Opening Statements: “You Have to Decide the Value of a Life”
Updated: Jun 29, 2019
Attorney Adante Pointer’s opening statement on behalf of the family of Anthony Nuñez was a heartbreaking account of a young, loved, vibrant boy whose life was violently taken by AR-15 bullets while standing on his front porch. Anthony was in his work clothes and new Air Jordans the day police killed him. He had recently gotten a job at Mi Pueblo, where he worked with his cousins, and had actually received a promotion that very day. He had been exhibiting signs of depression in the days leading up to his death, and it culminated with his cousin desperately calling for help after Anthony had wounded himself with a handgun. The police were called, and within minutes of their arrival, two officers — Michael Santos and Anthony Vizzusi — shot him using their military grade weaponry, fully equipped with telescopic scopes and red dot lasers to aim at their target.
As Mr. Pointer stated, “The family called for help, and the people who came killed him.”
The photos Mr. Pointer showed on screens to the jury and audience of Anthony Nuñez and officers Santos and Vizzusi told its own striking story of lethal contrast. While sharing the background of Anthony, Mr. Pointer showed school pictures of him, photos of him as a small child with his dad, his ID Card from his new job. For officer Santos, a veteran of the SWAT and SJPD’s Violent Crimes Enforcement Team (referred to as VCET and covers gang enforcement) he showed what he looked like the day of the killing. Officer Santos was in full battle attire — AR-15, body armor, and appeared to have just completed a tour of combat. Officer Vizzusi, also with experience in SJPD’s VCET unit, presented similarly, except he kept his helmet on during the photo.
The next set of photos Mr. Pointer displayed is what happened when heavily armed officers with backgrounds in violent, combat oriented, units met a young man in a mental health crisis. Mr. Pointer showed the picture from the autopsy, the bullet wound that went through his back and exited the front of Anthony’s thin torso. “It was the body of a boy,” Laurie Valdez said after viewing the pictures. The pictures were met with gasps and sobs from the audience, many who were there to support Anthony’s family because they too had lost a loved one to police violence. Several people ran out of the court in tears.
Mr. Pointer gave a road map to the jury as to what evidence and testimony would be offered over the course of the next two weeks which will prove why there was no justification for the officers shooting Anthony. He recounted the moments leading up to the killing, how Anthony’s cousin ran to the officers car asking for them to help Anthony, and instead they cuffed him and placed him in their patrol car. He shared how officers, even while attempted to defend the shooting, had wildly varying accounts of the events that day. Mr. Pointer closed by giving an instruction to the jury once all the evidence is presented. He said, “You will have to decide what is the value of a life. Not the price, but the value of a life.”