2 witnesses refuse to testify; defense grills Sablan in Castro murder trial

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Matthew Sablan (media pool photo)

Trial in the murder of Keith Castro was off to a rocky start today as two witnesses called by the defense refused to answer questions. But things heated up when Matthew Sablan was called to testify once again.

Troy Torres and Johnnie Rosario were called by the defense to testify in the shooting death of Keith Castro but before questioning could begin, both witnesses invoked their 5th amendment right to remain silent. In doing so, Judge Vernon Perez excused them from the stand, telling them that they are still subject to the subpoena.

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That’s when the defense called Mathew Sablan back to the witness stand and began questioning him regarding statements he made to police following the shooting. The government characterized defense attorney Thomas Fisher’s line of questioning as badgering the witness and called the defense’s acts improper impeachment. The line of questioning pertained to Sablan’s identification of Joshua Palacios as the shooter.

According to Fisher, when Sablan was interviewed by police, he whispered to the officer that he wanted to tell him something but couldn’t write it down out of fear of being “next.” Sablan denied making this statement to police. Fisher moved on to Sablan’s statements identifying Palacios as the shooter.

Fisher: “Sir did you testify that the shooter was a bald man?”

Sablan: “Yes.”

Fisher: “And you agreed that at the time Mr. Palacios was not a bald man correct?”

Sablan: “Yes.”

Fisher: “And did you not testify that another bald man there was none other than Thomas Taitano?

Sablan: “Yes.”

The government objected, citing that Fisher was badgering and yelling at the witness but Fisher continued pointing out that on several occasions Sablan only identified the shooter as being a bald man, further pointing out that Sablan didn’t name the shooter until Thomas Taitano surrendered to police five days after Castro’s murder.

Fisher: “Isn’t it true that when you testified earlier in these proceedings, you told us and the police that you did not know who the males were and who the females were?”

Sablan: “Yes.”

Fisher: “So earlier, sir, when you said you didn’t you were lying?”

Prosecutor: “Objection, badgering improper impeachment.”

In cross-examination, the prosecution had Sablan clarify that he hid information from police to protect others.

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Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.