused gunman to the scene of the attempted murder of a Bellaire socialite. Late in the day, the state rested its case against Damian Flores. He's on trial in a murder-for-hire plot targeting the wife of a prominent attorney.

The state's latest witness was a cell phone expert who says that on the day Yvonne was shot, Flores, the alleged gunman, was making calls near Yvonne's apartment. Prosecutors say Flores shot Yvonne as part of a murder-for-hire plot concocted by her husband Jeffrey Stern, and his mistress, Michelle Gaiser.

Gaiser testified against Flores in exchange for no more than 25 years in prison, and KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy says that's a problem.

"There's too much in it for her," Androphy said. "There's too much of an incentive, there's too much of a carrot for her to give a story that comports with what the state wants it to be."

In addition, Stern first told police a man who'd worked in her home had shot her, and only later changed her mind after seeing Flores in a lineup.

"The first fumble was the misidentification by Yvonne Stern," Androphy explained. "She identifies one person, then after 'oh no, that's not him,' it's somebody else. At that point in time, the jury has got to be asking, who else do you have in this case?"

Flores' wife says this is an injustice to a man who simply fit a certain description.

"Damian, he is suffering every day," said Melanie Flores. "He's in a place that he shouldn't be in right now. He's being charged with a crime that he didn't commit."

Richard Gutierrez, the alleged go-between, took the stand for the defense and said he brokered the hit on Yvonne Stern's life. After a very brief testimony, in which he said he did not know Flores, the defense rested their case as well.

Closing arguments will happen Thursday morning. Flores is charged with attempted capital murder.

Yvonne Stern is standing by her husband Jeffery Stern. He goes to court in February on two counts of attempted capital murder.

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