Richard James Welk, 47, of San Diego, is accused of killing David Fortner, 51, on April 28, 2007, after he and Fortner briefly quarreled at the beach near the 700 block of Ventura Place.
His attorney, Bruce Kotler, told a San Diego Superior Court jury that Welk did stab Fortner but did it in self-defense after the drunken victim accosted him. Kotler told jurors the victim began to choke Welk and he "defended himself" from a fight the victim started. He said Fortner was 6 feet tall and weighed more than Welk, who is 5 feet 6 inches tall.
"He was killed, stabbed on the beach in front of a crowd of stunned onlookers," said Deputy District Attorney Michael Zachry. "This is not a case of legitimate self defense. There was no need to kill him."
Witnesses will testify they saw Welk leave the scene with his bicycle and put it in his truck and drive off. A witness got a partial license plate, but San Diego police arrested Welk later that night after a woman overheard him talking about the slaying.
Welk went over to a female friend's house in Normal Heights and told her about what happened that evening, Zachry said.
"He told them he stabbed a homeless man in the neck or ear," Zachry said.
When a television newscast aired a segment about the slaying, Welk pointed to the television and said, "That's me," according to the prosecutor.
Another woman at the house was shocked to hear Welk's admission, and she called 911.
A paralegal in the DA's office demonstrated how the knife came in contact with the victim's neck, and Zachry showed the jury a chart of where Fortner's vertebra was cut. Fortner collapsed to the ground and never moved after that, the prosecutor said.
"He was completely paralyzed from the moment his spinal cord was cut. This was done by design. His aim was true," Zachry said.
The first witness, Elsie Mashuca, testified she saw the stabbing and noticed the defendant "gave a congratulatory handshake, more like a sports handshake" to another man who witnessed the incident.
Mashuca said Welk gave "a high five" to one man, then "got on his bike and rode away."
Both attorneys agreed that Fortner was drunk at the time and he was seen staggering before he encountered Welk. His blood/alcohol level was .26, which is more than three times the legal limit for drunk driving, Zachry said.
Kotler said Fortner was carrying a boombox and listening to music with earphones. He said Fortner began to rant and scream and "walked right up to his face" and touched Welk offensively.
Welk "firmly pushed him away," and he fell into Welk's bicycle, Kotler said.
"Mr. Fortner chose to engage Mr. Welk in a fight. He took off his jacket and earphones," Kotler said, adding that Fortner then choked him.
Welk broke the chokehold, and Fortner kept trying to punch Welk but missed, according to the defense attorney. Welk told him to "stay away from me," but instead, "he charged at Mr. Welk."
Kotler told the six-man, six-woman jury that Welk pulled a knife and initially inflicted "a superficial slash" on Fortner's arm, but that didn't cause Fortner to walk away. Welk was fearful, and "acted out of instinct," when he swung the knife and stabbed Fortner, who then collapsed.
He said he was "in a state of fear, and in a state of shock."
Kotler said one man then approached Welk, shook his hand, and said, "Good show."
The defense attorney said he will ask jurors to find Welk not guilty of any charge because he "acted in self-defense and his belief in his need to use deadly force."
Welk remains in the George F. Bailey Detention Facility on $1 million bail.